The Divine Order: Women’s suffrage finally comes to small-town Switzerland

B+ Historical drama
Written and directed by Petra Biondina Volpe

Switzerland fought women’s suffrage longer than other western democracies. Women didn’t get to vote in that tiny country until 1971, and they had to wait another twenty years before they could vote in all elections.

This feel-good drama about that struggle places the fight not in metropolitan Zurich but in a small, provincial, and very conservative town. The year is 1970, but you would barely recognize it. It’s more like the land that time forgot. The attitudes are closer to 1870.

Nora (Marie Leuenberger) is open, kind, and loving, but she’s bored with being a housewife. Her husband Hans (Maximilian Simonischek) won’t allow her to get a job – a married woman can’t legally work outside the home without her husband’s permission. Other signs of rampant sexism abound. Nora’s teenage niece, Hanna, gets thrown into prison after running away from home.


These events sharpen Nora’s already existing feelings that women should have the right to vote. She finds one ally, and then another. At first, even most of the women in the town oppose what she’s doing…or are they just scared to cross their menfolk?

This isn’t just theoretical. A national vote on women’s suffrage is coming up. And only men, of course, can vote.

Nora and her two best friends discover the modern world on a trip to Zurich, where they go to attend a women’s rights march. They even attend an eye-opening lecture on female sexuality.


Eventually, most of the women in town take Nora’s side, and go on strike, camping out in the town’s only woman-run business. The men must learn to cook, clean, and take care of their children. In some ways, this is funny, but threats of violence are always on the horizon.

I called this a feel-good movie, and it’s very much that. Not only do women get the right to vote, but almost every little conflict between the numerous characters works out alright.

Nora’s character arc is an obvious one, although it’s still entertaining and inspiring. But her husband Hans has a more interesting one. At the start, like every other guy in the town, he’s extremely sexist. He’s also tall, muscular, and handsome, and behaves like a man’s man. But as the story progresses, he grows as he’s forced to do things that, in his world, men just don’t do. I wish, however, that writer/director Petra Biondina Volpe had shown us how his apple pie came out.

The Divine Order (a reference to religious sexism) is a crowd pleaser. And sometimes, even in a political film, that isn’t always a bad thing.

The movie opens Friday.