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La Passion de Jeanne D'Arc

LA PASSION DE JEANNE D'ARC



(The Passion of Joan of Arc)


France, 1928


Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer

Production: Société Générale des Films (Paris); black and white, 35mm, silent; running time: originally 110 minutes, later 86–88 minutes; length: 2400 meters. Released 21 April 1928, Paladsteatret, Copenhagen. Re-released 1952 in sound version produced by Gaumont Actualité and supervised by Lo Duca, musical accompaniment from works by Scarlatti, Albinoni, Gemianani, Vivaldi, and Bach. Filmed May-October 1927 in Paris.


Screenplay: Carl Theodor Dreyer and Joseph Delteil, from a book by Joseph Delteil; titles: Carl Theodor Dreyer; photography: Rudolph Maté; editor: Carl Theodor Dreyer; art directors: Hermann Warm and Jean Hugo; costume designer: Valentine Hugo; historical consultant: Pierre Champion; assistants: Paul la Cour and Ralph Holm.

Cast: Maria Falconetti (Joan); Eugéne Silvain (Pierre Cauchon); André Berley (Jean d'Estivet); Maurice Schutz (Nicolas Loyseleur); Antonin Artaud (Jean Massieu); Michel Simon (Jean Lemaître); Jean d'Yd (Guillaume Evrard); Ravet (Jean Beaupére); André Lurville; Jacques Arma; Alexandre Mihalesco; R. Narlay; Henri Gaultier; Paul Jorge.


Publications


Script:

Dreyer, Carl Theodor, "La passion de Jeanne d'Arc, in Four Screenplays, London, 1970.

Drouzy, Maurice, and Charles Tesson, editors, Carl Theodor Dreyer:Oeuvres cinématographiques 1926–1923, Paris 1983.

"La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc Issue" of Avant-Scène Cinéma (Paris), January-February 1988.

Books:

Neergaard, Ebbe, Carl Theodor Dreyer: A Film Director's Work, London, 1950.

Trolle, Børge, The Art of Carl Theodor Dreyer: An Analysis, Copenhagen, 1955.

Bowser, Eileen, The Films of Carl Dreyer, New York, 1964.

Dreyer, Carl Theodor, Om Filmen, Copenhagen, 1964.

Monty, Ib, Portrait of Carl Th. Dreyer, Copenhagen, 1965.

Dyssegaard, Soren, editor, Carl Th. Dreyer, Danish Film Director, Copenhagen, 1968.

Ayfré, Amédée, Le Cinéma et sa vérité, Paris, 1969.

Perrin, Claude, Carl Th. Dreyer, Paris, 1969.

Milne, Tom, The Cinema of Carl Dreyer, New York, 1971.

Ernst, Helge, Dreyer: Carl Th. Dreyer—en dansk filmskaber, Copenhagen, 1972.

Schrader, Paul, Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer, Los Angeles, 1972.

Bordwell, David, editor, Filmguide to La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc, Bloomington, Indiana, 1973.

Skoller, Donald, editor, Dreyer in Double Reflection, New York, 1973.

Nash, Mark, Dreyer, London, 1977.

Tone, Pier Giorgio, Carl Theodor Dreyer, Florence, 1978.

Bordwell, David, The Films of Carl Theodor Dreyer, Berkeley, 1981.

Pipolo, Anthony P., Carl Dreyer's La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc:A Comparison of Prints and Formal Analysis, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1981.

Bazin, André, The Cinema of Cruelty: From Buñuel to Hitchcock, New York, 1982.

Carney, Raymond, Speaking the Language of Desire: The Films ofCarl Dreyer, New York, 1989.

Jensen, Jytte, editor, The Films of Carl Theodor Dreyer, New York, 1989.

Dreyer, Carl Theodor, Dreyer in Double Reflection: Carl Dreyer'sWritings on Film, Cambridge, 1991.

Drum, Jean, and Dale D. Drum, My Only Great Passion: The Life andFilms of Carl Theodor Dreyer, Lanham, 2000.


Articles:

Close Up (London), July 1928.

Variety (New York), 10 April 1929.

Theatre Arts (New York), 13 May 1929.

Ecran Français (Paris), 11 November 1947.

Winge, John, "Interview with Dreyer," in Sight and Sound (London), January 1950

Manvell, Roger, in Sight and Sound (London), December 1950.

Ayfré, Amédée, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), no. 17, 1952.

Marker, Chris, in Regards neufs sur le cinéma, edited by Jacques Chevallier, Paris, 1953.

Terzi, Corrado, in Cinema Nuovo (Turin), no. 17, 1953.

Everson, William K., "Rudy Maté—His Work with Carl Dreyer," in Films and Filming (London), no. 2, 1955.

Dreyer, Carl, "Thoughts on My Craft," in Sight and Sound (London), Winter 1955–56.

Trolle, Børge, "The World of Carl Dreyer," in Sight and Sound (London), Winter 1955–56.

