“There is a tiger between my legs, Hans, and I’ve never had an orgasm!” says an empowered Nora (Marie Leuenberger) to her thunderstruck husband (Max Simonischek), in Swiss director Petra Volpe’s wonderful new film about the women’s suffrage movement and struggle for voting rights in 1970s Switzerland, The Divine Order.
Punctuated by comedic flourishes and a resilient soft-touch, Volpe revisits the equal rights fight with a crowd-pleasing picture that, while told through fictional characters, still makes for an eye-opening and highly effective social and political history lesson.
Nora is a thankless housewife and mother in a quaint Swiss village in 1971. It’s the sort of town that’s behind the times, so behind that the liberated counterculture hippie social movement, already starting to fizzle in America –– where of course the women’s suffrage movement already ended some fifty years prior –– lands like lightning in Nora’s atavistic and microcosmic world.
Spurred by what Nora endures when Hans (Simonischek) denies her request to get a job beyond her housekeeping duties, and by what she witnesses vicariously via her unfettered teenage niece Hanna (Ella Rumpf), who is tossed in the clink for merely choosing to mingle with a older guy, she soon finds herself not only on a path to independence, but to orgasm, and advocacy for an upcoming referendum that could result in her right to vote.
The Divine Order is bolstered by an excellent ensemble cast that includes the uptight Mrs. Wipf (Therese Affecter), the rebellious matriarch Vroni (Sibylle Brunner), and the delightful Italian divorcée Graziella (Marta Zoffoli), all either at odds or in cahoots with one another as the (hopefully) inevitable wheel of progress falters ever forward, crushing a few in the spokes along the way.
There’s conflict, of course, between the stubborn men and old school women of the town as the status quo is thrown asunder, and Volpe’s deft direction wisely forgos exhortation in favor of a playful veracity. Her actors are superb in their parts and she chooses to paint them as the plucky and tenacious heroines they are.
Ultimately, The Divine Order is one upset by the courage of women who deserve, desire, and secure the standing and sublimity they deserve. Already winning accolades on the festival circuit (at Tribeca 17 it took home the Audience Award as well as Best Actress for Marie Leuenberger), this exquisite underdog narrative will remain relevant and enraptured for some time. Superb.
Taste of Cinema Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Author Bio: Shane Scott-Travis is a film critic, screenwriter, comic book author/illustrator and cineaste. Currently residing in Vancouver, Canada, Shane can often be found at the cinema, the dog park, or off in a corner someplace, paraphrasing Groucho Marx. Follow Shane on Twitter @ShaneScottravis.