Will I be with You tonight in Paradise?
— Joan of Arc
Here is another movie that would suggested by Michael Vox from the Cinebanter podcast, the #211 Film of All-Time on IMDb, Carl Th. Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc. I am familiar with Dreyer after reviewing one of his previous films, Vampyr for 1001 Film Club. I heard about the story of how the original cut of the movie was banned then burned in a fire and this movie was found in a mental institution. I am so glad that it was found.
The Passion of Joan of Arc is a silent film that was restored from footage found the Norwegian mental institution and was released in 1985. The movie dramatized the trail of the young martyr, Joan of Arc (Maria Falconetti) where she was charged with heresy.
She is called to a tribunal of judges to discuss her intentions. As you can see when watching the movie, she is not the figure we know from the history books, but a young woman in her late teens doing a mission from God to save France from the English.
During the line of questioning, she reveals that St. Michael appeared to her to give her the mission she must do. Dress like a man to prepare for the incoming battle ahead to save her eternal soul.
The judges want Joan to confess her sins so she could be saved from burning at the stake. They would go to any means to ensure that this young woman who cannot read or write would confess her sins. The judges believe that she is a soldier of the Devil instead of God. As you know from history, you know what happens in the end.
I was shocked about the footage that was recovered. It does not feel like a movie from 1920s. The digital transfer of the print was remarkable to say the least. The score that accompanied the movie was so moving.
I have to say that Falconetti as Joan of Arc was a sight to behold. She had this deranged look in her eyes, but it was effective. She was a crying mess during the movie, but you felt her pain. Those eyes told a lot without hearing what the actors had to say. Wow.
My rule of thumb for watching silent movies is to watch in the daytime. I did with this movie, but when you have no dialogue, reading subtitles and a haunting operatic score, you have the tendency of drifting off. The movie was only 1 1/2 hours long, but it felt like it was five hours long.
Judgment: This movie is a sight to behold to say the least.