Carl Dreyer’s silent masterpiece has been described by film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum as ‘the pinnacle of silent cinema – and perhaps of the cinema itself’. Featuring an iconic and emotive central performance by Maria Falconetti and luminous cinematography by Rudolph Maté. The story follows a rigorous interrogation by a jury of clerics, attempting to force Joan to recant on her claims of holy visions, framing an intense series of close-up shots of faces before the vertiginous ascent to an incendiary finale.
One of the most emotional film experiences of any era, Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1928 The Passion of Joan of Arc is a miracle of the cinema, an enigmatic and profoundly moving work that merges the worlds of the viewer and of saintly Joan herself into one shared experience of hushed delirium. Dreyer’s film charts the final days of Joan of Arc as she undergoes the degradation that accompanies her trial for charges of heresy – through her imprisonment and execution at the stake. Falconetti’s portrayal of Joan is frequently heralded as the all-time finest performance in the history of film, and Dreyer’s unusual and virtuosic method, in seeming to render the very soul of his actress, vaulted the director decisively into the ranks of the art form’s supreme geniuses.
Dreyer’s radical approach to constructing space and the slow intensity of his mobile style make this a difficult film in the sense that, like all the greatest films, it reinvents the world from the ground up; it’s also painful in a way that all of Dreyer’s tragedies are. But it will continue to live long after all the commercial movies in town have vanished from memory.
BBFC Cert PG.