La passion de Jeanne d'Arc (1928)

Narrative slide: "A young, faithful woman fighting alone against a band of blind theologians and skilled jurists."
By Carl Theodor Dreyer
With Maria Falconetti

I came to know about this movie after seeing someone's profile page where they displayed a lot of images from a various range of movie, there was one I didn't know about but intrigued me deeply. I went ahead and asked the person which movie it was from, they were kind of enough to answer me and this is how I met La passion de Jeanne d'Arc.

The film recreates the events leading to the famous execution of the even more famous Jeanne d'Arc. The movie focuses on the trial she was submitted to as well as her last moments. The movie is entirely silent.

I really enjoyed the movie, I have no source or base to say this, but I feel this movie deeply influenced Ingmar Bergman as the intensive use of close-ups, the focus on bare backgrounds, the religious imagery and the era are all featured as well in a lot of his movies, particularly The Seventh Seal (1957). The story is not surprising as it is mostly historical facts, but it is striking. The trial of someone's faith still baffles me. We see a young woman, very lost or very convinced, it is actually hard to say which, truly convinced that she was sent by God. We see a group of church members trying to have her prove such allegations... It might sound stupid to have an accused having to prove they are indeed sent by God but when you realize the accusers are simply disproving her by their own visions of God it creates a deep moral conflict. What most believe is right ends up being the ultimate truth and what she so deeply believes ends up being labelled "heresy" or  "Satan's work" and she is sentenced to death for being an apostate.

This core focus of the movie seems to be timeless, it was present in the 13th century, it was present in the early 20th century when the movie was filmed and it is still present to this day, in 2013. This film asks some compelling socio-ethical questions without actually asking anything. It is sometimes hard to tell if someone is trying to help Jeanne or trying to have her convicted, possibly because not all the (spoken) dialogues are translated or because of the way actors used to act back then, with the lack of sound, the emotions seem to go both way. Jeanne's acting is interesting, some have called it the most stunning acting performance of all times, but it is also confusing at times, she seems really out of the loop, is it faith? I will not make her a trial for that.

I liked: The intense close-ups. The random elements that are focused on for a few seconds before changing to a character again. The lack of make-up makes it really grave.

I disliked: A little confusing as to who is who and who is trying to help and who is trying to have her convicted. I would have enjoyed a very short background story about her, the events leading to her arrest, her role in the war, etc.

Truly inspiring food for thought is what it is mostly about.


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