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The Passion of Joan of Arc (Full Screen) (The Criterion Collection)

Maria Falconetti , Eugene Silvain , Carl Theodor Dreyer    Unrated   DVD
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (105 customer reviews)
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Carl Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc is as truly mythic as any film ever shot, its artistic achievement rivaled by its turbulent history. The focal point of controversy when released in 1928, the original film was lost for a half-century until an intact copy of Dreyer's original version was recovered in the early '80s.

Seeing Joan of Arc today remains a cinematic revelation, its approach to storytelling, set design, editing, and especially cinematography (by Rudolph Maté, who also shot Dreyer's visionary Vampyr) radical then, and still strikingly modern many decades later. Influenced by both German expressionist film and the French avant-garde, Dreyer's huge set was designed with asymmetrical doors, windows, and arches, through which Maté's camera moves along equally off-centered, even vertiginous, but fluid trajectories. Although the story is epic in its implications, the film is composed primarily of extreme close-ups, especially of Joan and her principal interrogator, Bishop Cauchon, and medium shots of small groups, often shot from low angles. Dreyer and Maté shot their cast in bright light, without makeup, giving each wrinkle, blemish, or tuft of hair sculptural detail.

For all its visual invention, however, Dreyer's film is most devastating in its central performance by Falconetti (née Renee Falconetti), a French stage actress who made her only screen appearance here--one critic Pauline Kael has suggested "may be the finest performance ever recorded on film." Through Falconetti, Joan's spiritual devotion, simple dignity, and suffering become utterly real; even without a dialogue track and only sparse inter-titles, the film achieves a fevered eloquence.

This meticulous restoration also includes composer Richard Einhorn's beautiful oratorio, Voices of Light, inspired by Dreyer's film and set to texts by women mystics from medieval and early-Renaissance Europe. A luminous work on its own, Einhorn's oratorio matches both the dramatic arcs and tremulous emotions of Dreyer's film, while its juxtaposition of choral and solo voices (with early-music vocal quartet Anonymous 4 evoking Joan herself) echoes the martyr's confrontation with the court. --Sam Sutherland

Special Features

Criterion's release of Carl Dreyer's landmark film The Passion of Joan of Arc is a definitive example of DVD restoration. Initially believed to be lost forever in a fire, this transfer was created at 24 frames per second from a negative of the rediscovered original version. For a film released in 1928, The Passion of Joan of Arc looks absolutely remarkable. As with most silent films, Dreyer's Joan was originally presented to audiences with different pieces of music. Criterion has chosen composer Richard Einhorn's Voices of Light for this edition. Inspired by the film, Einhorn's piece, presented in 5.1 surround sound, is a wonderful compliment to Dreyer's visual presentation. Notable extras include a history of the film's many versions and an audio interview with Renee Falconetti's daughter. However, by far the best "extra" is Dreyer scholar Casper Tybjerg's incredible commentary that informatively combines rich details of the film's importance and content with known historical elements of St. Joan's life, trial and death. --Rob Bracco

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A true classic of cinema May 14 2004
By Ted
This review is for the Criterion Collection DVD edition of the film
This movie is one of the most well known classics of Europe. The 2nd original print, long thought to be lost to fire, was miraculously found in the closet of a mental hospital in Norway in 1981. The 1st original was burned though.
The recent film, "Passion of the Christ" was not the only "passion" film to generate controversy. This film was thought to be anti-England due to its protrayal of their treatment to Joan of Arc. The French were also upset that a non-French and non-Catholic man directed the film. The film's dialoge (by intertitles as it is a silent film) is based on actual transcripts of Joan's trial which have managed to survive also. The film is said to be very moving for some people just like Gibson's "Passion of the Christ." Not being Catholic, I am not sure of what many of the elements of either film may refer to.
The DVD has numerous special features as always.
Audio commentary by Dryer scholar Casper Tybjerg of Copenhagen University (he has a thick Danish accent that is very nice)
Optional soundtrack for Richard Einhorn's "Voices of Light" (a musical piece inspired by the film)alsong with an essay about the music and a libretto booklet.
Production design archive
History of the many different cuts and alternat versions of the film
Audio-only interview with the star's daughter, Hélène Falconetti.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Why do they need words for? Jan. 7 2007
By M. B. Alcat TOP 1000 REVIEWER
"The Passion of Joan of Arc" is a silent film in black and white, directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer (1889-1968). It is not exactly the kind of movie I usually rent, but it is excellent, and I certainly don't regret having watched it.

