Review: The Passion Of Joan Of Arc @ Chapter
This is a film on my bucket list, which should focus on more reading than cinema, since I do so little of the former. I’m very pleased I saw this film. I would go as far to say it is the best silent film I have ever seen and perhaps the best ever created.
This is an absolute pearl of a film. The Danish director Carl Dreyer created a work with such originality for its day, it defies belief. What the camera goes through is a journey of great proportions and revelations. It swoops, turns and lingers to staggering effect. What is the major selling point of the film is the earth-shattering performance by Maria Falconetti as 'the messenger' Joan of Arc.
If looks could kill, her face could wipe out a whole cinema, if an audience was big enough for an eighty-five year-old. It’s a work of raw power and transcendental appreciation. Many tears are shed from her and us. This is the type of film that makes you want to leap into the air for the glory of cinema. Amazingly it’s her last film role. She did comedy prior to the making of this. The failure of the film with the public was a travesty of the highest order (they don’t know what is good for them). There are rumours Dreyor treated her awfully on set, to add to the effect on camera. This shouldn’t tarnish what is a film that everyone should see.
The many close-ups in the film add an immediate flare and rebel against all that existed at the time in movie-making. Paintings should be done of Falconetti’s face. We feel only grief, sympathy and compassion for poor Joan, who is to be burned at the stake. The account of her trial is well documented from writings at her trial and the film goes from there. Later films would defy her saintly status, giving a more secular take on Joan and he messages from God.
Since the film is silent, we had Paul Shallcross on live piano. He introduced the film and his score is still in my head now. What he has written is pretty generic silent film music by today’s standards, but pleasant all the same. Live music is a joy when seeing an old film. It makes it more of an event. My plus one was also astounded by the film and had said she hadn’t seen anything that moving in years.
There is not much more to say other than watch it any means you can (I tried to find a version of the film with music - the silent version was the only one I could find, not a bad thing though).
A towering achievement in cinema.