XL Popcorn – Ordet / Little Big Man

Two weeks later and this is no longer a wrist problem, but my whole right arm and shoulder. The dictated reviews shall continue on.

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Title: Ordet (The Word)
Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer
Year: 1955
Country: Denmark

Faith is a subject that many films covered, but I’m not sure I’ve seen it as well covered as in Ordet. In it we see many views expressed about what faith is, on its importance and how to deal with those who are different to us. It is a difficult topic to address well as if you misjudge it you come across as preachy or obvious. When you start watching this film you know exactly what you wait for. The first scene depicts a family going after the middle son Johannes who, after a mental breakdown, believes himself to be Christ arisen. So, you know that the next 2 hours will be filled with discussions about God.

Let’s set the scene: we are in rural Denmark in the 1920s where there are two conflicting ministries. The first is on a farm where we spent most of our time during the film, the other belongs to a tailor down in the village. Despite the fact they’re both Protestant preachers the difference in their message prevents them from allowing their children to marry each other.

This is not a story about love. I bring up this minor storyline from the film to illustrate the greater points of the film; that faith is different from dogma. There are many different dogmas on show in this film. Morten the farmer and Peter the tailor are opposed because whilst Morten focuses on life, Peter focuses on death. Inger, Morten’s daughter in law believes that even if someone does not believe in god the goodness in their heart will win out. Mikkel, the eldest son of Morten, is an atheist. And then we have the science of the local doctor and a grown man who believes he is Jesus Christ.

Over the course of the film all dogmas are tested. The end result being that dogmas and religion in general are just a way to put a human spin on faith, and so putting a barrier between humanity and God. It’s a fairly powerful message and it is told in a setting that feels both real and fantastical. One where, maybe, it is possible to believe in miracles.

Ordet is a strange film, but I know that I really liked it. As someone who does not hold a faith or follow a dogma it is a film that challenges you. In the final scene, which is filmed using a very well done long take, it is only those who have the faith unclouded by conflicting dogmatic principles that seem calm. It is the idea that sometimes we get so bogged down in the minutiae that sometimes we just forget to ask for help or for what we really want. It’s something that does give you pause.

Little-Big-ManTitle: Little Big Man
Director: Arthur Penn
Year: 1970
Country: USA

This is the film that Dances with Wolves should have been if it hadn’t taken itself so damned seriously. I really dislike Dances with Wolves. How the hell did that beat Goodfellas!? Anyway, that is a discussion for another time.

Little Big Man is a really old movie – think of it as Forrest Gump but as a western and you are pretty much there. The only reason that I chose to watch this film today was because it had been ages since I last saw Dustin Hoffman in a movie. He is one of my favourite actors from this era of cinema and I’m keen to keep watching him in his biggest roles. As the titular Little Big Man he is very much the front and centre. With a lesser actor at the helm this film could have been insufferable, but I did enjoy this.

But my problem was that this was too damn long. At 2 1/4 hours it feels that they were trying to spin an epic out of the yarn. That is what this film is. The original poster posits the idea that what we’re being told is not entirely the truth. People have looked back on this as a way for the anachronisms to be explained. I quite like the idea of the unreliable narrator so I’m going to go with this being an intricate tapestry of lies.

What is not a lie and is how this film depicts the treatment of Native Americans by the likes of General Custer. For a film that has been so incredibly light the scene where we see the massacre of a Native American village is utterly disarming. I had not expected this film to be so brutal, but I am glad it was. It is very frank with the idea of genocide. It is from the very first scene and I’d forgotten that when we got to the scene the village. Humans are monsters after all.

Overall, as with many life stories, there are times when this film lacks focus and could have done with a bit of editing. For example whilst I know that the section where we see him become an adept gunmen does provide us with some bits of physical humour there is actually no need for it. Same with the part where he sells “miracle cures”. The reason I can think of keeping them in would be to show the folly of the white man, but that’s done enough with their depiction of Custer (who is basically Van Pelt from Jumanji).

I think this is a film of its time and I can say categorically that I found it more humourous than Blazing Saddles. However I have no negative things to say about Dustin Hoffman in this for he did everything perfectly as per usual.

Progress: 516/1007

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