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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
PG
Cast
Renee Falconetti
Eugene Silvain
Antonin Artaud
Maurice Schutz.
Directors
Carl Theodor Dreyer.
Screenwriters
Running Time
100 minutes

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The Passion Of Joan Of Arc
1928 humblingly powerful silent movie from Carl Theodor Dreyer.


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Plot
Captured by the Burgundian allies of her English enemies, Joan of Arc is tried for heresy and witchcraft by Bishop Pierre Cauchon. Fearing for her life, she withdraws claims to have seen visions of St Michael, only to disavow her recantation and is burned at the stake on 30 May 1431.


Review

Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer supposedly chose this drama of a soul over biopics of Catherine de Medici and Marie Antoinette by drawing matchsticks. However, he soon became immersed in the material and spent months researching Joan of Arc's life before basing his screenplay - which compressed 29 sessions spread over three months into five in a single day - on Pierre Champion's 1921 version of the trial records.

         Denied the opportunity to use sound, yet still armed with a budget of seven million francs, Dreyer commissioned art directors Hermann Warm and Jean Hugo to build a vast cement castle between Montrouge and Petit Clamart in the Parisian suburbs and hired an abandoned car plant at Billancourt to shoot his interiors. Ultimately, little of these imposing sets were seen, but Dreyer wanted his cast to experience an authentic medieval environment.

         Lillian Gish was briefly considered for the title role before Dreyer saw Renée Falconetti in a boulevard comedy and was convinced that she has the ability to `abstract from reality in order to reinforce its spiritual content'. He filmed her without make-up and reportedly treated her shabbily on set to elicit the right degree of persecuted suffering. But, whatever Dreyer's methods, her display of `realised mysticism' clearly came from within and her sole screen appearance remains one of cinema's greatest.

         Filming in strict chronological order, after extensive rehearsal, Dreyer often demanded countless retakes to capture precise emotions. Digging trenches to achieve low-angle perspectives, he had cinematographer Rudolph Maté shoot his typage cast with high-contrast lighting and in tight close-up to emphasise the expressions that best conveyed the unrelenting intensity of Joan's interrogation. However, this is far from the exercise in still photography that some have claimed, as Dreyer made subtle use of pans, tilts, subjective angles, cross-cutting and montage to place the viewer at the heart of Joan's ordeal, which was made all the more disconcerting by the absence of spatial certainty.

             The Archbishop of Paris demanded numerous cuts. Yet, despite positive reviews, the film proved a commercial failure and Dreyer disowned all subsequent reconstructions of what remains a deeply moving masterpiece.


Verdict
Never again would, silent film director, Dreyers vision be so humblingly powerful or so purely cinematic. One of the most inspired and inspiring films ever made.


Reviewed by David Parkinson

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for The Passion Of Joan Of Arc
Empire Star Rating

"Has God made you promises?"

Permeating with religious symbolism, Carl Theodor Dreyer's The Passion Of Joan Of Arc remains a powerful and heartrending film, silent or otherwise, and Renee Falconetti gives one of the finest performances of cinema history. Marvelous. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by movienut707 at 22:21, 01 October 2013 | Report This Post


"Has God made you promises?"

Permeating with religious symbolism, Carl Theodor Dreyer's The Passion Of Joan Of Arc remains a powerful and heartrending film, silent or otherwise, and Renee Falconetti gives one of the finest performances of cinema history. Marvelous. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by movienut707 at 22:18, 01 October 2013 | Report This Post


Stunning

The fact that there are still many movies made today that are nowhere near as cinematic as this haunting masterpiece is a testament to its ever-lasting power. Falconetti gives one of the most heartbreaking performances ever put on screen. Simply breathtaking. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Mr Gittes at 13:17, 27 February 2013 | Report This Post


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