The plot is based on the preserved transcripts of Joan of Arc's 1431 trial, in which she was accused of being under the influence of the devil, and condemned to die. Even though this film doesn't have colors, and despite the fact you cannot hear what the characters say, it is very easy to be enthralled by the way in which Dreyer tells this story. It is a real event, and he reenacts it for us.

This film is heartwrenching, but also powerful, and extremely well-made. In my opinion, "The Passion of Joan of Arc" is a classic you simply must see, even if you don't generally watch silent movies. After all, if you join a genius like Dreyer and someone with the talent and expressive face of the actress that plays Joan (Maria Falconetti), why do they need words for?

Belen Alcat
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By Esn024
Format:VHS Tape
I may not be religious, but I can tell a masterpiece of filmmaking when I see one. This movie is certainly that!
Just because this is a silent film should be no reason for anybody to suspect that the pace of this film is slow and boring, quite the opposite. The film builds with great suspense which is almost unbroken throughout, making what could have been routine and uninteresting conversations in the hands of another director glow with life as he shows us in detail the faces, personalities, and motivations of the people who judge Joan of Arc; he gives us whispered words passed between the characters, the indignation on their faces when their will is refused, even the quiet, heartbreaking regret of one of the priests who condemns her, which comes much too late to be of any use. All this is done with incredibly imaginative camera angles and wonderful pacing.
The composer of the music that goes with this film deserves as much credit as the director of TPoJoA, which is saying a lot! The orchestral + voices score to the movie is powerful, fascinating, and would be interesting to listen to on its own; combine it with the movie and the effect is astounding; it perfectly captures every mood shown in the movie, amplifying them twofold.
The final scene in the movie was one of the most horrific scenes I've ever seen in a movie, rivaling the scene in Elem Klimov's "Come and See" (probably the most powerful war movie to come out of the USSR) where an entire Belorussian village is burnt to the ground with all of the inhabitants still inside.
Certainly a movie that must be seen to be believed. It will have less significance for you if you are not religious, but all the same it should be seen. You will not be bored, neither by the movie nor by the accompanying score.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An extraordinary accident - May 3 2004
By jumpy1
About 5-10 years ago, I asked my mother (then 70 yrs old or so) what the best movie she'd ever seen was. She said Carl Dryer's Joan of Arc, which then had not yet been re-released. When I told a film lover this, he said "oh, that was EASY." Intrigued I went to see the movie at Avery Fisher Hall at the new release with Einhorn's score. Well, I was speechless. It was nothing I expected it to be. And, as it happens, not what Carl Dryer expected either! He had to create it from rejected footage when the original version was destroyed in a fire. Proof of his genius, now one can't even imagine another version. With all of these close-ups that were originally rejected, could we still today be so amazed by it? Even up close, Maria Falconetti's performance is the most humble I have ever seen in my life. The script is just a court proceeding, which I believe was from the original court transcripts. Seeing the film, witnessing the ridiculous trial, and experiencing Maria Falconetti's soul, I went away feeling sad for the human race.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Faith filled, Powerful story; One of the Best Movies Ever Made
This is the actual trial text of St Joan of Arc put to silent film performance in the late 1920's. Falconetti, as Joan of Arc, is Remarkable. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Arthur Schmidt
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the all time best movies
This is a silent movie that has had music added to it in the past couple of decades. Even as a silent movie it is the best movie I have ever seen. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Richard Cripsin
5.0 out of 5 stars Must See!
Spellbinding performance by Maria Falconetti!!! Very powerful film - beautifully directed and staged. New music soundtrack adds to the overall presentation. Read more
Published on March 10 2010 by T. Gamble
5.0 out of 5 stars The best film I have ever seen
10/10 Movie: The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dreyer 1928)
Once thought lost to the world, the film was... Read more
Published on April 17 2004 by dictionellee.com
5.0 out of 5 stars what gibson's passion should have been
one reads all too frequently a tagline like ' the greatest film of all time'.
like many, i read of this film for years before ever seeing it. Read more
Published on April 11 2004 by ageofanxiety
5.0 out of 5 stars Luminous
This 1928 film is a masterpiece, pure and simple. It grabs the viewer and won't let go, thanks to the singular vision of Carl Dreyer and the remarkable performance of every one of... Read more
Published on March 24 2004 by A. Aguero
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Silent Film
Wow i was totally amazed by this film. After watching it in a class,I was totally impressed with it. Read more
Published on March 23 2004 by Ben hayden
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Achievement
I had noticed that this film shows up often on the Sight and Sound ratings of the top ten films of all time. Read more
Published on March 14 2004 by Randy Keehn
5.0 out of 5 stars a "Passion" worth watching
Since another "Passion" is currently ruling the box office, it's a good time to take stock of what faith on film should really look like. Read more
Published on March 12 2004
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