Mini-Review Monday: The Passion of Joan of Arc

The Passion of Joan of ArcRelease: April 21, 1928

Story: Based on the real life trial records, The Passion of Joan of Arc tells of the trial and execution of the real life French hero Joan of Arc (played by Renée Jeanne Falconetti), who led many battles against the English during the Hundred Years’ War. A group of French clergymen loyal to the English are putting Joan on trial for heresy. They are demanding that Joan recount her supposed visions from God that stated she should lead a campaign to drive the English from France. Although Joan is adamant about her beliefs that she really was doing God’s will, the priests will do anything to get her to confess to making the whole thing up. They drill her relentlessly on the witness stand, deceive her, and threaten her with torture and even burning at the stake. Joan has a couple supporters amongst the clergy, but will they and her strong beliefs keep her strong under all the immense emotional, mental, and physical pain being thrown at her?

Thoughts: It’s been stated by a not small number of film historians and lovers that Renée Jeanne Falconetti gives the best performance in all of cinema with her turn as Joan of Arc in this movie. While I’m always hesitate to place anything on that high a level, I’m inclined to agree. She’s so good it boggles the mind. I don’t even know what she’s doing that is so brilliant, but she so is that character in that situation and the resulting movie about this historical figure’s story is tragic, HIGHLY dramatic, and heartbreaking. You really have to see this movie to appreciate the greatest of not just Falconetti but Carl Theodor Dreyer’s fantastically effective claustrophobic direction and the wonderful score composed for the Criterion Collection edition of the film. Go out and find it. It’s one of the best silent film’s you’ll ever see and probably one of the finest movie’s you’ll see period.

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