For the first time ever in his home country, Dreyer had a film unanimously hailed as a "masterpiece" by critics. Headlines such as "This Year’s All-Important Danish Film Event" (Dagens Nyheder), "A Grand Experience" (Kristeligt Dagblad) and the "Most Powerful Danish Film in Decades" (Vestkysten) are representative of the overall picture. Horsens Social-Demokraten even called the film "a European masterpiece" – a judgment that turned out to be spot on.
The film generated furious debate in the daily papers on account of its theme – a sacramental Grundtvigian Christian view of life versus the evangelical Inner Missionary faith – and its highly emotional and controversial rendition of a religious miracle. In opinion pieces and letters discussion raged whether Kaj Munk would have approved of the film, alongside Christian analyses of the film’s different elements. A number of pastors, theologians and other clergy raised their voices in the debate. Iørn Piø, an arts student, scrutinised the film’s use of Bible quotes.
Internationally, too, The Word was a hit, winning first the Golden Lion award for best feature film at the Venice Film Festival in September 1955. Around the same time, the film also got a fantastic reception at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. The following year, The Word won a Golden Globe for best foreign film, and in 1957 the National Board of Review, representing the American film critics, named The Word the year’s best foreign film.
At its French premiere, the film received massive press attention and was reviewed under such headlines as "Sublime!" (Le Parisien), "Pure beauté" (Combat) and "Ordet – a plenitude de Dreyer" (Republica).
By Lisbeth Richter Larsen | 03. June