Directed by Petra Volpe
Starring Marie Leuenberger, Maximilian Simonischek, Sibyelle Brunner
It seems fitting that this year’s PIAF ends its programme with a film about change. The Divine Order may be the most socially conscious of the festival’s films this year (which is certainly saying something), as it puts an inspecting eye on a women’s rights movement in a small community in Switzerland.
In 1971, the sexual revolution still has not caught up to the affluent, yet isolated Switzerland town setting of this film. Women still don’t have the right to vote, but the problem is more ambient – there is a strong overly-traditional sense that women are subservient to men and are generally deemed as inferior and their opinions of lesser value. This strikes a nerve with Nora (Marie Leuenberger), who begins a women’s movement in the village to mandate the right for women to vote, and to perhaps improve the culture’s attitudes towards gender relations.
She is immediately supported by enthusiastic comrades such as elderly hippy Vroni (Sibyelle Brunner), rejuvenating her once-retired feminist spirit, and Italian immigrant, Graziella (Marta Zoffoli), who is still deciding if she has completely given up on men. She is also met with opposition, such as her husband, Hans (Maximilian Simonischek), who is against her actions for how their family will be judged for it, despite agreeing that women should have voting rights.
These numerous characters and their various ideas surrounding this burgeoning movement is captured fairly well in The Divine Order, which tries not to divide up the opinions by gender, but clearly elaborates on how this kind of environment causes some to quell their pro-women opinions and for others to strongly convey them.
This is initially a multifaceted portrayal of the people in this particular culture, all of which peaks with a very amusing vaginal self-evaluation scene. Unfortunately, this intelligent storytelling dips in quality constantly as it travels towards a safe ending. It happens soon after these protesters exile themselves away from the town to live in an abandoned pub, and after we see how the community (especially the husbands) react to this, the film starts to run out of fresh ideas and starts presenting horribly telegraphed and contrived struggles for the protesters.
Becoming simpler as it goes on rather than more complex, The Divine Order offers up what becomes a standard and pedestrian portrayal of this women’s movement, riddled with blatant clichés in its last act, and the crowd-pleasing, neatly tied-up ending is contradicted by the end text epilogue that states the fight for women’s rights is still far from finished. It’s a disappointing conclusion to a promising set-up, making The Divine Order a somewhat satisfying film that doesn’t feel quite as important as its subject matter.
The Divine Order plays at ECU Joondalup Pines from Tuesday, April 3 to Sunday, April 8, 7:30pm, and at UWA Somerville from Monday, April 9 to Sunday, April 15, 7:30pm.