Wednesday, April 11, 2012

How Had I Not Seen This Movie!? Part 8: The Passion of Joan of Arc

The Passion of Joan of Arc

The Passion of Joan of Arc is an intense movie. Released in 1928, it tells the condensed story of the heresy trial of Joan of Arc from 1431, which ultimately led to her being burned at the stake. The film does not give any backstory though regarding what led to her trial. Instead, it focuses only on the trial itself, using the actual transcripts that were saved to supply the dialog shown on the screen. This movie, which consists mainly of extreme close-ups, is a testament to the power of the human face, as it proves you don't need sound (or even words) to fully express the emotions that Joan of Arc must have gone through during the course of her trial.

I'll admit that the movie posed a bit of a challenge at first. I've still only seen a couple silent movies, but even the ones I've seen (Metropolis and Modern Times) were much more geared towards an entertaining experience. Watching The Passion of Joan of Arc feels like watching performance art mixed with a history lesson. This isn't to say watching the movie is hard to watch, it just takes a certain focus that is no longer needed with 99% of the movies that are released nowadays. 

The enduring legacy of The Passion of Joan of Arc is mostly attributed to the title performance by Maria Falconetti. Much has been said about how she endured a trial of her own during the filming of this movie, being made to perform take after take while her knees slowly ground into the stone floor beneath her. It's hard to justify personal pain for a great performance but it's simply amazing what Director Carl Dreyer was able to capture. The title cards shown on the screen become almost superfluous due to how precisely accurate Falconetti's performance matches what she is supposed to be saying. It's unfortunate that Falconetti never made another film after this (she passed away in 1946) but the one performance she did leave us is enough to have her considered one of the best actresses of the silent era.

You're Welcome,


Valuable Life Lesson Learned: Only the devil could make a woman dress like a man.

Upcoming Titles
- The Untouchables
- Kiss Me Deadly
- After Hours
- Serpico

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