Kehr’s Weekly Recap: Ordet (1955)

Carl Dreyer‘s great 1955 film is concerned with the moral and metaphysical shadings of love: Is it a thing of sex or of the spirit? A force of repression and control or a promise of infinite expansion? A farmwife dies; her brother-in-law, a failed preacher, promises to raise her from the dead. The conflict is crystallized in a famous exchange of dialogue (from Kaj Munk‘s play), when the father, trying to comfort his widowed son, says, “She is no longer here . . . she is in heaven.” The son replies, “Yes, but I loved her body too.” Dreyer’s direction has been described as too theatrical, perhaps because the action is largely confined to the farmhouse set, yet the spatial explorations of his camera and cutting are profoundly cinematic and expressive. The film is extremely sensual in its spareness, a paradox always at the center of Dreyer’s work.

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