April marks the 16th anniversary of The Tribeca Film Festival. This beloved celebration sees celebrities, world premieres, and innovations in the film world descend upon New York City. From talks with Robert De Niro to genre shattering documentaries and narratives, there is something for everybody. The Spring Creek Sun will be bringing you world premiere film reviews, interviews, red carpet arrivals, quotes, and plenty of photographs of the best the festival has to offer. Our coverage starts with a review of The Divine Order and interview with its star and director.
The Divine Order is a snapshot in time—the 1970s. I know what you are thinking, you already know about this famous decade. However, the drastic revolution of the 1960s had not reached the Switzerland countryside at that point, nor a small village therein. In fact, during this era women were treated as second class citizens and were not even afforded the right to vote.
Nora, (played by Marie Leuenberger) lives as a housewife, caring for her elderly, yet ill-tempered, father-in-law, cleaning each day, cooking for her husband and two young boys, going about her day relatively indifferent to the gross injustices of her time. Watching Nora onscreen struck a chord with me, she reminded me of my mother, a strong, kind-hearted woman slaving away at a job worthy of three men, and each day going unappreciated for it. Steadily the prejudices in her village begin to catch her eye. Nora takes it upon herself to apply for a job—becoming weary of being an unappreciated housewife–her husband denounces the idea and states that he must permit her to work, otherwise, by law, she may not obtain a job. Understandably infuriated by this biased and backward frame of thinking, Nora researches women’s rights and soon becomes the figure head in her community battling for the right to vote.
Director Petra Volpe should be commended for her use of cinematography. Observing Nora cycling through the countryside with soaring mountains as her backdrop is aesthetically pleasing. The topic of the film is another area in which the director should be celebrated. Among the social unrest and poignant commentary on women’s rights is well-needed comedy relief, which helps us deal with the hard-to-stomach misogyny. In one particular scene, the women in Nora’s small town go on strike, leaving the men of the village to fumble over simple housework. The Divine Order is a compelling story about a town lost in time and women discovering themselves and the power that they hold. This is a must watch for both men and women to remind us to treat one another with equal respect.
The Divine Order’s Director: Petra Volpe
Spring Creek Sun (SCS): When exploring the history of women’s rights in Switzerland, did you discover anything that shocked or surprised you?
Director Petra Volpe (PV): I was quite shocked at how there were so many women against the right to vote. They intrigued me – and I read a whole dissertation about them. They were organized well and made a lot of propaganda against the women’s right to vote. Actually, the title is inspired by an original quote from their pamphlets: that it is “against the divine order” if women vote. Those ladies were usually well educated and had a higher position in society – they already had some power and did not want to share. So, the antagonist, Dr. Wipf in my film, is inspired by this historical reality.
SCS: What do you hope Divine Order brings or adds to the conversation of gender equality?
PV: We are experiencing a very shocking backlash when it comes to women’s rights. We are back fighting for very basic rights. But even before we have not nearly reached gender equality in our societies. Laws have been changed, but there still are very deeply rooted sexisms. I hope that seeing a character who does not give in, who persists is encouraging for audiences. Nora reminds us of all the things we have achieved, but also inspires to have civil courage today. Everybody can raise their voice and say: no more!
Lead Actress (Nora): Marie Leuenberger
SCS: What did it mean to you to play a housewife in the 1970s, who decided to take a stand against the injustices in her town?
Star, Marie Leuenberger (ML): Nora is an ordinary housewife, who starts to stand up for her rights as; being allowed to vote and get voted, to get to know her sexuality and to live a self-determined life. The film is set in 1971 in Switzerland, but this story seems to be timeless, because there is still a need and, unfortunately, also a necessity to fight for Women´s Rights. It is about civil courage and also about creating your life as you want it. No matter if you are a man or a woman. It was a great challenge to play this role. And the confrontation with this subject made my mind wake up for how men and women still behave, and to observe the role allocation. Since then I start, even in real life, to take more responsibility for myself. The Women’s movement grows, people go on the street and demonstrate and this is important!
SCS: Was there any activists or people you drew inspiration from when preparing for your role as Nora?
ML: Preparing for this role, I watched a lot of documentaries on the internet. Although this story is not so long ago, only 46 years, everything seems very conventional and old-fashioned. From a contemporary point of view people gesticulate less and the choice of words seems naive. As a woman, you were dependent on a man’s will and almost without rights. I was born in 1980 and fortunately I never knew these conditions. But many spectators in Switzerland note after seeing the film: That’s exactly the way it was.
Photos courtesy of The Tribeca Film Festival