(22/08/08) – The Passion of Joan of Arc is now available on YouTube. Danish cinema master Carl Dreyer’s film is a simple yet extremely powerful experience. Mainly composed of close-ups, it gets as close to transcende as cinema can. As soon as the film starts, with the camera tracking along the jury trying the French heroine, the audience is mesmerised, almost trapped in a trance – as the atmosphere instantly created by the imagery is overwhelming. The stroke of genius in Dreyer’s first and definitive rendition of the myth is to stick to the trial and execution– this is not the armoured Joan of Jean Luc Besson, but a nineteen-year-old woman (played with moving intensity by Renee Maria Falconetti) going through the tribulations of a trial while her soul alternates between ecstasy and agony. Her face is one of the most memorable sights in the history of cinema.
In essence, The Passion of Joan of Arc is a documentary, as the dialogues were based on archive documentation. When Joan is brought outside the courtroom after fainting at the sight of the torture devices she is shown to, she finally signs the confession. However, as soon as she is taken back to her cell, she declares her wish to recant. She is immediately taken out again to be burnt alive. The sequence of her death is shown almost in real time, interspersed with footage of a mob revolt. By the time the film ends, the viewer has the impression of having witnessed the real thing, travelled in time – it is that astonishing.
Note: the film is silent with no added soundtrack. Please click on the link on the left to watch it.