LA PASSION DE JEANNE D’ARC directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer (France, 1928)
Jeanne d’Arc is an object lesson to contemporary filmmakers that it is images, not words, that are forged in the memory.
Take any still frame from this remarkable silent movie and you will be assured of a memorable shot.
In the BFI / Sight & Sound list of the greatest movies of all time it was voted 9th and it’s hard to argue with this choice.
The breathtaking intensity of Maria (Renéee Jeanne) Falconetti’s performance in the title role must have been so emotionally and physically draining that it’s no real surprise to learn that she never made another film after this.
We see her interrogated, tortured and tricked into withdrawing her claim to be on a mission from God.
It’s no spoiler to reveal that after first confessing to doing the devil’s work, she later recants and is burnt at the stake.
The film vividly shows how the weight of the religious establishment was thrown at this illiterate 19-year-old woman.
Dreyer primarily uses close-ups of the expressions of inquisitors and other onlookers. These reveal so much that nothing is lost by not being able to hear their words.
An excellent website devoted to Dreyer’s life and work is a treasure trove of information about this formidable Danish director.
The montage of screen captures from the movie is taken from One1more2times3’s weblog.