The Passion of Joan of Arc (La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc) - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Passion of Joan of Arc (La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc) Reviews

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August 3, 2016
"The Passion of Jehanne of Arc" is perhaps the greatest film I've ever watched. It's very close in technique and quality to the finest films ever made (I've seen several of these) but unlike any of those, I have watched or listened to (in the background, the silent film backed by Rickert Einhorne's inspired composition "Vox de Lumine") "The Passion" now some dozen times in the last two days. It is not just a triumph of cinema, it is so good that it is more like a mark of finish, where watching it is like breaking a tape at the end of an endless marathon, being done, and knowing that a struggle of importance is now over and that some spectacle of taste has gone behind.

The emission of faces from the lens seems endless at first, and is striking because it is so uncomfortable to be so close to so many subjects under such conditions, where the situation is both so tense and so pathetic at once. But you get used to being close to these endless faces because it is worthwhile seeing them. I cannot understand what autism or other mental fracture caused this film's contemporary critics to shout down the profound use of close-up shots, but I can comprehend that they probably lacked something in the mind that allows one to deal with the unexpected. Perhaps they should have never been born to become reviewers, because to me such condemnations resemble the person who enjoys the habit of spilling beans because they are better at picking them up than carrying them and as a side they more enjoy counting things than being useful. The over-intracted, puppet-like film critic who is out to suckle the teats of the professors at film school must really revel in a film such as this because it breaks so much convention but without falling from grace. If the film breaks convention and is miserable and not worth watching, it's not worth commenting on and it is not worth breaking your neck over spinning about how awful it was directed. But if the film breaks convention and is powerful and magnetizing such as "The Passion" is, then the ardently trained and quiet-minded film school stalwart has endless fodder to smirch the film with at equal proportion to the energy they have not spent on their own imagination.

It is not enough to call a film like this "ahead of its time" or even more aptly "ahead of the time" (meaning, "ahead of this time".) For a film like this it could even be said, and honestly, that "it should not have been made", and the statement need not even require clarification as to whether life and cinema would be better or worse in the film's absence. Both are directly implied and only a person of sufficient imagination can appreciate that level of criticism, can see the possibilities and understand the rapport. It is with such open-mindedness and such acceptance of both the good and bad in life that a simple observation can influence the lives of many people and yet remain nothing more than its original, simple roots all the while, and that is what this film is exactly.
½ May 19, 2016
Incredibly dedicated, heart-rending, and suitably "passionate"; this is a landmark silent biopic that, dares itself never to be topped.
May 5, 2016
Goddamn masterpiece. Also this movie feels like 40 min long, tops. Goes by in a heartbeat.
March 15, 2016
Renée Maria Falconetti (in her only film) is a revelation of expressive emotion in this silent 1928 black and white film. CDW
½ January 27, 2016
A contemporary moviegoer might contemplate as to whether he should spent his time with those silent films that the hardcore cinephiles hold in high esteem. The simple fact that those movies stood a near-century long test of time, competing in such a productive medium as cinema is, should be enough for anyone to give them a chance. I would like to add another point to that; silent movies are like the superhero Daredevil.

You heard (read) me; Of course I don't mean that they are in high demand in Netflix -they certainly are not, what I mean is that if you take away from someone one of his primary functions, his survival instinct with heighten the remaining. Filmmakers at the beginning of the previous century, had in their disposal as many wonderful tales to tell, as filmmakers of today do. The problem, of course, is that they had limited means to tell them; not only the films were silent, but the technology offered little help in their endeavor.

The visionary directors of that time didn't give up. Instead they transcended their infant medium by offering innovative narratives and superb imagery. The plunge into madness that Das cabinet des Dr. Caligari (The cabinet of Dr. Caligari - 1920) was, the beautiful Körkarlen (The phantom carriage - 1921), and of course, from the creator of this film Carl Dreyer, the disturbing Vampyr (1932), are all excellent examples of the beauty that silent cinema has to offer.

