The riveting film The Divine Order from female screenwriter and director Petra Volpe is co-produced by an unusual collaboration of partners: Swiss radio and televisions SRF, SRG, SSR and Teleclub.
Telling is the impact of the message Volpe's project is willing to reveal regarding the Suffrage of Women in Swiss history and its culture. It is supported by the Federal Office of Culture, The Zurich Film Foundation, the cantons of Aargau, Lucerne and Appenzell Ausserrhoden including Suissimage/SSA, the Migros Culture Percent and the Dr. Fred Styger Foundation for further acknowledgement and cultural documentation.
Volpe states that the fact that Switzerland did not grant women the same political rights as men until the year 1971, is well-known inside and outside of the country. Volpe adds that from today's perspective it's also a curiosity. The Women's Right to Vote passed on February 7, 1971, giving Swiss women voting rights; but the women's fight for equality still continues today.
Volpe conducted extensive research for her script including countless meetings and interviews exploring the struggle of women's suffrage in Switzerland. The script for The Divine Order was developed to present an independent story that did notrest primarily on women's suffrage historically, though fascinating, but to put a face on the depth of the issue.
Volpe shares that the idea to make a film about Swiss women's suffrage was a broad field to explore. She notes, "That's why I first researched for a long time, to hear as many voices as possible and to examine the subject from a variety of perspectives." Adding, "Only then did I develop the characters piece by piece. All are inspired by women that I met in the course of my research."
Volpe says, "In the development of the script, I especially wanted to capture the atmosphere of the time and not simply historical facts." Volpe continues, "I wanted to tell a story that depicts how unfree women were back then, how much they were treated like possessions and how great the opposition was, even in 1971, when the women demanded equal political rights."
The idea for her protagonist, Nora (Marie Leuenberger) came from material Volpe found in activist and archivist for Swiss Women's Suffrage, Marthe Gosteli's Foundation archives. Volpe says, "In beautiful, careful handwriting found on a green deposit slip in the Swiss Women's Suffrage archives, a young housewife and mother writes: She had never been politically involved, but this call by the opponents of the vote now made her so angry that she was even considering actively fighting for the voting right!" Volpe concludes, "That was the first spark for Nora, a woman who wakes up and evolves into a political person."
Nora Ruckstuhl (Marie Leuenberger) is a young housewife and mother living with her husband Hans (Max Simonischek) and their two young sons in a rural village in the Swiss countryside. Nora's world is notably untouched by the major radical social movements of the 1960s that include protests for Civil Rights, the Sexual Revolution, and the Youth and Counter Culture Movements. Nora and Hans have not been affected by any social upheaval. Nora is a quiet, lovely young lady, liked by everybody. A different side to Nora's personality comes to light the day she starts to fight publicly for women's suffrage in her country.
Nora's need to become active for the equality of women is spurred on when the Swiss men are to take a vote on the topic on February 7, 1971. Nora's journey begins when Hans takes offense to her involvement, and, in addition, refuses permission for her to go back to work. Adding to Nora's concern is when her teenage niece, Hanna (Ella Rumpf) is sent away to reform school and thereafter, prison because she did not abide by the conventional rules of the village set for women.
Nora realizes that a silent voice will not bring about change but demanding change is necessary for personal gain and cultural relevance. Nora's pilgrimage rallying for the Swiss women's right to vote takes her down a long and winding road of pain and suffering; wondering if her efforts are worth the toil.