When one usually thinks of Switzerland from a political viewpoint, it’s the countries centuries old neutrality that has seen it sit out Wars that comes to mind. The idea then of any Swiss citizen being any sort of political firebrand would seem such an unlikely occurrence, but this entertaining feel-good drama is about one Swiss housewife who decided somewhat reluctantly to shake things up in her fight for equal rights.
The setting is a small country village in 1971 where Nora (Marie Leuenberger) keeps house for her husband Hans (Maximilian Simonischek), their two children plus her grumpy father -in-law. When a rather bored Nora announces she wants to go back to work, Max not only says that he is against the idea, but he forbids it as is his right under Swiss Law.
This is the year that Switzerland is going to vote yet again on a mandate that may finally give women the vote, and the opposition to that in Nora’s village is not led by the menfolk, but by Miss Wipf ( Therese Affecter ) a wealthy spinster who owns the timber workshop which employs most of them. She is also the close-minded leader of the village social club and who declares equality between the sexes is ‘a sin against nature’.
Nora already disturbed her husband’s stance gets even more incensed when Hanna her niece ( Ella Rumpf ) who had run off with her boyfriend, is now committed to a Reform School purely on the whim of her father, because her mother had no right to be involved in the decision.
With the aid of Graziella (Marta Zoffoli) who is a Italian newcomer in town and who is about to open her restaurant, Nora is joined by one other villager, the elderly Vroni ( Sibylle Brunner ) and the three plot to start an information campaign to actually make all the other women be aware of how very uneven the playing field is.
They have a side trip to Zurich to take part in a Women’s March , where they are also now joined by Hanna’s mother Theresa ( Rachel Braunschweig), and the event really inspires the women. As does the seminar that follows it, although they are initially embarrassed to be in packed room full of woman being told that they should worship their own vaginas.
Back in the village, the other women are finally moved to take action, and they all leave home and go on strike. Bunking down in Graziella’s restaurant there is wonderful feeling of camaraderie, and totally relief that they have finally had the nerves to stand up to their husbands who have browbeaten them all their lives.
The Divine Order is written and directed by Petra Biondina Volpe who shows a very deft hand imbuing her script with some really neat comic touches ensuring that that seriousness of the subject never weighs down her story telling. Even though the outcome of the vote is predictable, how it affects the women individually is not, and touch of intrigue helps make this rather entertaining so compelling.
Leuenberger plays Nora so beautifully with her wide eyed innocence that has a carefully well-crafted touch of steel when she needs it, and the veteran Sibylle Brunner was a sheer joy as the eccentric Vorni.
The Divine Order has been picking up Awards on the Film Festival circuit, and the three they garnered from Tribeca including the Best Audience Award, which makes a great deal of sense, as this truly is a great crowd pleaser of a movie.