I’ve encountered few directors as hit-or-miss as Carl Theodor Dreyer. I’ve only seen two of his films, The Passion of Joan of Arc and Vampyr, and of the two, the former I absolutely adored, and the latter I felt was somewhat of a misfire. Ordet, for me, fell more into the latter category; I had read the book’s passage on the film, and my expectations went up, only to steadily drop the more I actually watched the film. The story deals with a varyingly religious family; the patriarch, the agnostic eldest son with his pregnant wife, the middle child who believes he is Jesus, and the youngest who is in love with the tailor’s daughter despite his father’s misgivings about the pair.
Right from the beginning, I had an issue with the film’s slow pacing. The film is very still, even when the frame is in motion, almost as if it is being extremely careful with what it puts into each shot and movement, which can be both a good thing and a bad thing. There is some pretty decent directing from Dreyer in this one, even though the film also contains some rather wooden acting and a somewhat expository and blocky script. The screenplay in particular tries a little too hard at constructing a narrative that it becomes obvious that it is doing so, and I never felt the immersion necessary to get me to really care about the characters or what was happening to them.
I really wish a Dreyer film could recapture some of the amazing quality that was present in La Passion, but with only one more Dreyer film on the list, I have a feeling that hope may go unsatisfied. Ordet was pretty much entirely a lead-up to the ending, but I never really felt that what was transpiring was really leading to anything; it was just there to pad the running time until the ending arrived. There was no substance, nothing to get us to care about the things that happened that the ending resolved in its miraculous way, and thus the so-called miracle felt cheapened as a result. I’ve read a number of reactions and comments that lauded and praised this film, mostly for its knock-out-of-the-park ending. I have to disagree. I didn’t feel anything from the ending, and it’s not because I’m cold-hearted or emotionless or anything like that; it’s because the film did nothing to make me care enough for the ending to affect me in any way. Judging from the critical and audience response to this, there will be many of you out there that will disagree with me and take much out of this film, but I will have to live with being the dissenting opinion on this one.
Arbitrary Rating: 5/10