The Passion of Joan of Arc

April 12, 2011 • 11:59 am

The movie named in the title, made in 1928, is by far the best silent movie I’ve ever seen.  In a four-minute video in today’s New York Times, critic A. O. Scott shows scenes from the movie and discusses its significance (be sure to enlarge the video to full screen).  Maria Falconetti’s performance is one of the most powerful of any I’ve seen on film, and she does it without saying a word.

If you have NetFlix, or can get it otherwise, don’t miss it!

27 thoughts on “The Passion of Joan of Arc

  1. I’ve had the Criterion DVD of this for some time. It introduced me to Richard Einhorn’s “Voices of Light” oratorio based on the film, which is simply gorgeous.

    One of my other favourites silents is Pandora’s Box with the completely mesmerising Louise Brooks. I was lucky enough to see it on the big screen with a live soundtrack being played along with it by a chamber group.

  2. Saw it in a film class I took it college. Thought I loved film until I took that class. Films like this really opened my eyes.

    1. Sadly it seems it’s not in the public domain 🙁 Though the whole history of it being lost for over 50 years does make that whole discussion interesting.

      1. Yes, that was my point.

        It’s not in the public domain. But it’s obscene to think that a movie that was made before Black Tuesday isn’t in the public domain.

        Copyright owners like to toss around terms like “theft” and “piracy.” But to me, they’re the ones robbing the public blind and hijacking our culture. The real criminals are the MPAA and RIAA members who use the force of law to “protect” their “right” to “sell” the fruits of the labors of artists who died before the sharks were even born.

        And let’s not forget that this is the story of a woman who was born six centuries ago. As with Disney and Hans Christian Andersen, the barons are happy to profit from the public domain themselves, but then go on not only to refuse to give back to the public domain but shamelessly steal works out of the public domain and “re-privatize” them.

        If there ever is a revolution, they will be the first ones against the wall when it comes.



        1. I think what the MPAA/RIAA call “piracy” is a simple economic reality. Some people just don’t believe that what they see is worth paying for. I don’t support the “anti-piracy” lunacy and the corporations who brand all their customers as thieves, so I simply rarely buy (or watch) DVDs etc which have those annoying loud “you are a thieving scumbag” ads. Money talks – so I don’t download copyright material and I do my best not to give money to corporations who treat their customers like crooks.

          1. Of course only those of us who buy DVDs have to put up with those annoying preachy ads that you can’t skip. Which by the way TERRIFY young children to tears. Much better to download movies that have had those things stripped!

            1. That’s the one plus I always thought VHS had over DVD – the ability to fast-forward through anything.

      2. You don’t have to obbey ridiculous rules designed for them to work only in their own interests and against the rest of society’s. Call it civil disobedience.

    2. Er-hem Ben – the copyright police could take away your children for just thinking that! 70 years after the death of the copyright holder is the usual rule but it may well be different for films. “All motion pictures made and exhibited before 1923 are indisputably in the public domain in the United States.” says Wikipedia…

      1. Yes, and then along came the “Mickey Mouse Act” which extended copyright on written material to author’s death + 150 years; I can’t recall the provisions for cinema, but Disney still ‘owns’ Mickey Mouse. The phrase “get a new act” comes to mind.

      2. Why do people assume that the DMA and various other US laws have any meaning for people in other countries? I know the US thinks it passes laws on behalf of the entire planet (thank god the redefinition of pi hasn’t worked!) but really people, learn some geography!

  3. Great pick! It’s currently available instantly on Netflix.

    By coincidence, I just re-watched it. Of all people, Donald Trump’s recent TV appearances reminded me of this film. I kept thinking, with his strange hair and eyebrows and sneering condescension, he would fit perfectly with the grotesque judge’s panel. Maybe subconsciously A.O. Scott’s memory was similarly jogged..?

  4. I jumped on my chair when I was watching the video fullscreen and suddenly a colorful dude with glasses appeared on screen.

    1. I almost crapped my pants with that scene…Thought I had too much red…..WTF???? Totally deep, serious, and beautifully done when this was allowed to show!

  5. It looks intense. I’ll see if I can find it somewhere.

    Joan of Arc was a rather significant movie for me. I saw it on TV as a child of 7 or so — the Ingrid Bergman version — and I remember being very supportive of the historic Joan and her holy mission, and very confused as to why God was on the side of the French. The English were supposed to be the “good guys” — I’d seen Robin Hood and a lot of other old movies. And this particular war seemed — rather petty and obscure to my childish self. And yet God had spoken to Joan about it as if it was central to His Purpose for the Universe …to keep the “Dolphin” on the French throne by starting up a war… though wars were bad things.

    It was a WTF moment.

    Maybe you couldn’t always trust what movies were telling you. Even … Song of Bernadette?

    1. The English, whose leadership was of French origin, had been at war with France for then 80 years to reclaim ancestral property. The English were steadily winning, and behind them was the famous longbow victories of Crécy (1346), Poitiers (1356) and Agincourt (1415).

      1/3rd of what was known as France belonged to the English, 1/3rd to France and the rest to nobody.

      Joan of Arc claims “I was in my thirteenth year when I heard a voice from God to help me govern my conduct…” and in 1429 states her intentions to lift the siege at Orleans, break the enemy power and Crown Charles VII (the dauphin) her sovereign at Rheims.

      These things she does all in one year. One of her most notable victories is at the battle at Patay, where a significant amount of the English longbow corps is destroyed. It took England many years before they could rebuild that force which figured significantly in their future military planning.

      She is captured at a minor skirmish, 23 May 1430 and for the next year cleverly defends her life in against the intellectual might of the English motivated “kangaroo” court. All they could get her on is cross-dressing. She is executed in Rouen on 30 May 1431.

      In The Decline and Fall of the British Empire-Robert Briffault-1938-270pgs Robert writes

      “Yet less than two hundred years ago very little was heard of England in the affairs of the world. It has been said that the real founder of the British Empire was Joan of Arc ….. the fact remains that from the time the English were driven out of France until the present day, England has rigorously abstained from European conquests. “

  6. A few commenters have mentioned that Criterion has this DVD in their collection. They do – I believe it’s available through their website and I always see it up on eBay. It’s well worth it. That said, I’m waiting because hopefully Criterion will release it on Blu-ray soon!

  7. ‘Joan’ is a wonderful film, but I notice that on the same NYT website the same critic who introduces ‘Joan’ talks also of the extraordinary Japanese anime film ‘Akira’, set in a post-disaster ‘Neo-Tokyo’, and with constant after-shocks and what the Japan Times at least is touting as a Chernobyl-scale disaster on the way as the Fukushima reactor melts down or does whatever reactors do on these occasions, one does feel one is living in a world perilously close to that of Neo-Tokyo. But do look at the Akira clips, too. It is a wonderful film.

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