So I had my hopes up, when this film started; and it didn't disappoint. It begins with Dreyer's innovative narration; close-ups to the actor's faces in contrast with a minimalistic background, loitered with just a hint of surrealism. The faces themselves were great portrayals of their owner's state of mind; Jeanne appeared exhausted, but defiant and the stony, inquisitive faces of the clergy, seemed to surround her, creating a beautiful aesthetic. The expressive face of Maria Falconetti, who played Jeanne, depicts her emotions with precision and the juxtaposition with her captors's judgmental looks highlighted every emotion she felt.

Unfortunately, this is the point were the praise stops. I will begin the enumeration of the movie's faults with the story. Well, there is none. From the first minute, the movie informs us, that it will be a recount of the final stage of Jeanne's trial and the moment of her death at the stake. Given the nature of the unconventional narration, the fact that there is no story could be forgiven. Dreyer wanted us to have a unique experience and his dedication is evident throughout the film.

The main flaw of this movie is that after the first few minutes, when the awe of the innovation subsides, we are stuck with repetition. For -seemingly- countless minutes, we witness Jeanne squint-eyed and wide-eyed while she contracts her face muscles, under the icy stares of her captors. I just described 80 out of the 90 minutes of the film's duration.

Dreyer used the technique again in Vampyr, providing us with a memorable scene where we watch a close up of a young girl's face after she wakes up from her stupor and feels the grasp of vampirism she was afflicted with. Dreyer proves that sparing use of the technique can provide great scenes, but in this film he it constantly, making the film unbearable.

The acts themselves are repetitive; the recurring theme is the clergy trying to make Jeanne bow to their will and her refusing. All during close ups.

Moreover, the captioned dialogue emphasizes the film's stagnation; The clergy's accusations are basically the same all the time and Jeanne's replies lack eloquence. Her only interesting response, is her reply to the question "are you in state of grace right now?". Given the film's minimalism and attention to detail, I expected better writing.

The ending is a well-shot scene, beautifully opposite to the rest of the film's rhythm, but maybe I just liked it because it signaled the film's end.

Concluding, The Passion of Joan of Arc, after the first few minutes, failed to spark my interest or incite any kind of emotion from me (unless we count drowsiness). I am sure it has already educated generations of filmmakers and will continue to do so; the techniques used clearly have artistic merit and the whole film is a study in directorial meticulousness, but as an experience for the viewer, it fails miserably. 3.5/10.

If you desperately want to watch a silent film about witch-trials you can do better by watching Häxan (1922). The segments about the trials were more emotional and certainly more thought provoking.

