I saw this silent, surrealistic film just once, at U.C. Berkeley's Pacific Film Archive, in July of 1973. (I am quite surprised that I can still remember the date and place, 33 years later!) When I think of remarkable and memorable movies, this comes quickly to mind. If you have seen the Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), it offers a fascinating study in contrasts: The fevered heart of the 1928 film versus the fevered mind of this one. The sequences are sparse, harsh, remarkably timed, and stunning, a bizarre but effective way to convey the cruelty of the martyr's fate, and the inhuman yet all too human qualities of her antagonists. Although reminiscent of the freaks of Fellini, Joan's grotesque antagonists here embody undiluted hatred and depravity, like the masks in the Inferno panel of Bosch's Garden of Worldly Delights. In one scene they are portrayed by hideous puppets held up on poles from behind a wall, a diabolical twist of the Analogy of the Cave in Pato's Republic. I cannot believe that this did not influence The Conformist, some half century later. Finally, the film's use of chiaroscuro and minimalist composition is strongly suggestive of the pre-film noir works that began in the early '30s, more than two decades later. In the face of terror, Joan is horrified but her faith never falters. Editorial note: Joan of Arc was of course a Christian martyr, and I am not a Christian, so the film may affect you differently.
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