The Divine Order opens with archival footage that is a familiar snapshot of the cultural revolution that began sweeping America and other parts of the world during the late 1960s. There are snippets of Woodstock, of Gloria Steinem, of anti-war demonstrations and feminist protests. There’s no question the world was rapidly changing with many marginalized groups beginning to make their voices heard and seen but as the film shifts to the snowy mountains in Switzerland a voiceover informs us that while change was happening across the world, it somehow missed Switzerland in the process.
“The Divine Order” refers to the belief held by the religious and political leaders of the time that women belonged at home, their only duty to be wives and mothers. This infiltrated the laws of the time, barring women from politics and, perhaps most surprisingly of all, prohibiting women from voting in 1970. Enter Nora, a housewife and mother who dreams of working for a travel agency, where she once received training before she was married but instead is relegated to taking care of her children, helping out her sister-in-law with housework and taking care of her cantankerous father-in-law. When she brings up her dreams of returning to work, having come across an employment advertisement in the local paper, her husband dismisses her. He doesn’t want their children eating dinner out of a can nor does he want it to look like he can’t provide for his family.
While bringing her niece into town to meet her boyfriend, Nora comes across advocating for women’s suffrage in Switzerland and is given a stack of pamphlets and feminist literature. When Hans’ boss is collecting funds in favor of denying women the right to vote, she stands up to the older woman and refuses to donate. This causes a ripple in the community and, pairing up with a friend, Vroni, Nora decides to hold and information session in town to advocate for voting rights. On a trip to Zurich, Nora marches with other protesters in favor of suffrage and her picture is printed on the front of the local paper. As a result, her family are ostracized and ridiculed and tensions begin to run high between Hans and Nora.
The information session turns out to be a disaster, with Nora publicly humiliated by the men in town and with the women too afraid to speak out in her favor. Undeterred, Nora manages to rally the women to organize a strike, leaving their homes and their families behind to demonstrate their importance and to do their part to sway the upcoming vote on suffrage in their favor. In the process, Nora helps her friends and family discover their own strengths and keys to happiness and she begins to unlock her own as well.
In the end, women were finally given the right to vote in Switzerland in 1971 and The Divine Order is a sweet slice of history that rewards the frustrations brought on by the sexism the women consistently battle with their eventual triumph in the end. Lead actress Marie Leuenberger is charming as the sweet Nora who eventually finds the fire within herself to fight both a large scale battle and her own war at home. The struggles and setbacks in The Divine Order will feel relatable and likely familiar, but it’s a triumph worth celebrating and the film does justice to honor the hard work of these Swiss feminists.