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
When viewing it we look at it as looking in a mirror.
What can one say about this work of art that has not been said many times before by those far better qualified to explain both it's importance and place as cinema and art? I shall not comment on the greatness of the film's technical achievements; the stunning cinematography, the production design, the brilliance of the screenplay based on actual transcripts from the trial, or the perfection of Mr. Dreyer's direction. The performance of Falconetti as Jeanne d' Arc has a profundity and depth far beyond my ability to illuminate. I suppose the best I can hope to do is to share my feelings, however inadequately expressed, of the effect it had on me. To say that it may be the greatest film ever made is to sound both obvious and trite. That a work of such beauty and simplicity, made seventy-six years ago can still have the power to move audiences in an era of multi-million dollar, hi-tech, bombastic over-wrought cinematic drivel is in itself a testament to the vision and genius of Carl Theodor Dreyer, Maria Falconetti and their collaborators. It is nourishment for those that hunger for something more in cinema, a feast for the soul. It is a reminder that film can indeed be art, and this film like all great works of art, lifts and transports us from the routine of our work-a-day lives to enable us, if only for a moment to experience the sublime. When viewing it we look at it as looking in a mirror. That is to say we look into ourselves. We question ourselves as to our own beliefs, or the lack thereof and the strength of spirit that enables an individual to endure the unendurable. Viewing it is a profound experience the nature of which for myself is transcendent rather than religious, because I am not in the least a religious person. Transcendent because it evokes emotions and thoughts that I cannot wholly account for, or adequately explain.
"La Passion of Jeanne d'Arc" is stark, radiant, exalted, simple, (but never simplistic), and ultimately sublime. The rest is silence.
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