Although Petra Volpe’s The Divine Order is set in early 1970s Switzerland, it is certainly prevalent for today. The film focuses on women’s suffrage during that particular era, but there’s a broader context about perseverance and sisterhood.
We, as a whole, have come a long way. But, there is still more to go. From wage gaps to sexual harassment, we have to keep fighting and embrace our so-called “yoni power.” The film captures the misogyny of the era and the women who supported the cause, went on strike and overcame setbacks.
Writer/director Volpe goes more into detail about the inspiring, humorous and powerful film, its symbolism and why she considers herself a feminist.
Stephanie A. Taylor (SAT): Was there a defining moment that inspired you to make The Divine Order?
Petra Volpe (PV): Well, I don’t think there was one moment. It’s been the theme of my life, women’s liberation and women’s rights. I think it’s very much linked to my mother and my to grandmother, and seeing how they were uncomfortable and struggling with their worth in society. I feel strongly about equality, even when I was a teenager.
The actual idea for the film came up with a conversation with my producer. He said that nobody has ever made a film about the women’s right to vote in Switzerland. We started to talk about it a little more we found out we actually haven’t learned anything about it in school. Everyone knows about this. But, you’re not taught the whole history behind it. It took women to battle for it for over a hundred years.
It wasn’t like they were just sitting back and waiting for it. They were fighting for it. When I went to school I hadn’t learned anything about it, so we felt it’s time to look at our chapter of our history.
SAT: The film clearly outlines feminists’ issues. In the broad scheme of things, do you consider yourself a feminist?
PV: I consider myself a total feminist. I’m a feminist, since I was born. I want equal rights, I will fight for this, and I will promote it whenever I have the chance. So I think it’s very important. I was never scared of the term.
A lot of women in my generation would say, ‘We’ve reached equality. What’s your problem?’ But later they realize that the moment they get married and have children, their marriage goes back to the ’50s. They stay at home and the husband brings home the money.
It’s a real struggle not to go back into these very old structures. In Switzerland society, politics and economics don’t really support women who want to work. Of course, it’s been much better. But, we have a wage gap. We have a care gap. We have all kinds of gaps, still.
SAT: How do you think your film has impacted society specifically with women, in your opinion?
PV: Well I think a lot of women, and also men, feel very inspired by the film, because they’ve learned something new. They also feel inspired by Nora’s courage. The film shows how one courageous woman can start a fire and can set into motion social and political change. I think that’s the kind of female heroine that people yearn for.
I researched in a women’s archive that was a very important source for me. That archive was on the verge of closing down due to financial problems. The film helped the archive survive. For them, it’s a good tool to use and say, ‘Look this film wouldn’t have been inspired if it wasn’t for our archive.’ It’s very important to have an archive for women’s history.
People don’t know about these great stories that women have to tell, and all the other ways they contributed to the world. So actually, the film had quite an impact. And, it’s really very helpful in starting a discussion in equality.
SAT: What else do you want people to take away from this film?
PV: Women’s rights are human rights. What is universally true today also, is that you have to fight for justice and equality.
But the other thing that is important to me is showing men [the film]. I truly think that the fight for equality is also making men’s lives better. And I made a point in showing in the film that the husband and the brother are equally oppressed by the patriarchal ideas of who they have to be as men.
I truly believe that the fight for equality benefits both genders and it’s very important that men understand that. That they are equally prisoners of their gender. I think that’s so sad because we could all be much more three dimensional people if we weren’t in all of these ideas of who we have to be as men and women. I think that’s something that resonated with a lot of men.
A lot of men reacted very emotionally to the movie because they didn’t feel attacked. They could also feel sadness about their on way to society. That opened their hearts toward the injustice against women. That was a very nice experience for these men who came forward and said that they really related to the movie and that they learned something also.
SAT: There was a scene about women’s empowerment and their vaginas. Could you tell me more about yoni power?
PV: That whole scene was important for me in the movie with Nora discovering her own body. She also develops a sense of her own pleasure and being able to ask for it was very important.
I do think that the liberation of women links also to the connection to their bodies. A lot of oppression against women happens through their bodies. And there is a war against the female body. They keep telling, us to this day, that we are somehow not perfect the way we are. Advertising tells us that. We see it in magazines. You open a magazine and it tells you you’re not perfect the way you are. I think that weakens women very much.
And I think at the base of being a strong woman and being able to fight for justice, freedom and to stand up for yourself is to have love for yourself. You have to really be connected to your body and love your body and have a good relationship with your sexuality to be able to be strong. And I think that is still true to this day.
SAT: How were the globe and tropical fish that never see the sun symbolic of Nora?
PV: It was a metaphorical image I liked for her subconscious desire and yearning for more “light” or knowledge and not live in the dark… and the fact that she plays this game with her children with the globe shows her curiosity for the bigger world.
The Divine Order will premiere at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago on Nov. 17 for a limited run. Read FF2 Media’s review of the film HERE.
© Stephanie A. Taylor (11/15/17) FF2 Media
Photos: Petra Volpe &
Photo Credits: Zeitgeist Films