Luft, Herbert, "Dreyer," in Films and Filming (London), June 1961.

Stanbrook, Alan, in Films and Filming (London), June 1961.

Sémolué, Jean, "'Douleur, Noblesse Unique', ou, La Passion chez Carl Dreyer," in Etudes Cinématographiques (Paris), Fall 1961.

Sémolué, Jean, "Passion et procès (de Dreyer à Bresson)," in EtudesCinématographiques (Paris), nos. 18–19, 1962.

Luft, Herbert, "Rudolph Maté: Photographed Dreyer's Passion ofJoan of Arc and Became Director on His Own," in Films inReview (New York), no. 8, 1964.

Delmas, Jean, in Jeune Cinéma (Paris), no. 5, 1965.

Zurbuch, Werner, "Interview med Herman Warm," in Kosmorama (Copenhagen), no. 71, 1965.

Bond, Kirk, "The World of Carl Dreyer," in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Fall 1965.

Milne, Tom, "Darkness and Light: Carl Dreyer," in Sight and Sound (London), Autumn 1965.

Lerner, Carl, "My Way of Working Is in Relation to the Future: A Conversation with Carl Dreyer," in Film Comment (New York), Fall 1966.

Amengual, Barthélemy, "Fonctions du gros plan et du cadrage dans La passion de Jeanne d'Arc," in Etudes Cinématographiques (Paris), no. 53–56, 1967.

Duperly, Denis, "Carl Dreyer: Utter Bore or Total Genius?," in Films and Filming (London), February 1968.

Kosmorama (Copenhagen), June 1968.

Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), December 1968.

Delahaye, Michael, in Interviews with Film Directors, edited by Andrew Sarris, New York, 1969.

Potamkin, Harry Alan, in The Emergence of Film Art, by Lewis Jacobs, New York, 1969.

Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), February 1970.

Buñuel, Luis, in Positif (Paris), February 1973.

Vaughan, Dai, "Carl Dreyer and The Theme of Choice," in Sight andSound (London), Summer 1974.

Wood, Robin, "Carl Dreyer," in Film Comment (New York), March-April 1974.

Van Ness, Wilhelmina, "Joseph Delteil: The Passion of Joan ofArc," in Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury, Maryland), no.4, 1975.

Petric, Vlada, "Dreyer's Concept of Abstraction," in Sight andSound (London), Spring 1975.

Bordwell, David, "Dreyer's Joan," in Sight and Sound (London), Autumn 1975.

Hugo, V., J. de Lacretelle, and P. Morand, in Avant-Scéne du Cinéma (Paris), 1 December 1977.

Oudart, Jean-Pierre, "Une Peur active," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), no. 292, 1978.

Cros, J. L., in Image et Son (Paris), September 1978.

Linderman, Deborah, "Uncoded Images in the Heterogeneous Text," in Wide Angle (Athens, Ohio), no. 3, 1980.

Tesson, Charles, "Jeanne d'Arc sauvé des flammes," in Cahiers duCinéma (Paris), December 1984.

Enberg, M., in Kosmorama (Copenhagen), May 1985.

Drouzy, Maurice, "Jeanne d'Arc livrée aux borreaux," in Cinématographe (Paris), June 1985.

"Special Issue" of Cahiers de la Cinémathèque (Perpignan), Summer 1985.

Nash, M., "Joan Complete," in Sight and Sound (London), Summer 1985.

Neyt, G., in Film en Televisie (Brussels), October 1985.

"Jeanne d'Arc Section" of Skrien (Amsterdam), November-December 1985.

Meyer, M.P., "La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc: Muziek als hindernis," in Skrien (Amsterdam), Winter 1985–86.

"La passion de Jeanne d'Arc," in a Special Issue of Avant-Scène duCinéma (Paris), no. 367–368, January-February 1988.

Willmott, G., "Implications for a Sartrean Radical Medium: From Theatre to Cinema," in Discourse (Bloomington, Indiana), Spring-Summer 1990.

Martensen-Larsen, B., "Inspirationen fra middelalderens miniaturer," in Kosmorama (Copenhagen), Summer 1993.

DeBartolo, J., "Video Tape Reviews," in Classic Images (Muscatine), no. 5, May 1995.

Dupre la Tour, C., "The Written Word and Memory in Griffith's Intolerance and Dreyer's La passion de Jeanne d'Arc," in Iris (Iowa City), no. 19, Autumn 1995.

Kauffman, S., "French Saint: French Mortals," in New Republic, vol. 213, 20 November 1995.

Potter, Nicole, "The Passion of Joan of Arc/Voices of Light," in Films in Review (New York), vol. 47, no. 3–4, March-April 1996.

O'Brien, Charles, "Rethinking National Cinema: Dreyer's La passion de Jeanne d'Arc and the Academic Aesthetic," in CinemaJournal (Austin), vol. 35, no. 4, Summer 1996.

