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Carl Theodor Dreyer

Sunday, November 28, 2010
4:50 p.m. Ordet
Carl Th. Dreyer (Denmark, 1955)

(a.k.a. The Word). Voted one of the greatest films of all time in a recent Sight and Sound poll, Ordet lays bare the conflict between organized religion and personal faith as witnessed within a farming family in rural Denmark. On a simple farm in the midst of the windswept coast, a patriarch contends with three sons: one an atheist, whose wife faces a difficult labor; another who is in love with a fundamentalist’s daughter; and the third, who has gone mad and believes himself to be Jesus. Their relationships to faith, to life, and to nature (Dreyer’s cuts between claustrophobic interiors and sweeping exteriors are almost dizzying in their contrast) are further heightened by a sudden tragedy, one that may promise a just-as-sudden miracle. “My faith is the warmth of life; yours is the coldness of death,” states the patriarch to the fundamentalist preacher; simultaneously austere and epic, controlled and emotional, Ordet makes those words flesh, and those choices real. Its final words? “Life. Life. Life.”—Jason Sanders

• Written by Dreyer, based on the play by Kaj Munk. Photographed by Henning Bendtsen. With Henrik Malberg, Emil Hass Christensen, Preben Lerdorff Rye, Cay Kristiansen, Birgitte Federspiel. (126 mins, In Danish with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm, From Danish Film Institute, permission Janus/Criterion Collection)