La passion de Jeanne d’Arc [The Passion of Joan of Arc] (1928)

<strong class="MovieTitle">La passion de Jeanne d’Arc</strong> [<strong class="MovieTitle">The Passion of Joan of Arc</strong>] (1928)

(Kanopy Streaming, October 2018) If you encounter a list of the best silent movies, chances are good that you’ll see La passion de Jeanne d’Arc somewhere on it—Despite overwhelming odds against its survival (the film’s master copy burned down twice!), the film is now widely acclaimed for still-striking cinematic techniques and an awe-inspiring central performance. Writer/director Carl Theodor Dreyer, asked to produce a film about Joan of Arc, chose to focus on the documented portions of her life, most specifically her trial and execution. Working from transcripts (giving to the film an exceptional historical accuracy that still eludes modern filmmakers), he focused much of the film on closeups of lead actress Renée Jeanne Falconetti (in her second and last screen role) as she undergoes Jeanne d’Arc’s trial. It’s an unflinching depiction of a naked performance which came with a price—Dreyer was reportedly abusive on-set. On cinematic history marks, La passion de Jeanne d’Arc is practically a must see for serious film students. Alas, when it comes to enjoyment… I’m certainly showing my own background when I say that to a post-Révolution tranquille French-Canadian, La passion de Jeanne d’Arc stinks of the kind of parochial Catholicism that my parents’ generation jettisoned almost completely. To be fair, it was the intention of the filmmakers to make the film hard to watch from a contemporary perspective, portraying Jeanne d’Arc as a martyr of the Church’s persecutions. But the gloriously French myth making is something that hasn’t travelled well ninety years later, especially considering the ocean’s worth of differences between the French and French-Canadians. Other audiences’ kilometrage will vary.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *