110 Min. | Biography – Drama – History | October 1928
IMDB Rating: 8.3
Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer
Starring: Maria Falconetti, Eugene Silvain, André Berley
The Passion of Joan of Arc Review
Carl Th. Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc was made, perhaps, years ahead of its time – my guess would be that if it wasn’t burned after its initial release, it would’ve had as stunning an impact on the film world years down the line as Citizen Kane did. Though the use of close – ups and distorted angles were not completely new in The Passion of Joan of Arc, it felt like Dreyer was creating a new kind of cinema, one where reality, however cold and pitiful, was displayed with complete sincerity. There is also the editing, which has the timing that many directors/editors of the modern day could only hope to achieve, and those moves with the camera by Rudolph Mate that are precious – to call his work on the film extraordinary is an understatement.
And it was crucial for Dreyer to use the close – ups and tilted angles and shots where you only see the eyes in the bottom of the frame, and so forth – he’s developing the perfect atmosphere in regards to a trial set in 15th century France. It’s all those eyes, all those faces, holding all those stolid mindsets that send Joan to her fate. Pretty soon a viewer feels these presences from all these people, so strong and uncompromising, and Dreyer does a miraculous thing – he makes it so that we forget about the time and place, and all of our attention is thrown onto those eyes of Joan, loaded to brim with a sorrow for where she is, but an un-questionable faith in what she feels about God. Wondered at one point whether Dreyer was making as much a point on people’s faiths and prejudices in the almighty, or just one on basic humanity.
The Passion of Joan of Arc is an aesthetically austere yet serenely beautiful, psychologically uncompromising yet spiritually moving piece of work. The 15 hundred cuts and the way The Passion of Joan of Arc is structured, in clearly defined chapters, and, as already discussed, the way it is shot in close locality to Joan and always in relation to her immediate surroundings, gives the deceptive impression of simplicity and naturalness, whereas in fact The Passion of Joan of Arc is highly sophisticated and stylised. It also makes what Jean Cocteau said about the film even more true. That was, that it played like “an historical document from an era in which cinema didn’t exist”. Also, Richard Einhorn’s ‘Voices Of Light’ musical score, first presented with the film in 1995, is an undeniably creative and truly inspired piece of work which adds to the intensely emotional, powerful and hypnotically engaging visuals of The Passion of Joan of Arc.
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