Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer
Starring: Maria Falconetti
Plot: A chronicle of the trial of Jeanne d’Arc on charges of heresy, and the efforts of her ecclesiastical jurists to force Jeanne to recant her claims of holy visions.
One of the last great silent films made during the advent of sound, Carl-Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc is a haunting, riveting portrait of the historical martyr based on documentation from the original trial. Focusing primarily on the series of courtroom examinations that doomed the young warrior, the film gloriously employs vivid close-ups to accentuate the ordinariness (while at the same time exaggerating the most grotesque qualities) of Joan’s inquisitors – all without make-up, unheard of at the time this film was made. Maria Falconetti is unforgettable as Joan, perfectly distilling the pain, terror, and saintliness required by what is probably one of the most demanding roles an actor could attempt. The consequence of Joan’s conviction — her burning at the stake — allows Dreyer to hammer home his exquisite visual motif balancing erotic corporeality with transcendent spirituality.