A Film for January: The Passion of Joan of Arc

This was a brilliant film to start the year. Based on actual documents from the trial, it chronicles the hours leading up to Joan of Arc’s execution for heresy.

Every scene in the courtroom is slow and agonising. The camera settles on the young face of Joan (Renee Maria Falconetti) with painfully close up shots as she wipes tears from her cheeks before it wanders around her accusers. The simple terror and saintliness expressed in her face is counterbalanced by the powerful, ecclesiastic jurists who claim they only want what is best for her. The haunting lighting and dramatic use of angles highlights every grotesque gesture in this phoney trial.

When she’s found guilty and the film moves to her burning at the stake, the stark quietness of the courtroom is replaced by a broken-hearted crowd . The scenes of her followers being beaten and killed by officials are shockingly realistic and a mother breastfeeding her baby in a bold, unflinching scene still looks daring.

Directed by the Danish film maker Carl Theodor Dreyer and released in 1928, The Passion of Joan of Arc is considered a land mark in cinema history because of its camera work, use of lighting and set design. I was reminded in places of Citizen Kane (1941), but I thought this was better. It’s simple in style but bold and creative and very dramatic. I watched it on the BFI player.

11 thoughts on “A Film for January: The Passion of Joan of Arc

  1. this image/portrait makes her look like an Indian descendant; was she? It just strikes me so when viewing the image. I would not watch anything to do with Joan of Arc; she is not Christ-like as if a thorn worn on her head. Weird.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t know anything about her heritage at all, interesting point. I agree with the Christlike image, I think it could be looked at that the jury were like the Romans but I didn’t take it that way.


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