The Passion of Joan of Arc
Carl Dreyer’s remarkable depiction of the trial and execution of Joan of Arc (condensed for the sake of narrative from eighteen months to one day) was written largely from the actual records of the trial and based on historical evidence that had come to light in 1924, four years before the film was made. Often cited as an “austere masterpiece,” with reference to the starkness of Dreyer’s sets, his refusal to allow his actors to use makeup, and his use of extreme close-up photography, The Passion of Joan of Arc is in fact one of the most poignant, terrifying, and unrelentingly emotional historical documents ever filmed. “I am searching for nothing but life,” Dreyer wrote during the shooting. “It is the objective drama of the spirit that is important, not the objective drama of the images.” Originally intending to make a sound film, Dreyer was forced by finances to abandon the idea. Maria Falconetti gives one of the greatest of all silent screen performances in her first (and last) film role, and Antonin Artaud and Michel Simon are memorably captured by Rudolph Maté’s camera.