6. “The Passion of Joan of Arc”, Carl Th. Dreyer (1928)

Part of The 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen list.

Passion of Joan of Arc

The Passion of Joan of Arc aka La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc

dir. Carl Th. Dreyer scr. Joseph Delteil and Carl Th. Dreyer cin. Rudolph Mate with Renee Falconetti, Eugene Silvain, Andre Berley, and Maurice Schultz

In 100 words: Dreyer’s greatest film is also one of the most perfectly shot, cut, and blocked films in history. Each image has expertly framed mise-en-scene, each cut from close-up to mid-shot is so precise and jarring, and each performance is so exacting and attuned to the sensational material, that one feels transported into an alternate dimension watching it. The bare-bones production design greatly assists the alienating feeling that the images suggest, and amps up the lines on these people’s faces, both to terrifying and depressing effect. Renee Falconetti, and this cannot be said enough, truly gives the greatest performance in recorded cinema.

Other Movies for Context: I’ve seen one other Joan of Arc picture, starring Mila Jovovich called The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999) for a Religion class. Anyway, Dreyer is an interesting director, in that the spareness of his images have been widely praised. Lars von Trier’s Dogville (2003) has a similar spareness that seems directly influenced by this movie and the other works of Dreyer. I’m not fond of most of his work, Ordet (1955) was painfully boring, while Gertrud (1964) and Day of Wrath (1943) inspired the same lukewarm reaction from me. Only Vampyr (1932), which I saw in a theater with a live orchestra came close to getting me excited about his work.

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