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The Passion of Joan of Arc

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer
Cast overview: Maria Falconetti, Eugene Silvain
Running time: 114 minutes

I saw this film on a few lists and recommended on a few sites as being one of the classics of the silent era. I can certainly see why some have said this. After watching this, and I didn't know a great deal about Joan of Arc prior to watching the film, I was persuaded to research into her life more thoroughly, and she certainly seems to be a divisive historical character.

In this film she is played by Maria Falconetti, who gives a haunting, wide-eyed and terrified-looking performance as the title character. She is clearly a tortured character, literally going by the end of the film. It's a film that seems ahead of its time - the close-ups and extreme close-ups used, the violence, the level of emotion that manages to be built up. It's a difficult film, there's no doubting that, but I don't think it's actually as difficult as some I've seen recently, despite being the oldest by some distance.

It may mostly consists of the aforementioned close-ups of Joan of Arc in a courtroom surrounded by interrogating men, but the way Dreyer manages to sustain interest among the audience by the use of pure emotion from Joan of Arc particularly and yet such simplicity is particularly adept.

Yes, this is difficult, but I much prefer it to some of the Japanese films I've seen lately. It's emotional, well-made, and unforgettable - this is a film that will stay with you, for good or for bad.

Juge: How old are you?
Jeanne d'Arc: [counts on her fingers] Nineteen... I think.

Juge: What is your name?
Jeanne d'Arc: In France, I am called Joan... in my village, I am called Jeanneton.

Jeanne d'Arc: [talking to God] Will I be with You tonight in Paradise?

Believed lost until a complete print was found in a mental institution in Oslo. See also Der brennende Acker (1922).

After completing the original cut of the film, director Carl Theodor Dreyer learned that the entire master print had been accidentally destroyed. With no ability to re-shoot, Dreyer re-edited the entire film from footage he had originally rejected.

Ranked #1 on the Toronto International Film Festival's Essential 100 list published in 2009.