Thursday, 29 November 2012

The Passion of Joan of Arc [1928]

The Passion of Joan of Arc, Dreyer’s final silent film, is one of only handful of films that are de facto members of the elite group reverently referred to as “essential arthouse classics” – and like those that have made that qualification, it has been worshipped, beatified and canonized ad nauseum over the years. The film began with the epigraph announcing that it was based on recorded testimonials of Joan’s trials. But, quite obviously, subjective judgement and artistic liberty were freely employed by Dreyer in his depiction of her inquisition by a group of judges who consider her a heretic. The proceedings were memorably dramatized through the use of extreme close-ups, which unequivocally established the physical suffering and spiritual crises of Joan on one hand, and the hypocrisy and self-centeredness of the church tribunal, on the other. The torment that the 19-year old Joan faced at the hands of the old and morally corrupt cynics is bound to leave an impression on most viewers, though the religious blindness of the naïve, young girl, and Dreyer’s refusal to put some sort of leash on the overt religiosity of the contents, was tad off-putting for me. The film’s orchestral score or the technical virtuosity of the film, particular the disorienting camerawork, however, were not just beyond reproach, they were positively great – and not to forget, Renée Maria Falconetti’s startling and iconic turn, solely through facial emoting, as the wronged heroine (interestingly, this was her only movie role). The film was censored upon its release, and then thought destroyed until, in 1981, its original copy was found at, of all places, a Norwegian mental institution.

Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer
Genre: Drama/Religious Drama/Biopic/Docu-Drama/Silent Film
Language: Danish
Country: Denmark


Alex said...

I've been meaning to see this film for ages, I'm always so captivated by the stills of her anguished face. Excellent review, I will have to prioritize this!

Shubhajit said...

Thanks. The same was the case with me, Alex. So I finally managed to get this out of my system :)