Set in Switzerland in 1971, The Divine Order is a tale of female empowerment but it’s not without it’s faults.
Petra Volpe writes and directs the feminist film, which Switzerland is submitting as their official selection for Best Foreign Language Film.
It’s 1971 and women still don’t have the right to vote in Switzerland, one of the last remaining holdouts in the world. Nora Ruckstuhl (Marie Leuenberger) is a housewife who lives with her husband Hans (Max Simonischek) and their sons, Luki and Max. She’s beyond frustrated over her husband not allowing her to become employed. While this is something that would never happen in 2017, or at least shouldn’t, it’s what went for the times in the early 1970s–unfortunate as that may be. What happens next is Nora soon becomes the most-hated woman in the city if you’re against woman rights as she starts to speak out ahead of the men voting on February 7, 1971. Her battle in the suffrage movement brings all the hatred in the world against her but she, to quote Tom Petty, won’t back down. Other women soon follow suit and go on strike.
Nora’s niece, Hanna (Ella Rumpf), is a non-conformist and as a result, was sent to a women’s prison. Nora knows then that women’s rights are not something that should be debated in silence but out loud and proud. In campaigning, Nora is joined by Vroni (Sibylle Brunner) but finds an enemy in Mrs. Dr. Charlotte Wipf (Therese Affolter), head of the “Anti-Politicization of Women Action Committee”.
This is a film that, sadly, is so very timely with all the talk of still having gender inequality when it comes to the paycheck. There’s no equal pay for equal work and that’s something that can be said for working actors and actresses. Many women have gone on the record to say that they made less on a film or television series than their male counterpart.
There’s one scene that comes off as rather TERFy during a a women’s workshop on engaging their most intimate body parts, mainly the vagina. Nora learns that her sex life isn’t what it could be. This class required clothing to come off so that one can use a mirror to figure out what shape their clitoris is. While realizing that the film is set at a time when being transgender was seen as taboo, it’s still a scene that is a bit tough for transgender women to watch.
“Love your vaginas…and the orgasm will come,” the same woman tells the class.
Again, the filmmakers mean well but it’s still makes watching a film that should be easy to watch all the more tougher when someone is transgender and pre-op (insert tangent here). While this is a film that is about the feminist revolution, loving one’s body, and earning the right to vote in their Switzerland, the dialogue in that scene really comes off as being not so-trans friendly.
My rant on that scene aside, the filmmakers were successful in recreating the early 1970s on screen. Having access to photos from this time period was an added plus in making sure the clothing looks just right. Give credit to Volpe as well as costume designer Linda Harper, make-up artist Jean Cotter, production designer Su Erdt and cinematographer Judith Kaufmann. The song selections also reflect the time period. Aretha Franklin’s cover of “Respect” appropriately plays over the foreign film’s end credits.
Ultimately, The Divine Order is a film about female empowerment and speaking up. Everybody has a voice and they should not be afraid to use it.
Zeitgeist Films opened The Divine Order in New York on October 27, 2017. The film expands into more locations, including the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago, on November 17, 2017. The film runs in Chicago through November 30, 2017.