I'd like to add another point. The essence of the story is that a rebel leader was captured by authorities, controlled by those she rebelled against. Obviously she was going to be killed. That simple realization made me completely apathetic to the religious narrative and to the whole Jeanne d'Arc tale. Since her fate was sealed at the moment of her capture, I didn't care for the excuse they would use for executing her. I care even less that the clergy felt that their power was being undermined. Again, Häxan did it much better.
December 15, 2015
The greatest film of all time - a true masterpiece in every sense of the word. Everything here is magnificent from the camera work to the finest acting I've ever witnessed. Maria Falconetti sets the standard for Oscar worthy acting for all generations to come and does so with no dialogue. Her performance is magnificent and is beautifully haunting. She captures so much depth in a way no other actor ever has on the screen before or sense. Dreyer is a master of technique and his work truly leaves the audience on the edge of your seat the whole time. This film blew me away when I first saw it in film class and continues to inspire me with every viewing. This film should be mandatory viewing for everyone who watches film. It should also be the standard for training for aspiring actors and directors.
December 8, 2015
Während der Stummfilmzeit glaubten die Filmemacher, die Essenz eines Charakters durch seine Augen zeigen zu können. Dreyer führt uns das Gesicht von Renee Maria Falconetti vor - ein Erlebnis, um die gesammte Epoche des Stummfilms zu begreifen. Falconetti wurde von Dreyer auf der Bühne eines Pariser Boulevard-Theaters entdeckt entdeckt. Sie spielte nur in einem einzigen Film mit und der heisst The passion of Joan of Arc. Obwohl Dreyer sie in einer leichten Komödie sah, machte er Screen Tests und fand das, was er hoffte: Einfachheit, Wahrhaftigkeit und Leid. In Kobenhagen sieht man heute im Museum die ungewöhnlichen Bauten, die Dreyer für den Film fertigen liess. Dreyer verlangte nach einem einzigen Stück mit beweglichen Wänden für die Kameras, vier Türmen und einigen Kapellen sowie dem Gericht. Alles wirkt disharmonisch, doch wen wunderts, denn Dreyers Film entstand auf dem Höhepunkt des deutschen Expressionismus und der Pariser Avantgarde. Während wir die Geschichte der einfachen Frau vom Land erleben, die als Junge verkleidet die französischen Truppen gegen den britischen Feind anführt, sehen wir nie das ganze Set im Film, immer nur Teile davon. Genauso verwundert Dreyers Schnitt, der die Figuren im Zusammenspiel nicht in Relation zueinander setzt, sondern oft genau das Gegenteil probiert. Dreyers Film wirkt mehr wie eine Reihe einzelner Bilder. Oft kontrastieren sie; so sehen wir das Gesicht des Inquisitors in gleissendem Weiss, während das von Jeanne in weichem Grau erscheint. Ihr teilnahmsloses Gesicht deutet an, dass alles, was geschieht, den Bereich des Films weit hinter sich lässt. Antworten dürfen wir keine erwarten. Dreyer vermeidet mit seiner Technik, ihr Gesicht derartig zu fokussieren, das Genre des historischen Dramas, des Epos. Deshalb interessiert er sich auch nie für die Kostüme (obwohl sie authentisch sind). Aller Ausdruck des Films, wir finden ihn in Falconettis Gesicht! Unsere Zuneigung zu Jeanne, sie wächst ins Ungeheure, dadurch, dass wir so viel Geheimnis und Leidenschaft in ihren Augen zu entdecken hoffen. Die Bilder des Films gleichen ihren Gefühlen, sie wirken kalt, eschöpft, fast ausgehungert. Vielleicht ist das Dreyers Geheimnis: The passion of Joan of Arc ist ein Film über den Albtraum ihrer Gefühlswelt - und sonst nichts.
½ December 3, 2015
The first silent movie I've ever seen, but surely not the last, The Passion Of Joan Of Arc is fully deserving of all the acclaim which is heaped upon it. Keeping everything tight, tense and claustrophobic, it draws out every emotion the characters are going through, and with the Directors insistence that none of the actors wear make-up, appearing entirely as nature intended, every expression is raw and unflinchingly real.
This is never more true than with the portrayal of the title character. Renée Maria Falconetti, appearing in her only major motion picture release, gives a performance so authentic and heart-breaking that it's often hard to believe that is actually is a performance. The tears, the smiles, the slow way she moves, her near-permanently widened eyes, everything about her screams inner anguish and torment. It's sometimes difficult to watch, considering just how much the actress suffered from genuine psychological issues, so the pain could have been more real than anyone knew.
It does have its faults unfortunately. Without the benefit of sound the film must frequently cut to screens of dialogue to spell out what is being said, which is often distracting and cuts short some of the emotions. Also, while it is very engaging, the fact that we spend most of it witnessing close ups of grumpy/tear stained faces can make it hard to get through. But as an experience, a timeless drama which explores the deepest despair of the human soul, it's a film that everyone simply has to see, if only once. It's certainly a tough journey, but it's one you'll be genuinely thrilled that you decided to take.
November 30, 2015
