Ordet (Directors Suite) (1955)

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Released 12-Mar-2008

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Booklet
Short Film-The Danish Village Church
Short Film-Storstrømsbroan
Interviews-Cast
Trailer-4
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1955
Running Time 120:15 (Case: 126)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (85:51) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Carl Theodor Dreyer
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Carl Theodor Dreyer
Kaj Munk
Hanne Agesen
Kirsten Andreasen
Sylvia Eckhausen
Birgitte Federspiel
Ejner Federspiel
Emil Hass Christensen
Cay Kristiansen
Preben Lerdorff Rye
Henrik Malberg
Gerda Nielsen
Ann Elisabeth Rud
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music Poul Schierbeck


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame Danish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English
English
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Ordet, which translates as The Word, is a 1955 Danish film, the second-last directed by the great Carl Theodor Dreyer. The title, despite the English spelling, is pronounced something like "ooh-ull". It is set in 1925 in a small Danish village. The Borgen family own a farm. Old Morten Borgen (Henrik Malberg) is the family patriarch, widowed and devoutly Christian, though with different beliefs to some of those in the village. His eldest son Mikkel (Emil Hass Christensen) is not a believer. Mikkel has two daughters and his wife Inger (Birgitte Federspiel) is at an advanced stage of pregnancy. Borgen's second son Johannes (Preben Lerdorff Rye) is suffering from a mental illness - he has the delusion that he is the saviour. Youngest son Anders (Cay Kristiansen) is in love with the daughter of the village tailor, but the tailor rejects him as unsuitable because of his family's religious beliefs.

    The film is based on a 1925 play by Kaj Munk and was previously filmed in Sweden in 1943 by Dreyer's contemporary Gustaf Molander. Munk was a Lutheran pastor who also wrote a number of plays. Initially an admirer of Hitler, he soon changed his mind and during the occupation spoke out against the Nazis. In 1944 he was arrested by the Gestapo at his home and after being taken away was shot by the side of a road, his body left in a ditch. I have not seen Molander's version which is highly regarded itself, but it is hard to imagine that it is on the same level as Dreyer's film, which is simply one of the best films ever made. That being said it is not for all tastes. The film is slow and deliberate, with little action and some strange-seeming performances (and a little comedy to boot). Preben Lerdorff Rye was encouraged by Dreyer to copy the mannerisms and speech patterns of a mental patient, while Cay Kristiansen as Anders often behaves as though he is walking on eggshells. The overall effect of this, though, is that if you allow yourself to fall into the hypnotic pace of the movie and accept the characters as they are, the ending is astounding, the most powerful cinematic experience I have ever had. And I'm resolutely atheistic, so I cannot imagine what a believer would make of it.

    It is difficult to say anything more about the film without giving too much away about the plot. Madman is to be commended for releasing it and other Dreyer films in Region 4, where the potential market is likely to be small.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video quality is very good without being reference quality.

    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, which is close to the original 1.37:1. The film is in black and white and I watched it upscaled by my DVD player to a resolution of 1920x1080i.

    The video is reasonably sharp and clear. Contrast levels are good and the black and white image is as good as I have seen it for this film. Shadow detail is very good.

    I did not see any film to video artefacts. There are many film artefacts visible. There are faint scratches, white flecks, bits of dirt and dust and the occasional hair. The frame tends to flicker, mainly due to fluctuations in brightness but there can also be a slight unsteadiness in the frame.

    Optional subtitles are available in a choice of white or yellow. I watched the white subtitles, which were almost free of spelling errors - I noticed just one.

    The disc is RSDL-formatted and a slight pause is noticeable, but not disruptive, during the layer change at 85:51.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The sole audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, in the original Danish.

    The audio track is as good as could be expected. The dialogue is clear and while there is some hiss and slightly distortion this is not distracting.

    The score uses music by Poul Schierbeck, who had written the score to Day of Wrath, although he had been dead for some years when Ordet was released. There is very little music in the film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio and Animation

    A succession of stills accompanied by music from the score.

Booklet

    The booklet contains an interesting and intelligent essay by Jonathan Rosenbaum, but it is best read after watching the film. The back of the slick contains a biography and filmography of the director.

The Danish Village Church (13:26)

    A short Dreyer film about the history of the small churches that still exist in many Danish villages, many of which are many centuries old.

Storstrømsbroan (6:55)

    Another Dreyer short, this time about the Storstrøm Bridge, then the longest bridge in Europe.

Interview (5:10)

    An interview outtake with Birgitte Federspiel from the 1995 documentary My Metier.

Trailers (13:08)

    Trailers for The Leopard, The Blue Angel, Umberto D and Double Indemnity.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    I have a copy of the Criterion Region 1 release, which is only available in a four-disc box set. The only extras are the same interview as on the Region 4, a stills gallery and a booklet essay. The Criterion appears to be slightly cropped at the sides, and contrast levels have been boosted, though only marginally. I prefer the Region 4 transfer, but only slightly.

    The Region 2 release from the British Film Institute appears to be the source for the Region 4 transfer. As extras though it has a couple of booklet essays, the two Dreyer shorts Thorvaldsen and Storstrømsbroan and a half-hour documentary about the cinematographer and the making of Ordet. On that basis I think the Region 2 is the edition of choice.

Summary

    One of the best films ever made in my opinion, well worth seeking out.

    The video quality is good.

    The audio quality is good.

    A worthy if not overly substantial set of extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-NS9100ES, using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-VW60 SXRD projector with 95" screen. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt into HD DVD Player, Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby TrueHD. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationReceiver: Pioneer VSX-AX4ASIS; Power Amplifiers: Elektra Reference (mains), Elektra Theatron (centre/rears)
SpeakersMain: B&W Nautilus 800; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Tannoy Revolution R3; Subwoofer: Richter Thor Mk IV

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