The Passion of Joan of Arc

Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1928. I have resumed my quest with an apparent masterpiece. Nothing I have seen thus far has presented such deeply varied and expressive characters. Covering only Joan’s trial and execution, almost every shot is a tight close-up, providing a highly charged, claustrophobic scene. Joan’s rapture emanates from the screen and is sharply contrasted by her accusers’ hostile questioning. Watching her continuously confound the theologians was harrowing. There are several grotesque moments, namely the letting of the blood and the menacing cruelty of the torturers, that gave me pause to imagine humanity in 1431. Dreadful to consider. But the film is so dense that repeated viewings would be rewarded despite the heaviness of the subject matter. Another leap forward.

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