Carl Th. Dreyor's "Passion of Joan of Arc" has emotion so powerful and artistry so richly visceral that it seems to directly translate to the screen the very soul and pain of its doomed protagonist, who is bought to life in what may be the most intensely affecting performance ever committed to celluloid. The intimacy of its striking and spatially experimental direction, and always the face of Falconetti, will be enough to make any thoughtful viewer shrink from this staggeringly moving work of tragedy and sacrifice. This is one of the great works of art, in any medium.
Robert B.
Super Reviewer
October 8, 2015
The Passion of Joan of Arc is a fascinating film. The film has great composition and the black and white gives it this intense, graphic quality (reminiscent of Fellini's 8 1/2). The performances are simple and intense as well (and I wonder if something might be lost if sound were added). This is definitely one to watch for lovers of film.
½ September 5, 2015
There are just some films that would capture your attention the longer you watch them, and be awed by their greatness. This is one of those films.
½ August 1, 2015
This has to be one of the most overrated movies in history. Critics back in 1927 thought it was awful...and they were right.
A courtroom drama...with no dialouge? A Joan of Arc who does nothing but cry and stare moon-faced at the ceiling...instead of fighting tooth-and-nail for her life (the way she actually did)?
Ham acting and direction do not make a great movie...silent or not.
July 28, 2015
Carl Theodor Dreyer's revered masterpiece is a celebration and Christianisation of France's favourite martyr and, in its own right, a brutal and intense bully picture.
Maria Falconetti portrays Joan as the sort of suffering, weeping Jesus seen in religious painting, right down to her tilted neck and the masculinisation of her costume; tears streaming down her face like trickles of blood. The result is a human portrayal of the breast-plated icon, enhanced further by Dreyer's decision to limit makeup and lighting, and to demean her accusers through unflattering closeups.
The film oozes familiar and re-appropriated imagery, but unfamiliar viewers will still be shaken by the picture's portrayal of gruelling victimisation and incurable agony. And remember, this is a movie that's over 80 years old.
A hugely influential, claustrophobic classic.
July 9, 2015
Wow, Falconetti sure did say a lot through her beautiful face (especially the eyes)!!!!
June 26, 2015
Absolutely incredible
½ May 29, 2015
Perhaps the very first "art film", this movie uses a lot of close-ups to convey a sort of claustrophobia with the church, which spent the majority of the run-time trying to get Joan to conform to gender norms and to their standards of not being able to hear God. And while there is no music in this silent film, it almost accentuates the somber tone that parallels the final moments of Jesus' life as well.
½ May 9, 2015
Ignoring the fact that this film was lost for so many years and, as such, we are quite lucky to see it, I was hoping that I'm might fill in some of the gaps in my knowledge of Jeanne d'Arc and that didn't happen. This is very minimal, for me there was not enough information about her life. It must have been a very low budget film including finding decent actors as the acting seemed completely over the top. Perhaps that was necessary with silent movies, I don't know; and this is very silent, by the way, it's the first film I've ever seen with no sound at all, not even a dramatic orchestra doing a sountrack.
½ March 24, 2015
NOt finishedthis film has become invincible to criticism so I am wary about giving it an honest rating.. Saw without any score/sound. Rating is for the look of the film rather than the The reality of the burning is stirring (and shot with great dynamism), but the films could have been shaved off by 20 minutes. This in turn leads to the central performance; what some called intense. Beautiful face 2tone performnace basically
½ March 15, 2015
One of the greatest films ever made. No question about it.
A masterpiece of emotion. It somehow draws equally from realism and expressionism.
Falconetti's performance is among the most heralded in cinematic history. It lived up to billing. She's a revelation. Carried the film (though there was much eye-widening followed by prolonged staring.)
Undeniably interesting; hard not to be, considering the source material. Casting was flawless, from top to bottom! Superlative direction! Arguably, the greatest of all time.
A powerful film. Many Christological parallels. Demands one's attention.
The inevitable final scene is inescapably heart-wrenching.

It's amazing that it was mostly able to sustain one's interest, despite largely taking place in a single room. However, that also created just a hint of visual monotony, along with some of the longer pauses, that detracted ever so slightly. The tiniest bit deliberate/manipulative.

The crusty old villains were among the most hateful in the history of cinema. The clerical leaders weren't that clerical. It's not very nice to call someone 'Satan's Creature.' Not exactly shepherds.

Not as good as Ordet, but as close to a perfect film (not made by Chaplin) as you'll see in the silent era.
(Not to cut into the narrative, but she was kind of a blasphemer. Probably had it coming.)

*Richard Einhorn's Voices of Light score that played with the version I saw was magnificent. It bolstered my viewing experience as much as anything.
March 14, 2015
This is an incredible film. A must watch. The close-ups and the expressions on the faces of the characters add so much dimension to this film.
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