The Passion Of Joan Of Arc (1928)
Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer
Writers: Carl Theodor Dreyer, Joseph Delteil
Cast: Renee Falconetti, Eugene Silvain, Maria Falconetti, Michael Simon, Antonin Artaud
Release Date – 19th Nov 2012
Written, directed and edited by the legendary Danish filmmaker Carl Theodor Dreyer, his black and white 1928 picture The Passion of Joan of Arc is not only one of the great movies of the silent era, it was recently voted one of the Top 10 Greatest Films of All-Time in the highly influential 2012 Sight & Sound magazine critics poll.
Dreyerâs classic, available in three formats (Blu-ray, DVD, and Ltd Edition Dual Format (DVD & Blu-ray) SteelBook editions), is today released in an exclusive, stunning new restoration in the UK on 19 November 2012 by Eureka! in their Masters of Cinema series & deserves this critical acclaim and much more. One of the most touching cinematic experiences from any period, Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of ArcÂ is a unique phenomenon in the history of motion pictures, an enigmatic and overpoweringly stirring work that actually seems to blend the worlds of the viewer and that of Saint Joan.
Amazingly featuring the momentous Surrealist poet, actor and playwright Antonin Artaud, one of the most influential figures in the evolution of modern drama theory (author of the Theater of Cruelty and The Theater and Its Double), as the sympathetic monk Massieu, Dreyer’s film charts the final days of Joan of Arc (RenÃ©e Maria Falconetti), captured by the Burgundian allies of her English enemies, as she undergoes the indignities that accompany her trial for charges of heresy and witchcraft by Bishop Pierre Cauchon (Eugene Silvain). Fearing for her life, she withdraws claims to have seen visions of St Michael, only to later repudiate her plea.
Dreyer inexorably follows Joan through her imprisonment and execution at the stake on 30th May 1431. With cinematographer Rudolph MatÃ© shooting the cast in tight close-ups to accentuate every movement of their facial expressions, Dreyer conveys the intensity of Joan of Arcâs cross-examination. Many have justly praised Falconettiâs performance, her first and last on film, as one of the most powerful and heartbreaking ever committed to celluloid. Yet Falconettiâs rousing turn was only made possible through Dreyerâs innovatory semi Expressionist staging and ruthless working methods, coupled with MatÃ©âs resourceful cinematography.
The searing emotional intensity of Dreyerâs masterwork has continued to inspire cutting edge artists through the decades. In his 1962 picture Vivre Sa Vie, Jean-Luc Godard cites Dreyer’s close-ups of the martyrdom of Falconetti in shots taken from The Passion of Joan of Arc. Nana, played by his then wife Anna Karina, sees Dreyer’s film in a Parisian Left Bank theatre and cries in evident sympathy for Joan/Falconetti. In Godardâs 1959 movie A bout de souffle, Jean Seberg was associated, through images, her hair and costume with the saint of Dreyer’s film, and in 1962 Robert Bresson made his own The Trial of Joan of Arc. On 27th August 1995 Nick Cave and the Dirty Three played a live soundtrack to the film at the National Film Theatre in London, while during 1999 Cat Power played her score of the film during many screenings across America.
This exclusively restored high-definition Eureka! master is presented in the film’s original aspect ratio, in 1080p on the Blu-ray, in both 20fps and 24fps playback speeds. There are optional audio tracks: a piano score performed by Japanese silent film composer Mie Yanashita (for the 20fps option), and a radical accompaniment by esteemed American avant-garde musician Loren Connors (for the 24fps option). Newly translated optional English subtitles for Dreyer’s original Danish intertitles and the complete “Lo Duca” version of the film â the version (featuring an alternate edit and soundtrack) that circulated in France and around the world for decades before the rediscovery of Dreyer’s “director’s cut.” Together with an extended illustrated booklet featuring the words of Dreyer and rare archival imagery, this is the definitive home viewing edition of this celluloid masterpiece.
In 1963, future filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich asked Alfred Hitchcock to delineate his theory of âpure cinemaâ for his book, The Cinema of Alfred Hitchcock. The eminent director replied that it was âpieces of film put together, like notes of music make a melody.â If ever âpure cinemaâ, as defined by Hitchcock, ever existed, then Dreyerâs The Passion of Joan of Arc is an illuminating example.
The Passion Of Joan Of Arc is released on 19th November 2012. The whole film can be watched in full on Vimeo here but of course we recommend you watch it in it’s full glory by purchasing it in one of the formats listed above.
All words by Ian Johnston. More Louder Than War articles by Ian can be read here.