i just finished watching this, and it was probably the most sublime 80 minutes of my life! i have never seen a movie, or thought one could exist that would change the way i felt about cinema, art, and at the risk of sounding cliched, life. does any one else feel the same? or have other movies that had this effect on them?
As Long as you are talking about Carl Theodor Dreyer’s film, which I can only assume you are, I could not agree more! when I first saw this film, which was on the big screen for one of my classes, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed for days! It completely changed the way that I viewed the world, Dreyer’s use of composition is unparalleled, I went on to write a few essays about this film as well as a good chunk of the rest of Dreyer’s catalog, which I would recommend you check out if you enjoyed this film, because Dreyer was pure genius. and it doesn’t sound cliche if you have seen the film.
In deference to all of the other films that people might cite as their own watershed moments, Dreyer’s work is stunningly brilliant, intensely personal and surprisingly modern. Anyone who believes silent film has to be inaccessible and out of fashion should take note. So many external forces – from religious faith to raging fire – have conspired over the years to destroy this miraculous film, but it has persevered. And, yes, Andre, we are richer for its existence.
Yeah the fact that the copy in which made it possible for Criterion to release their brilliantly restored edition was found in the closet of a Nordic (I think it was Nordic at least) mental institution after the film had been lost for decades is AMAZING, and almost something out of fairy tales, you can’t make that shit up!
ok. i’ll be the contrarian. i saw the film for the first time, as a criterion disc, last year. i wasn’t that impressed by it. i’m just saying. it wasnt the mind-numbing experience that i was set up to believe it would be. that’s all i’m saying. it was interesting, but nothing more. mildly boring, like most silent films for me. i certainly can’t call it one of the greatest films i’ve ever seen.
I would easily called it one of the greatest films I’ve ever seen. It’s difficult for me to understand how someone can watch this and not be moved, or at a minimum revere what Dreyer accomplished through this film in light of other silent films being made at the time. Many films are overly praised, but this is not one of them. And it is somewhat miraculous that the film survived — divine intervention??
Interestingly, when it was made this film was the most expensive ever produced in Europe. The brief glimpses you get of the city with its distorted shapes was all built exclusively for the film. And then Dreyer shot it almost entirely in close-ups, barely using the sets at all, infuriating his producers. And yet those faces are some of the most extraordinary ever captured on film.
Easily one of the best films I’ve ever seen, I own the Criterion and have watched it several times. I even showed it to one of my friends who has never watched a silent film in his life and even he said he liked it and he’s no film buff like me. I think that just goes to show you how suprisingly modern it really is, as one other member said. If ever a film were a masterpiece, then this is it. It’s amazing that a film nearly a century old can move people in such a way and feel so powerful. Wow!
The film is PERFECT, the acting some of the best I have seen in my life by the young Falconetti, in which this was the only film she ever appeared in. I’d say that it definately renewed my intrest in film as an art form after I saw it, I need to see Dryer’s other films, which I haven’t checked out yet…
Nate definitely check out the other films, while none of them are as heart wrenchingly good, they are all (that I’ve seen) amazing!!! (yes three exclamations points) Dreyer is one of my favorite auteurs, I would recommend Vampyr (his stab at the horror genre, which is if nothing else worth it for his beautiful experimentation with sound and POV shots), Day of Wrath (which is another brilliant film which breaches the topic of female martyrs, in the form of witches as well as tests of faith and relationships), and Ordet (which is a brilliant investigation of faith). I have yet to see Gertrud yet but I hear it’s amazing as well. Dreyer had a certain definitive style and a beautiful way of getting the best performances out of all of his actors and actresses, it’s too bad he had so many breaks from film, there were decades of his life where he wasn’t making film, a few of which were due to the poor reception of some of his films, which are now considered by most cineasts to be classics.
The Passion of Joan of Arc is a marvelous film, but the Dreyer film I keep coming back to is Gertrud. You should definitely watch it if you get the chance.
For anyone in the Los Angeles area, the American Cinematheque will be showing the movie on Sunday, December 14th at 7:30pm. It will be showing at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood.
I saw Vampyr, I thought it was decent but no Joan of Arc, perhaps I’ll watch Ordet or Gertrud next…
“The Passion of Joan of Arc” is fantastic! And I believe the film is planned for a Criterion Blu-ray release. Definitely look forward to that and also hoping there will be a good number of music selections, but Richard Einhorn’s “Voices of Light” score is fantastic!
They are showing it at the Jacob Burns Film Center this September I believe with an orchestra. I saw this film at one of my neighbouring libraries and I thought it was very well shot. I can’t remember it too well, but there is this great tracking shot I believe in the film. Can someone help me out with that? I saw it a year or two years ago and my memory is a little hazy. I think there is an error in the film where one of the guards is wearing a watch. Does anybody recall seeing that in the film?
Along with Pandora’s Box, The Passion of Joan of Arc is for me the greatest silent film. No film more fully realized what the silent cinema was capable of than Dreyer’s masterpiece.
