It is hard not to think of Ordet without thinking of the end. For it is the end that most matters in this movie or so I think. To say that it is an extraordinary movie is to say the least. The images from this movie stay with you for these are not supposed to be ephemeral or even abstract but realistic, hard and sombre.
The movie is about a miraculous resurrection, set against religious doubt and hypocrisy in a farm house in a village in Denmark. The scepticism, religious fervour and lack of it is reflected in the principal household where the tensions simmer from frank disbelief to an almost insane religious grandiosity, somehow well played by an actor portraying a detachment from everyone, including himself and finally rescuing everyone, even from themselves, in the final scene that resurrects the daughter-in-law, the most affable person from the coffin, when she is about to be buried. The supposedly insane Johannes, the person who proclaims he is Jesus, claims reason in the end and magically breathes life into his sister-in-law. The last scene also brings together the other remaining jigsaw, that of the neighbouring tailor, who acknowledges his hypocrisy and his fanatic understanding of religion.
I was rather mystified by the ending but somehow not surprised for I thought I was watching not a movie about faith but a religious movie, a kind of toned down evangelism, a hushed preaching, a sophisticated call to arms. In the father figure, the head of the household, we behold a kind of a bibilical patriarch, with his unflinching and sometimes dour faith in God and yet who also has his doubts and drinks his cafe. He is waiting for a miracle and when he has nearly given up, after the resurrection he proclaims that this God and the God of old are the same.
I do not know what Carl Theodor Dreyer wants us to understand from this movie. If it is about faith, hope, belief in endless struggle, toil, and being truthful and good, then it is admirable. If this movie is about that sentimental belief in one's sin, redemption and all that never ending hypocrisy in man's ultimate destiny, then this movie simply crashes.
Apart from the ending, I believe that the interiors and the landscapes in this movie are breathtakingly melancholic, beautiful, subtle and understated to the point of oppressive brilliance. There is humour too, for when the pastor wonders whether Johannes' malady is due to love, his older brother immediately answers........."No, Kierkegaard". The hard outdoors, the wind, the menace of the interior of the house, the minimalist lighting at times and the constant pacing in and out of the rooms somehow matches the fervour in the souls of the main characters. Ordet is a great movie but the ending, miraculous that it is, and attractive as it seems, reflects despair rather than hope.