Suffragette was a film that covered the British women who protested in order to gain the right to vote. The Divine Order (Die göttliche Ordnung) is a film that covers things from a Swiss perspective. Whereas the suffrage movement happened in the UK in the early 20th century, for Switzerland it was 1971 before the women’s right to vote was subject to a referendum and legalised. The Divine Order is a sweet, easy to watch and feel-good story about a fictional grassroots movement that achieved big things in a small provincial town.
This dramedy is written and directed by Petra Biondina Volpe. Marie Leuenberger stars and gives a compelling yet understated performance as Nora, a housewife who cares for two sons, her amiable but spineless husband Hans (Maximilian Simonischek) and her cantankerous father-in-law. Initially, Nora was not interested in the women’s liberation movement. But she changes her mind when she sees a part-time job advertisement and Hans disapproves- the husband was considered the head of the household at the time and actually had to agree before a wife was allowed out to work.
Another big event happens when Nora chaperons her niece and the youngster runs off to the city with an older and more experienced boyfriend. The authorities react quite harshly and the teenager is sent to prison, leaving Nora feeling inept and helpless in trying to mitigate the problem. Nora then picks up some women’s liberation pamphlets and finds herself agreeing with the content. She suddenly becomes the unlikely leader of a new movement.
It’s not all plain sailing, there is some resistance in Nora’s conservative hometown. Many of the men want to retain the status quo so that their wives continue to cook, clean and tend to the house. Nora delivers a difficult but powerful speech and encounters her fair share of conflict. But one major ally comes in the form of the widowed Vroni (Sibylle Brunner) who is unable to continue running her family’s business because such establishments had to be run by men.
These women also meet an Italian divorcee (Marta Zoffoli) who is a pillar of independence. The women eventually come together and strike and the ensemble cast are fabulous because they share an easy chemistry. The result is a beautifully-shot but formulaic, feel-good tale about societal change. It’s also an inspiring reminder that big things can happen with the right mix of determination, hard-work and people-power.
The Divine Order at times shows that Switzerland may as well have been Mars in 1971. There was a very stark contrast between what was happening there and the freedom and open sexuality taking place in the Woodstock-era America and similar Western countries. This story is a predictably optimistic one that feels timely in the wake of movements like #MeToo because it serves as an important reminder of empowerment by showing not just how far we’ve come but also offering a beacon with respect to how far we really need to go.
Review Score: THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
The Divine Order (Die göttliche Ordnung) is in limited release now.