The Divine Order

****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Petra Volpe: 'If you want to change a society deeply, it really starts in your own home and how you treat each family member'
"Leuenberger makes Nora's gradual awakening to gender issues feel like the sun coming out on a dreary day, brimful of unexpected warmth." | Photo: Zodiac Pictures

Its hard to believe that three year's after the car strikes that would go on to inspire Nigel Cole's Made In Dagenham, women in Switzerland were only just being given the vote. Petra Biondina Volpe's similarly crowdpleasing film - the title of which neatly refers to the battle faced by women with both church and state - celebrates the gradual move towards suffrage through the fictional lives of a young family. It is far from trapped in time, however, also exploring some of the factors that arguably still stand in the way of global equality today.

Equal rights were certainly not high on the agenda for the housewives of small-town Switzerland back in 1970 - in fact, it's wonder they had time to think of much at all beyond the bed-making, sock-washing, food-making, beer-fetching drudgery. The status quo was firmly entrenched, with women like Nora (Marie Leuenberger) expected to serve the men in their life - whether part of their own age group, older generations or the younger. Her husband Hans (Max Simonischek) obviously cares about her but is happy being waited on hand and foot - how could she possibly find time for that part-time job she legally needs his approval to apply for?

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If that thorn in her side isn't enough, there's also trouble on the extended family front, where her sister-in-law Therese ( Rachel Braunschweig) has an even worse lot at the hands of her drunken husband Werner (Nicholas Ofczarek), which in turn leaves her niece Hanna (Ella Rumpf) facing serious repercussions for rebellion.

And so, a brush with feminist leaflets begins a dawning of awareness in Nora that blossoms, alongside a new-found Italian friend Graziella (Marta Zoffoli) and determined old bird Vroni (Sibylle Brunner) into emancipation as she begins to make waves in her small town.

Volpe keeps the mood light for the most part, having an enormous amount of fun with a hippy class in which Nora takes the first look at her vagina - a tiger, of course - before deciding that women's rights extend to the bedroom. But underneath the humour, there are serious points being made about the way that men, particularly in the past, held the keys to a woman's freedom. It is the men, not the women, that get to vote on whether women's voices should be heard - a reminder of how men still retain many positions of power of women to this day. It also serves as a nudge to men about the dangers of everyday sexism, the attitudes that come to Hans and the male members of his clan as naturally as breathing.

The characters may be a bit on the 'standard issue' side but the performances fill them out admirably. Leuenberger makes Nora's gradual awakening to gender issues feel like the sun coming out on a dreary day, brimful of unexpected warmth. Nora isn't a trailblazer in the expected sense, but that's exactly what makes her special. She represents those 'everywomen' - determined, uncelebrated souls who discovered - possibly only after taking it - that every movement begins with a first step.

Reviewed on: 06 Feb 2018
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A small-town mum joins the suffrage movement in Switzerland.
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