Petra Volpe’s German-language film set in Switzerland, “The Divine Order,” won three awards at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. The jury awarded it the Nora Ephron Prize and Best Actress in an international film to Marie Leuenberger. The movie also won the Audience Award for best overall narrative film. It’s rare to garner so many awards at the Festival, but after seeing it today, I understand why.
Funny, sweet, and inspiring, “The Divine Order” is about the difficult road for women in Switzerland to win the right to vote. As late as 1970, women still weren’t allowed to vote there, as political and religious leaders cited “Divine Order” as the reason – i.e., the Bible purportedly mandated it.
One of my favorite lines in the film comes from an older woman who’s told by one of the men that women voting is against the Bible. She points out that adultery is also against the Bible, apparently knowing that he violated that one.
The story is about Nora, played by Leuenberger, an unassuming woman in a small Swiss village that’s a bit locked in the past while much of the western world goes through its hippie culture revolution.
When Nora decides she’s a bit bored and wants to work part-time, her husband forbids it. In Switzerland at that time, a woman was legally bound to obey her husband in this regard.
Then, Nora encounters some women on the street who are working toward women’s rights. The country is getting ready for a vote on the issue, and the women’s fate will be left to the men.
The women give Nora a lot of literature to read at the same time her husband is away for two weeks for work. While he’s gone, she transforms and decides to lead the local women in fighting for the vote. As you would expect, this doesn’t go over well, but the women go on strike and begin to feel empowered.
The movie is understated and absolutely believable because all of the characters are well-grounded in reality, and there is plenty of humor along the way. Nora is both endearing and inspiring – truly an everywoman who becomes more than she ever thought she could be.
Feminists of all genders will love this one. Check out the film’s website for a trailer.