In his essay on Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Ordet, P. Adams Sitney draws a parallel between the protagonist, Johannes, and John the Evangelist, author of the fourth gospel. He suggests that the delusional Johannes’s sanity returns upon the recovery of his own name, turning on the invocation of his biblical namesake, John the Evangelist. Compelling as Sitney’s is, however, I argue that we arrive at a more helpful interpretation by attending to an aspect that has been largely overlooked in critical discussion of the film: lighting. Careful analysis of the lighting yields a perspective in which Johannes is understood to be modeled not on John the Evangelist, but rather on John the Baptist. It does so, in part, by alluding to John 1:6–8, in which John the Baptist is described not as the light itself, but rather as a witness to the light of Christ. This alternative account of Johannine identity uncovers new meanings in the film, all revolving around the prophetic. Perhaps most intriguing is the possibility that Johannes may be understood to be a kind of stand-in for Kaj Munk, the prophet-like playwright of the original play of which the film is an adaptation.
Goodwin, Richard V.
"An Old Film in a New Light: Lighting as the Key to Johannine Identity in "Ordet","
Journal of Religion & Film: Vol. 22
, Article 2.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.unomaha.edu/jrf/vol22/iss2/2