Here’s another history lesson: Joan of Arc. Know anything about her? Well, she’s one of the most influential leaders in the world in which she had visions from G-d and his saints to lead any army to drive the French away. She unfortunately got captured by the British and had to stand on trial not only for her acts but for dressing like a man. She got burned at the sake by them as her punishment. Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc tells that story of her trial and the results that came.
Joan of Arc herself was played by Renée Falconetti and she was absolutely brilliant in it! You can see the strength as well as the fear in her facial expressions. Throughout the film, Dreyer used close-ups of each of the actors in order to convey their emotions. It’s a useful technique in that every question Joan is asked in the trial, we can see through her painstaking (ignore the pun) expressions and get a sense of what she is thinking. Whether we see Joan in tears afraid for her life or a wide-eyed expression of her love for G-d, she still stands by her words. We can still see her vulnerability in that she does not want to die but at the same time, she wants to follow G-d’s will more. You can strip her of her clothes, her hair, and her intentions for why she did what she did, but you can never strip her of her dignity! What beliefs do you have that you would protect at any cost?
While many close-ups are on Joan, we see a lot of shots filmed looking up at the British to show them as terrifying and ferocious. Here’s one thing that makes me feel sorry for the producers of this film- the most expensive thing about this film was the sets and yet they were only seen in tiny segments because of all of the close-up shots! Dreyer explained that the sets were more to help the actors get into character. Write in if you think that reasoning would anger you or if you would be understanding about it.
Falconetti also wasn’t allowed to wear make-up which was a big stretch for her considering all actresses in the silent era had to wear make-up to enhance their features. Makes me wonder if that put even more pressure on Falconetti to convey her emotions to the fullest on her own. I believe all of her efforts succeeded and write in if you feel the same way. I like how this film practically uses the same transcript of what really happened at the trial but a condensed version from the beginning of her questioning to her gruesome death. See this film to see how one filmmaker brilliant communicates the emotions of the title character to the audience and to get a glimpse of a historical powerhouse leader.
Watch this powerful film about Joan of Arc and write in your reactions: