Leave the cannoli, take the movies

Review Blog

My Favorite Films - #9

Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on October 23, 2010 at 5:12 PM

Counting down my favorite films of all time. Cath up with my #10 here.

And on to #9 we go...

#9  -  The Passion of Joan of Arc  CARL THEODOR DREYER, 1928



          I love silent films because they understand the power of an image without the need for stubborn or extraneous words. They rely on closeups of faces, dramatic camera angles, and unfettered visual dexterity to convey things that transcend the limits of spoken language. No film perhaps does this better than Dreyer's searing 1928 film The Passion of Joan of Arc. It remains legendary today for these very reasons.

         When I first sat down to watch Joan of Arc, I had no idea what to expect. I knew it was about the God-envisioning French martyr, and I of course knew it was about her trials leading up to her burning at the stake. But literally nothing could have prepared me for the galvanizing knockout punch it delivered, a raw, viscerally emotional film that nonetheless carries the hope of unwavering human resilience. Maria Falconetti - playing Joan of Arc with weary eyes that seem to pour out of her soul like waterfalls - is a wonderfully expressive face, and her performance has been rightfully heralded as one of cinema's most moving. Relegated to sitting in court rooms and dank chamber cells, she captures the devastating pain of her situation, her gaunt features looking more and more haunting and vulnerable the longer she's bombarded with accusations. Watching this film is akin to traveling back in time to the 15th century and witnessing the ordeals first hand; nothing about this film feels false or staged. In fact, experiencing Carl Theodor Dreyer's silent masterpiece feels like nothing less than uncovering a relic dug up from another age, still as impactful and artistically splendent as ever.

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Categories: My Favorite Films

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