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The Passion of Joan of Arc

May 2, 2020

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer
Actors: Renée Jeanne Falconetti, Eugène Sylvain, André Berley

The Passion of Joan of Arc - Cornell

Synopsis: The events leading up to Joan of Arc (Renée Jeanne Falconetti) being burnt at the stake in 15th century France.

Review: The classical simplicity of The Passion of Joan of Arc is the cause for its enduring status as not only one of the stalwarts of silent cinema, but cinema in its entirety – even more so as we approach its centenary.

This simplicity of The Passion of Joan of Arc is actually quite disarming. Some silent cinema can look technologically primitive, but this feels starkly modern – both in its dramatic dexterity and the clarity of its cinematography. For the film is essentially a revolving canvas of close ups and cuts as its simple but coruscating narrative plays out. The camera is like a microscope, almost peering into the consciences of the legions of men (clerics, judges, politicians) circling around Joan like a pack of hyenas, trying to break down her soul and force a confession.

Of course, it would be remiss not to mention Renée Falconetti’s staggering performance as Joan. Filmed almost entirely in close up, one false move would have been picked up by the camera, but her gracefulness is at the centre of the film’s calmly religious effect. Mainly remembered for its iconic quality – appropriate enough considering the character she was playing – it is the power and naturalism of her acting, especially once she knows she is going to die, that resonates the most with me. (May 2020)

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