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THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC
aka LA PASSION DE JEANNE D'ARC
UK: Artificial Eye Film Co.
Cast: Renee Maria Falconetti, Eugene Silvain, Andre Berley, Maurice Schutz, Antonin Artaud, Michel Simon, Jean d'Yd, Louis Ravet, Jacques Arnna, Leon Larive, Alexandre Mihalesco
Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer
Language: Silent (French and English intertitles)
UK: 100 mins
UK Certificate: PG contains mild violence and horror
UK Release Date: 18 July 2003 (Limited Re-release)
One of the greatest films of all time, Dreyer's silent masterpiece, based on authentic fifteenth century transcripts taken during Joan of Arc's eighteen month trial, is an extraordinarily intense and deeply moving viewing experience. Bringing together all the technical and artistic resources of the period, LA PASSION DE JEANNE D'ARC is perhaps the most pure and perfect distillation of Dreyer's art, representing what Dreyer referred to as 'Realized Mysticism' where the soul is revealed through cinematic style. Deeply impressed by the story of Joan, and in particular the emotional power of her short, simple answers during her trial, Dreyer's interpretation conveys this emotional and spiritual power through his unique cinematic language.
Dreyer's austere visual style shares many of the French avant garde's aesthetic concerns of the late twenties. With its tendency towards abstraction and destruction of perspective (in particular the striking use of close ups and lack of establishing shots) and an emphasis on stark elegance and form (lack of make up, expressive sets and stark white backdrops designed by Jean Victor Hugo and Herman Mann - who had helped design the expressionistic sets for THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI) LA PASSION DE JEANNE D'ARC successfully abstracts time and place in order to convey Joan's spiritual struggle and emotional disorientation.
Corsican born Renee Maria Falconetti, a celebrated stage actress made her screen debut - and only film role - as Dreyer's Joan. Yet her astonishingly impassioned performance, displaying a mixture of suffering and spiritual ecstasy, raised her image to iconic status and assured her a place in film history. In Godard's VIVRE SA VIE, Anna Karina's Nana is reduced to tears when she watches Falconetti's performance. Literally exposed, shot in close up and appearing without make up her soul is laid bare before the camera, her accusers, and us the audience. Dreyer's LA PASSION DE JEANNE D'ARC still retains this resonance and emotional power today and audiences cannot help but be moved by his vision.