During the first World War, two French soldiers are captured and imprisoned in a German P.O.W. camp. Several escape attempts follow until they are sent to a seemingly impenetrable fortress which seems impossible to escape from.
The sufferings of a martyr, Jeanne D'Arc (1412-1431). Jeanne appears in court where Cauchon questions her and d'Estivet spits on her. She predicts her rescue, is taken to her cell, and judges forge evidence against her. In her cell, priests interrogate her and judges deny her the Mass. Threatened first in a torture chamber and then offered communion if she will recant, she refuses. At a cemetery, in front of a crowd, a priest and supporters urge her to recant; she does, and Cauchon announces her sentence. In her cell, she explains her change of mind and receives communion. In the courtyard at Rouen castle, she burns at the stake; the soldiers turn on the protesting crowd. Written by
This film almost leads one to believe that sound betrays the emotion the eyes capture. Just as the blind develop hearing far better than the average, the deaf develop a keen sense of sight. I am convinced that a lack of dialogue forces us to read the language of the face and body, a verbage unmatched in beauty and nuance. Though the accompanying musical piece (be careful not to identify it as a score), so deliciously inspired by the film, enhances the visual playground; it is the actors' faces that comprise this tour de force. Ms. Falconetti shifts from worry and doubt to unabashed conviction in a single shot, giving the viewer the luck of seeing one's thoughts in progress. She needs no response to the interrogation, it's all in her face. Renee is not superficially beautiful and the lack of make-up only reinforces how bare Joan is, but it is the uncanny ability of an incomparable stage actor to be a window into the soul that makes her so stunning, for the soul we see is one we only wish to attain for ourselves. The Church sees what we see, and they respond just as clearly to her unspoken protest with vehement pomp. The cinematography is so astounding for its time no comment could ever do it justice. Though many comments can be made, and are, surrounding the inspiration and detail for the set, it is at its core an incredible gift from Dreyer to the actors meant to inspire. It plays little part in the film, but to pull an inconceivable last drop of reality from the actors. A testament I can imagine will never be matched to the incredible power of silence.
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