The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

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"The Passion of Joan of Arc." Detail from original movie poster.

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928).  114 minutes.  Directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer.  Starring Renée Jeanne Falconetti (as Joan of Arc), Eugène Silvain (as Évêque Pierre Cauchon), André Berley (as Jean d’Estivet), and Antonin Artaud (as Jean Massieu).  Cinematography by Rudolph Maté.

In honor of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, I am writing about a silent film that has disturbed me more than any other film, silent or otherwise, that I have seen in a long time.  It is Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc.  In response to the film’s intense emotional focus, Roger Ebert wrote, “Perhaps the secret of Dreyer’s success is that he asked himself, ‘What is this story really about?’  And after he answered that question, he made a movie about absolutely nothing else.”  Ebert does not explicitly tell us what that answer is, but I have an idea.  Dreyer has made a movie that is about a horrifying … Read the rest