16 January 2007 | ccthemovieman-1
The Good & Bad Of 'The Passion Of Joan Of Arc'
If you'll pardon the rambling, here are my thoughts immediately after watching this on DVD an hour ago.......
THE STORY - Many of the times, while watching this for the first time, I thought this was almost the re-enactment of Jesus' last day, seeing the phony trial, the trumped-up charges He endured by legalistic, power-hungry religious leaders of the day who had no clue who God is, and then the tragic end to the central character. Apparently, there were a lot of similarities to Joan of Arc's last day and of Christ's day. However, here it's the Catholic leaders who are the 'bad guys' while in Jesus' time it was the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin. Also, with Joan's story here, she is portrayed far differently in her ordeal than Christ did, the latter taking everything in stride stoically while Joan, without any physical beating, still cried constantly and signed some paper in a moment of weakness (although she later recants that, which costs the woman her life.)
Anyway, about this film:
THE GOOD - Wow, what incredible direction and photography. Scene after scene is pretty amazing and especially so when you consider this was made about 80 years ago! I would like to see the same director and photographer doing work with today's technology.
The expressions on Maria Falconetti's face throughout the film are memorable. A sadder, more pained look on Joan of Arc - or anyone else's - I have not seen in a motion picture. She also must have set a record that still stands for the most tears shed by one person in a movie! The woman's eyes were like faucets.
All of the faces in here - and the film is mostly a series of facial closeups - are amazing and kudos to Criterion for making a DVD that showed these faces with a clear picture and amazing detail. Director Carl Theodor Dreyer's camera angles still look innovative today. He and Orson Welles seem to share the same love of this kind of photography. I found myself numerous times just shaking my head in admiration for how these characters were photographed.
Another big plus for this film was the addition of "The Voices of Light." They made the music score in here fantastic. I can't recall too many films in which I have been so impressed with a soundtrack. The DVD gives you the option of watching this film with or without that audio. I strongly recommend viewers to take the audio.
Finally, the story itself is memorable, with a powerful ending.
THE BAD - I have to make these comments to be fair and honest. It's not hard to understand why many people will find this film almost impossible to sit through, especially those with no emotional or spiritual involvement with the story. That is because it is extremely slow and repetitive. Shot-after-shot of just Falconetti agonizing or crying and weird-looking men staring at her. If you aren't a devotee of cinematography, this movie could be extremely boring after about 10 minutes.
As powerful as the story is, it isn't a movie I would recommend for most people. I think most folks - of any age, frankly - would be turned off after 20 minutes. I understand that. As mentioned, this is not an easy film to view. This might be the longest 80-minute movie you'll ever see, if you aren't into it.
OVERALL - Visually and audibly: an astounding movie and one I am glad to have finally watched. If I was wishing to get into the movie business and wanted to learn how to shoot films, this would be a film I would study numerous times. Otherwise, one viewing is plenty. I can only recommend this film to a very select audience.