Stackpole, J., "One Hardly Expects Language to Be a Contributing Factor," in Audience (Simi Valley), no. 192, December/January 1997.

Nichols, Peter M., "In a Joan of Arc Season, One Telling is Timeless," in New York Times, 24 October 1999.

Smith, Gavin, "The Passion of Joan of Arc/Jeanne la Pucelle," in Film Comment (New York), vol. 35, no. 6, November/December 1999.


* * *

Carl Dreyer's last silent film is one of the most famous films in the history of cinema. It is seldom missing on "World's Ten Best Films" lists. Few films have been studied and analyzed as thoroughly in articles and books, and one sometimes feels that the real film is buried in the theory and aesthetics. But, a true classical work of art, La passion de Jeanne d'Arc appeals to and moves the spectator with its beautiful simplicity. It is a pure tragedy of a young suffering woman fighting in a hostile world. The finest homage to the film is perhaps that of Jean-Luc Godard: in his film Vivre sa vie the prostitute (played by Anna Karina) is deeply moved by Dreyer's portrait of the legendary heroine when she sees the film in a Paris cinema in the 1960s. She can identify with the tormented young woman in this timeless film.

From the time he started his script in October 1926 until the film was finished, Dreyer worked on it for a year and a half. The historical trial of Jeanne lasted for more than a year. Dreyer concentrated the actual 29 interrogations into one long interrogation, and in the film it takes place on 30 May 1431, the last day of Jeanne's short life; Dreyer thus keeps to the unities of time, place and story.

The style of the film, which has been called a film in close-ups, is derived directly from his sources and evokes the protocol of the trial. When the film was released, the close-up technique was regarded as shocking. Dreyer defended his method by stating: "The records give a shattering impression on the ways in which the trial was a conspiracy of the judges against the solitary Jeanne, bravely defending herself against men who displayed a devilish cunning to trap her in their net. This conspiracy could be conveyed on the screen only through the huge close-ups, that exposed, with merciless realism, the callous cynicism of the judges hidden behind hypocritical compassion— and on the other hand there had to be equally huge close-ups of Jeanne, whose pure features would reveal that she alone found strength in her faith in God." As in all of Dreyer's major films the style grew out of the theme of the film. In La passion de Jeanne d'Arc Dreyer wanted "to move the audience so that they would themselves feel the suffering that Jeanne endured." It was by using close-up that Dreyer could "lead the audience all the way into the hearts and guts of Jeanne and the judges."

The close-up technique is the core of the film, because it lifts the drama above a given place and a given time. It is a satisfactory way of abstracting from an historically defined reality without abandoning a respect for authenticity and realism. But this striving for timelessness is reflected in all the components of the film. And there is more to the film than close-ups. Dreyer uses medium close-ups, tilts, pans, travelling shots and intricate editing. Cross-cutting is used to great effect, especially in the last part of the film, and the hectic rhythm and swiftly changing shots towards the end of the film are as masterfully controlled as the close-ups. The visual language is very complex and not in the least monotonous. The sets and the costumes were consciously created in a way that furthered the balance between the historical and the modern. The lighting, the overall whiteness of the images, contributes to the film's emphasis on the simple and the lucid.

Dramatically, La passion de Jeanne d'Arc is composed as one long scene. This is Jeanne's last struggle, and the battle is for her life and her soul. The film is dramatically and psychologically intensified in two scenes. The first when Jeanne breaks down mentally and, to save her life, signs a confession as a heretic. The second is the scene in which she regrets what she has done and withdraws the confession. She knows then that her death is certain, but she saves her soul, and she triumphs in her faith.

La passion de Jeanne d'Arc is an intense description of the suffering of an individual, the drama of a soul transformed into images. It is a "cool" look, and Dreyer called his method "realized mysticism." With his sober objectivity Dreyer succeeded in making the difficult understandable and the irrational clear. The film is about the necessity of suffering for the liberation of the individual human being. As do all of Dreyer's heroines, Jeanne suffers defeat, but for Dreyer defeat or victory in this world is of no importance. The essential thing is the soul's victory over life. Dreyer's view of the historical facts is, of course, not a balanced one. Jeanne is the heroine, and Dreyer is on her side in a struggle against a cruel, official world.

In Dreyer's oeuvre La passion de Jeanne d'Arc brings together all the resources of the cinema at that time, and is the most pure and perfect expression of his art. Of none of his films is his own statement more fitting: "The soul is revealed in the style, which is the artist's expression on the way he regards his material."

The film was well received when it was released, but it was not a commercial success. Since then the film's reputation has grown, and for many years it has been continuously shown in film archives and film clubs all over the world. The original negative of La passion de Jeanne d'Arc was destroyed in a fire in 1928 at UFA in Berlin. Film archeologists are still working on a restoration of the film, which has survived in many slightly differing versions—but even a definitive version should not drastically change our impression of this masterpiece.

—Ib Monty

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