Maybe the greatest film ever made.
There are a few tracking shots in the film. There are a few that track across the faces of the judges, and behind them as well, I believe.
There is also a tracking shot that goes over a drawbridge, I believe, and then the camera tilts and inverts, iirc-this is toward the end of the film when all hell is breaking loose.
in my opinion, this is the best film ever made. at least as far as emotional impact. i mean, i don’t really give a shit about the french and their war with the english because it doesn’t concern me, but i’ve never cried so much at a movie. and i’ve seen it about 30 times. best movie, ever
It’s sublime and a really one of the greatest films ever made. Every scene is art yet it still is so human and accesible. Dreyer detested avant garde and unlike Godard he doesn’t shun his audience but included them. The film resonates such emotion and sympathy that watching it almost becomes a mysical experience.
I love the film too, but there are a couple of interesting asides:
Lubitsch didn’t like it. He felt that Falconetti suffered too much. She wasn’t his idea of Joan which, I assume, was more heroic.
I also heard that the first cut of the film was lost in a fire and that Dreyer had remade the film from outtakes. I am not absolutely certain that this is true, but I have heard it more than once.
You know what’s interesting, although much of the film is shot in close up, some of the parts I remember most are portions where we actually see a little more, like the second tracking shot Jason described. There’s a certain expressionist quality to the film, that often gets passed over in discussion, which for me, was one of the most powerful and inventive aspects of the film.
The film was lost in a fire and Dreyer tried to remake it from outtakes. However this remake was lost in a fire too and Dreyer died believing that the film was lost. In the 1980’s (around 20 years after Dreyer’s death) a pristine print of the original cut was found in a asylum in Norway and it is this version that’s available on DVD.
Great film. I’m not a fan of Dreyer’s other stuff, but Passion is one of my favorites. It really captures the emotions of martyrdom, but what really struck me was the sophistry of the church trying to disillusion the public against her.
I don’t mean this offensively or arrogantly, but what is so special about this film? What is so amazing about it? What makes it possibly the best film ever made? I haven’t seen it so I don’t mean this in a smart ass way, I actually want to know. And yes I’ve read all the posts here but if someone could give me their full, detailed opinion without giving anything important away, plot wise…That’d be awsome.
Hidden – The essence of the film is what gives it greatness. The close-ups, the economy and forcefulness of the narrative, the performances, the set design, and the sheer poetry that, along with Sunrise, represents the height of silent cinema’s artistry.
I mentioned in the post I left here that I thought there was a mistake where you saw someone wearing a watch. After Googling it, I find that one of the actors was wearing eyeglasses in the film, which I believe was not around during the time this film is set in. Now I also remember hearing this as well. Sorry for the confusion.
Just watched this a few minutes ago. Once I found out that there was no music, it was REALLY silent (obviously my first experiance with this) I was really expecting to either fall asleep or not like it very much. Quite the contrary. I found it amazing. The acting was superb. The entire film was superb. The climax was beautiful yet horrible all at once.
I’d love to watch the film totally silent, which I think is the way Dreyer intended it to be. But I do love the soundtrack that comes with the Criterion edition, it compliments the film well.
So far I’ve only seen the film totally silent and i was very impressed with the impact on me. It is now my second favorite film of all time :p
This was also a very formative movie to me, but it was presented to me by a professor essentially starting out a class on silent cinema with, “You came in here with expectations. Now watch this. Yeah? Yeah? Expectations? Gone now aren’t they. Okay, good, now, let’s start over: everything that’s ever been done in cinema has been done in the silent cinema. Let me prove it to you with this class.” (An interesting approach, conventionally and narratively not a whole lot “new” has been developed since then, only technical considerations and experimental concerns).
Anyway, I’ve always been struck by the solely close-up takes, and what’s interesting about that is that Dreyer essentially makes a movie completely out of exclamation marks. Could that be done today without it falling apart? Many movies, especially mainstream action, thriller, and horror movies, try to keep the tension high for so long that it eventually just stops working. Most artists are familiar with the use of negative space to balance positive, silence to support music, and dramatic reliefs to make the next dramatic high note soar. Dreyer proved that you can essentially keep it at the top and it won’t level out.
I don’t agree with this “power of the human face” baloney. The human face in front of the camera and under control is not the human face. It’s false. Completely different from a real virginal face. I felt like I was ‘putting up’ with Falconetti. Trying to be moved. Of course the film itself has been eclipsed by it’s reputation and the clichés and boring generalities that everyone vomits up all the time. For this reason I felt like I was looking the other way, suspending disbelief. Not good. If people can’t see the difference between real expression and forced expression it’s only a sign that performance has been beaten over our heads for so long that it’s replacing true human nature. We often feel the need to appear like actors in a film. Phoneys dammit! I see it endlessly. Suspension of disbelief is a bad habit. Remember reality. Not a bad film of course. Not seen many silent films but Man With A Movie Camera is a favorite. Didn’t really like Greed because it’s just the novel on film. No interpretation. Buh.