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
A certain amount of credit must surely be paid to the director for the genius of 'La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc.' The daring camera angles, use of incessant close-ups and peculiar authenticity all may be attributed to Carl Th. Dryer. However, Renee Maria Falconetti is the reason this film indeed surpasses all attempts at reaching the Platonic form of brilliance. Her performance is breathtaking by all accounts. One can not help but remain mesmerized by her expressions. Yes Dryer's gift to us of so many wonderful close shots of Falconetti should be acknowledged. He must be praised for his relentless filming of scenes to produce the desired result. Yet to imagine anyone else in this timeless role (such as Lillian Gish who was said to have been considered) is to envision a less than perfect film. Unimpeded by the silent medium in which she worked, Falconetti's mere tilt of the head or gentle glance pierce the soul of the viewer. We see her speak in Jeanne's native tongue. We see her compelling portrayal of the anguish which the saint most certainly endured. It is almost as if we are watching what the director said he had found; the martyr's reincarnation! This actress presents to us her raw beauty unmarred by powders or makeup - thanks to a decision of Dryer. How bitter-sweet the fact that we have this once thought to be lost silent film and yet can not help now but to long for more Falconetti. And so we return to 'La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc' and with each of many tears and inaudible sighs marvel at the staggering accomplishment which is Renee Maria Falconetti's Jeanne.
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