Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

I finally took the time to sit down and give this film the attention it deserves. Now I'll start out by saying that my expectations were extremely high going into it. Afterall, a film that is listed as The Toronto Film Festival Group's Essential Number 1 film of all time puts the pressure way on. This film to some is one that is absolutely worshipped!

The story of the saint, Joan of Arc (Jeanne d'arc) is one widely known throughout the world by many cultures. Joan was a woman who believed God talked to her and sent her messages to help the French win the 100 Years War over Britian.

Joan changed her appearance to look like a man so she herself could join the army and fight. Her contribution to the French army was quite significant and her tips (from God) helped the French strategically through battle.

Unfortunately Joan (19 years of age at the time) ultimately landed in the arms of the British. She endured a painful trial that scrutinized her appearance, her motives and above all, her association what what she thought to be God.

This film portrays this trial and the final moments of Joan of Arc.

This film is silent and the emotion evoked is achieved through use of camera angles, close-ups and the facial expressions of the acting talent. The title role is so brilliantly portrayed by French actress Maria Falconetti.

The original master copy was accidentally destroyed and luckily another copy of the film was miraculously discovered in a Danish mental instution in the early 1980s. The film was restored as best as they could, adding their own musical score.

Although the film is so amazingly well done for all that it is, I find it is a painful one to watch. There are no notes of happiness, or even hope for we all know what will happen in the end. It is all terribly depressing. I found myself just getting to a point where I would ask myself, "when are they going to torch her?". Terrible, I know. It was just too long and too drawn out. Yes, she is a martyr and yes, her journey ended tragically; however, an hour and half (plus) of a drawn out trial then the glorious death, to me, is too much.

The acting, however, is some of the best that can ever be seen. Falconetti's performance is nothing short of spectacular. You feel every emotion seen on her face; you sympathize with her. She's beautiful and you truly believe she evokes the spirit of Joan.

The ending, however, was my favourite part. The town in chaos, Joan burned alive without resistance. The effects used to achieve this were so very ahead of their time.

Worth watching if you are a true film buff or have any interest in the life of Joan of Arc. Top essential film? That, to me, is questionable.

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