The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928): “Will I be with You tonight in Paradise?”

kinopoisk.ruA work of intense beauty, The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928, dir. Carl Theodor Dreyer) is a silent film which has absolutely stood the test of time. This film chronicles the trial, imprisonment and execution of Joan of Arc at the hands of the English in 1431. Starring Maria (Renée Jeanne) Falconetti as the titular Joan, this is one of the very best examples of silent film; and some may even argue, one of the best examples of film in general.

After reading an excellent review for this one on A World of Film, I was inspired to do more research into the cinematography. I found this quote from the amazing surrealist director Luis Buñuel, which I thought was a very elegant summation of this amazing film and its moving visuals:

“Probably the freshest and more most interesting film of the new cinematographic season. Based upon an original scenario by Delteil, it begins at the moment where Jeanne appears before her judges, and ends at the stake. Directed in close-ups; its auteur very rarely, almost never, uses group shots – not even foreground shots. Each one is composed with such care and with such art that often a “painting” comes into existence without ceasing to be, at the same time, a “shot”. Exceptional camera angles, on the verge of acrobatics. And not a single of his actors is in make-up: within the painful geography of his faces – their pores like wells – the life of flesh and bone springs overwhelmingly into being. Sometimes, the entire screen is filled with the singular whiteness of a prison cell, and, in one angle, the vindictive face of a monk, ready to pounce. Here one can predict storms, and with a meteorological exactitude. Nerves, eyes, lips exploding like tombs tonsures – signs shoved down the innocent through of the damsel. She: answers, weeps, or, weeping, distracts herself like a little girl with her fingers, with a button, with the fly that lands on the nostril of the monk.”
– Luis Buñuel (1930)

Here are some of my favourite shots of the film. As always, The Passion of Joan of Arc is perfection in motion and I would highly suggest watching it when you get the chance. It is an emotional experience, regardless of your level of interest in history or belief in religion. This film is one of the most affecting studies in human emotion there is.

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Film: 5/5
Cinematography: 5/5
Watch the trailer here.

17 comments

  1. Sounds (and looks) fantastic. I’ll give it a go at some point.

    1. It’s absolutely fantastic. It goes above and beyond any silent film you’ll see. I’ve usually found silent films to be a bit ham-fisted in their expression of emotion and conflict, but this one is so perfectly minimal.

  2. Great to see films like this being analysed.

    1. Considering the fact that the film was lost for such a long time, I am so happy that it’s even around to be watched! I always love reading about it. Such a beautiful film.

  3. I love this film. Great review. It’s a must-see for anyone who would like to know why silent films worked.

    1. Thanks! I love it too. I really think more people should watch this one, even people who aren’t normally interested in silent film!

      1. The actress who played Joan was incredible also. Her story and how she prepared for the part are worth checking out.

  4. I need to get myself a copy of this someday. it is a great work of silent cinema. There’s some great silent films that get stupidly ignored these days. Kids ain’t edumacated right innit. I’d recommend Battleship Potemkin, Haxam and anything starring Buster Keaton.

    1. I found a DVD copy of this one on sale way way back in the day and it’s one of my most treasured DVDs! I am ashamed to say I’d never even heard of Haxam before your comment – now I absolutely have to see it, it sounds amazing! Love a bit of Buster Keaton as well. I wish more people were into silent film!

      1. I hadn’t heard of Haxam until I had seen The Story of Film. It’s a 15 hour long documentary about the history of cinema by Mark Cousins. First 3 hours is devoted to Silent film.

  5. Oh i wanted to watch this so badly! I heard a lot of great things about the cinematography and how the film is mostly composed of close ups of the characters! Great post Anna!

    1. Thanks! 🙂 You should definitely watch this one when you get a chance! It’s true, the film is mostly close-ups of the characters’ faces. The emotions on their faces tell the story just as well as normal film dialogue would. Such an amazing film!

  6. […] Although it wasn’t as richly symbolic or ‘artsy’ as Dreyer’s previous work, The Passion of Joan of Arc(1928), there were a number of moments where the cinematography was absolutely stunning. This is a […]

  7. Great post, I’ve heard so many great things about Falconetti in this film.

    1. Thank you! 🙂 Falconetti is nothing short of amazing!

  8. […] The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928): “Will I be with You tonight in Paradise?” […]

  9. […] The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928): “Will I be with You tonight in Paradise?” […]

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