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The Passion of Joan of Arc (Criterion Collection) (1928)

Cast: Renée Maria Falconetti, Eugène Silvain, Antonin Artaud, more...
Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer
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Rating: Not Rated
Studio: Criterion
Genre: Classics, Biopics, Silent, Criterion Collection
Running Time: 82 min.
Subtitles: English, French
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The Passion of Joan of Arc (La passion de Jeanne d'Arc) is widely regarded as Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer's finest achievement and one of the greatest films of all time. Dreyer recreates the trial and execution of St. Joan with near-documentary authenticity, as if one were present at the actual 15th century event and both defendant and accusers were the genuine article. The director's use of huge, probing closeups--detailing every pockmark and even the saliva at the sides of the mouths--adds a shocking immediacy which makes it hard to believe that this film is nearly seventy years old. As Joan, Maria Falconetti (in her only film) transcends mere praise. Passion of Joan of Arc is a silent film, but the original transcripts of Joan's trial are brilliantly conveyed by the pantomime of the actors. The film's title is supremely double-edged: Joan's "passion" is shown to be as erotic as it is spiritual. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

Probably the best silent film ever made by toddandsteph May 5, 2007 - 4:25 PM PDT
3 out of 4 members found this review helpful
The Passion of Joan of Arc: This is probably the best silent film ever made. How a director can take such a potentially dull story (after all, it's mostly just Joan at her trial with only different scenes for the last 20 minutes) and turn it into a completely compelling work of art using images (namely, shot composition and tracking)? I'm still not sure, but Dreyer pulls it off completely here. Never boring (with a brisk 80 minute running time), this movie serves as a wondrous swansong to the silent film art (although Chaplin did his best work after the form was mostly abolished...but his sense of visual architecture is freaking peanuts compared to this). As the S.B. said a couple of weeks back, Falconetti's performance is the stuff of legends. It's remarkable that she plays the whole film with her eyes as the conveyance of language, moreso than the intertitles even. In them, we see alternating forms of defiance, disappointment, despair, depression, desperation, hope, and just about every other kind of emotion under the sun. And her gradual transition from eager defiance to a slow acceptance of her fate stands as one of the most subtle and powerful acting performances I've ever seen. Despite all the pretty compositions and wondrous camera feats, this film would be absolutely nothing without her. And this does nothing to say about the movie's story, which is meticulously scripted to say profound things about the nature of faith, death, and life's purpose. The end of the film is absolutely heartbreaking, chaotic, and somehow poignant all at the same time, guaranteed to leave its impression on the viewer's head for weeks afterword. Almost as remarkable as the film itself is its history. Apparently, the original negative got all burnt up when the UFA studio burnt down soon after the film's controversial release. Dreyer then took a crapload of alternate takes and cut it into a comprehensible, if not entirely satisfying (to the director), alternatre cut. Needless to say, nature struck again, and that one got burnt up too. The flick went through a number of reedits using fragments (the Criterion DVD really does a wonderful job of going through this), but they were all crap. In 1982, an original negative was found under some rags in the closet of a (Danish?) mental hospital. And thank God that it was recovered because to lose this flick would be a crime at the same level as the butchering of The Magnificent Ambersons. This movie has earned its status as an all-time classic, and anyone here would be a fool not to see it. ***** out've *****

Beautiful and moving by Sujata May 3, 2006 - 5:12 PM PDT
2 out of 4 members found this review helpful
Each frame in this extraordinary film is beautiful. The entrance of Jean (Joan) at the beginning is one of the most startling scenes I've ever seen, for the sheer ordinariness of her look. After all the legends about her, it comes as a shock to see her portrayed by Falconetti as a slight, bewildered wisp of a girl wandering into a world she does not comprehend. Her faith, courage and grace shine through the film. Watch it and marvel.

the passion of carl th. dreyer by jaimetout November 25, 2003 - 10:08 PM PST
6 out of 6 members found this review helpful
It's hard to believe that this print was found in a janitor's closet at a mental institution. The overall quality of the print is excellent, and the restoration seems to have made a number of impressive improvements. This is a very striking film with an engaging and somewhat innovative visual style. The story is told mostly in the faces of the characters, as Dreyer focused his camera's gaze on close-up shots of the actors. Every detail of the characters' souls is revealed by the great amount of detail we are shown in their faces. There are also a great number of very interesting angles, compositions, and tracking shots that add eye candy to the psychological investigation going on in the close-ups. The climactic burning sequence is very convincing (I don't want to give the ending away, but we all know Jeanne D'Arc was burned at the stake, right?)

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 8.85)
299 Votes
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Moveline's 100 Best Foreign Films
This list was published in Moveline's July 1996 issue.
Village Voice's 100 Best Films of the 20th Century
When the Village Voice held its "First Annual Film Critics' Poll" they asked 50 or so film critics (like Molly Haskell, Jonathan Rosenbaum, and Andrew Sarris) to rank their top ten best films of the century. This is the result.

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