Why are there very few subtitles in The Passion Of Joan Of Arc (1928)?


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I watched the movie but I felt like I missed half of it, cause only certain parts of the dialogue are subtitled, and most of the dialogue is not subtitled at all. I was watching the criterion collection version.

Like for example, when the judge asks Joan what God has promised her, you can tell by how long he speaks for that he says a lot more than that, even turning his head to talk to different judges. Even in French there is no way that sentence would take that long to say, and he certainly said a lot more.

And there are other scenes, like when the judge asks Joan if she knows the Lord's prayer, and she gives an answer, but they don't subtitle what answer she gives.

Those are just two examples of many, but I found the movie very hard to follow cause of this especially since it's a courtroom drama that relies on being very dialogue driven. Is something wrong with the criterion collection version or is this pretty much the official version and it's like that?

A lot of silent films are like that from what ive seen. They only show you the dialogue deemed necessary and your supposed to put together whats going on basedon the expressions and movements of the actors on screen. It is however possible some parts of the film are lost but nothing that hampers the story.

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Well there are several shots of the judges discussing the matter amongst themselves, but they don't display what they are saying in those parts. So I figure why did the filmmakers shoot it, if they are not going to subtitle it? We would still get what was going on, and don't need conversations that cannot be understood.

I think that's because that's not the element of the trial the director wanted to focus on, he wanted to focus on Joan's POV of the trial (Evident from how many close-ups there are).

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But if he wanted to focus on her POV, then why do we have all these shots of judges looking at each other talking with no subtitles then? Why didn't they just cut down on those?

The idea is to show you what shes seeing and how intimidating they look and show closeups of her and how emotional she feels. If they dont subtitle it youre expected to get the ideo of whats going on through body language and what has been said.

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Well I finished it and it was a very good movie with a very intense emotional ending!

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Oh I've watched way too many black and white films to count off the top of my head. Some of my most favorites are

12 Angry Men
The Battle of Algiers
In Cold Blood
City Lights
High and Low
Schindler's List

Why do you ask?

Sigh, you misread my question. I wasn't asking about black and white films. I was asking about black and white silent films. The reason I ask is because all of the black and white silent films I've seen do the exact same thing with subtitles. They only show the most important lines. You have to lip read the rest or just focus on body language to get the gist of it.

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Oh sorry. I've seen City Lights, Metropolis, Modern Times, The Thief of Baghdad, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The Battleship Potemkin, The General, Our Hospitality, The Birth of a Nation, Nosferatu, and The Gold Rush.

I know they don't subtitle everything but The Passion of Joan of Arc was much more heavily dialogue driven then the other ones I saw, and had a more non-subtitled dialogue compared to usual in my opinion. Plus in other ones, where the dialogue is not subtitled, they do not show near as many close ups of those characters speaking if it's not meant to be subtitled, where as in this one, there is a lot of close ups of non-subtitled dialogue in comparison.

So I was just wondering if something was wrong with the version I saw.

The ratio may be a little different, but I think the principle is the same.

Well, I can speak some French and I could read their lips sometimes when there weren't subtitles. It did add a little more to the experience, but not much. You're not really missing anything. One thing that did strike me as significan't though was a poor English translation when Joan is asked how she will be saved. The subtitles say, "Redemption" but her lips say, "le mort." It literally translates "the dead." A better English translation would have been, "death." God promised her salvation through death.

You know, there is a brilliant scene in Abel Gance's 1919 masterpiece J'Accuse in which a man recites a poem, but no intertitles are used. Instead, the essence of the poem is expressed through images. Impressionist shots of the Sun, of lakes - visual beauty. The final scene is basically the same poem in the form of text - just as powerful, but only because it was first shown in the form of images. Had it been shown only as text, it wouldn't have packed such a punch! Cinema is a visual medium and it's very evident in silents that strive to show and not tell. With the advent of talkies the use of nifty visuals was dulled in most films, and what was especially apparent was how unnecessarily prolix they were. In Passion... it's not that much about what is being said, but about Joan's personal experience.