Ordet aka The Word (1955) – dir. Carl Theodor Dreyer

Carl Theodor Dreyer’s final scene in The Word centers around the resurrection of Inger from her casket. The scene leaves us with a scene of awe, wonder, and hope for life after death. The Word‘s style ensures that the miracle is both narratively sound and emotionally shocking.

The “long takes and slow camera movements” help to “prepare the spectators for the miracle.” (Tybjerd) They bring us out of the quick cuts we’re used to and into a more meditative, reverent space. This spaces allows us to think about our own beliefs. The camera’s pace also mirrors the pace appropriate for a funeral, where we talk slowly and speak slowly. It encourages us to recall funerals from our own memories and liken them to Inger’s – and to anticipate our own. The religious, ponderous atmosphere encourages us to ponder the film’s ideas of faith.

Ordet - Preben Lerdorff RyeThe power of the miracle also comes from its contrast from the rest of the film, which is stark and realistic. Dreyer “did a great deal of research and shot his exteriors on location, seeking to create a stylized, abstracted realism.” (Tybjerd) It would be easy for us to dismiss a miracle if it came in a fantasy movie. But Dreyer makes The Word feel true to life. Johannes seems an unlikely miracle-worker; Dreyer gives him a harshness and makes sure the audience believes he is crazy rather than actually being Jesus, as he claims. When the miracle does happen, we don’t hear angels singing or see a light from the heavens. Instead, “the miracle of resurrection is expressed with such earthy, realistic simplicity and concentrated emotional intensity.” (Granhøj) Inger’s resurrection feels like a real miracle – one that challenges our beliefs.

Tybjerg, Casper, “Sound film and Dreyer’s career as filmmaker,” Scandanavian Film and Television, Web, https://class.coursera.org/scanfilmtv-001/lecture/15.

Granhøj, Birgit. Carl Th. Dreyer – The Man and His Work, “The Word.” Accessed February 16, 2014. http://english.carlthdreyer.dk/Films/Ordet.aspx.

Adam Call Roberts

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