The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

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Questioners: “Are you in a state of grace?”

Joan: “If I am, may God keep me there. If I am not, may God grant it to me.”

Silent movies are different in that they actually benefit from being watched alone. They’re already reductive in nature (compared to talkies). So when you amplify this presentation by watching them alone in a darkened room with all other distractions removed, you basically have the cinematic equivalent of entering an isolation tank. Carl Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc has to be the quintessential movie to test this theory with. With its emphasis on extreme close-ups and its script pared down from an actual record of the trial, the film, especially the Criterion version with the Einhorn score, simply grabs the viewer by the face and refuses to let go. It’s as if the film maker were screaming at the viewer: “Look! Look what they did to this girl!  And look at her faith!” Powerful movie; highly recommended.

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