Set in a sleepy and slightly-backwards town in Switzerland, The Divine Order follows a young housewife’s journey towards feminist enlightenment.
The year is 1971 and Swiss women don’t yet have the right to vote.
Fed up with being a housewife and feeling trapped by society’s acceptance of patriarchy, lead character Nora (Marie Leuenberger) starts a women’s rights group campaigning for women’s suffrage ahead of the 1971 Swiss referendum.
Along the way she meets Italian immigrant and restaurant owner Graziella (Marta Zoffoli), whose status as a divorced modern woman foreshadows Nora’s transformation. Nora’s elderly friend and brash “women’s libber” Vroni (Sibylle Brunner) joins the trio as a symbol of past struggles for equality.
The rolling snow-topped mountains of Switzerland make for a beautiful setting and are perfectly captured by director Petra Biondina Volpe’s frequent use of wide shots. In one particularly visually captivating scene, the camera follows behind Nora as she weaves her bike down the sloping roads of the village, capturing the quaint village housing and jagged landscape beyond.
The plot line is somewhat predictable and the character development is rushed at times, which is to be expected when trying to condense the story of an entire social movement in a one-and-a-half-hour film.
Characters who in one scene are fervently opposed to the women’s vote are suddenly shown in the following scene to be sympathetic to the movement. It also seems bizarre that conservative characters at the beginning of the film talk so openly about their sex lives moments later.
Despite these issues, it’s refreshing to see a film about women’s suffrage that refrains from preaching to its audience. Although The Divine Order makes a clear statement about the importance of gender equality, it doesn’t shy away from articulating the opposing views felt by many Swiss men (and some women) at the time.
Importantly, The Divine Order shines a light on just how far the feminist movement has come since women first began campaigning for the right to vote. As women around the world share their experiences of sexual harassment with the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, this film shows that with will and determination, everyone is capable of making a change.