The Passion of Joan of Arc
August 4, 2012 4:12 PM   Subscribe

The San Francisco Cathedral played this a few weeks ago with an organ accompanist. I really wanted to go, but I was out of town.
posted by roll truck roll at 4:25 PM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I love this film so much. A few years ago I saw it in a English cathedral style church with a live soundtrack from a superb local choir. Sublime. Thanks for posting.
posted by Isadorady at 4:25 PM on August 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

I saw it at the Red Eye Theater in Minneapolis with a couple of noise band musicians as accompaniment. It was earthshaking. Artaud is genius, and, supposedly, Maria Falconetti went through such an ordeal for the role that she never appeared on screen again.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:15 PM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh my but this is good...
posted by jim in austin at 5:21 PM on August 4, 2012

I know that this film is a classic, but the way it's shot makes me crazy. Every shot is a close-up, you never get a chance to get a sense of the geography or have a break from the close-ups. I can't sit through it. Which is a pity, because there are really nice things in it, but there's a reason why we don't shoot films with nothing but close-ups in them. It's an unpleasant claustrophobia. I'm all for putting the audience into the subjectivity of the characters, but for me, it's super distracting and pushes me out of the experience.
posted by MythMaker at 6:21 PM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

One of my favorite pieces of music, Richard Einhorn's Voices of Light, was written as a soundtrack to this film.
posted by rikschell at 6:29 PM on August 4, 2012 [4 favorites]

The video link even mentions that fact rather explicitly as explanation for why they put that piece to it, though it is more ambiguous as to whether or not it was written literally as a soundtrack, vs. just being inspired.
posted by Joviwan at 7:08 PM on August 4, 2012

Complaining that this film has too many close-ups is like complaining that the problem with the computer game Doom is first person perspective.
posted by KS at 7:49 PM on August 4, 2012 [5 favorites]

This is just a rip of the Criterion Collection's release of the film.
posted by sciurus at 7:50 PM on August 4, 2012

I have tried to watch this (by myself, at night, when I was feeling alone and listless and maybe just a tiny bit lonely) and I couldn't get through it. Not because it's bad -- it's excellent -- but because it's frankly kind of intense and it gave me the willies after a while. The acting is good enough that despite being a 1928 silent film made in France, it created a powerful emotional reaction that I wasn't quite prepared for at the time.

Also something interesting about this film is that it was thought to be lost for decades (as in, no complete versions of it existed, nor could any be assembled from existing fragments) until 1981 when a complete copy was found in, of all places, a janitor's closet in a mental institution in Norway.

Additionally Maria Falconetti, the actress who plays Joan of Arc, acted in only this film. She gave a silent film performance that is among the most powerful and exquisite and to be honest painful things that I have ever seen in a movie (painful enough that I couldn't finish watching it) and then she never acted on film ever again.

It's an incredible movie and people should watch it. Hell, I should watch it! And given that it came out in 1928 I think it's pretty safe to say that people should feel free to get it by whatever means they desire, including just torrenting it. It's available all over the web and is something that anyone should see if they have an interest in seeing good acting distilled to its raw essence.
posted by Scientist at 8:07 PM on August 4, 2012

The actors wear no make-up so you get to see every blemish and imperfection (except Joan with clear skin). The film is high contrast, bringing it out even more. Most of the film is told through the faces of the actors. The faces are the geography, the landscape. The whole idea is her imprisonment (passion) so the continuous close up works to build tension up to the violent finale when she is released from prison (earth).
posted by stbalbach at 8:10 PM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm curious about whether the "it's so hard to watch!" crowd are drawing their feelings from having seen it projected in a theater or from home viewing. I love the film, but I think I'd hate seeing it on the small screen. A big part of its forcefulness comes from the enormity of those close-ups on the big screen.
posted by bubukaba at 9:21 PM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's an unpleasant claustrophobia.

That tingling means it's working!
posted by scrowdid at 12:35 AM on August 5, 2012

> "Maria Falconetti, the actress who plays Joan of Arc, acted in only this film."

Well, except for La Comtesse de Somerive. And Le Clown. It was her last film, not her only one.
posted by kyrademon at 5:33 AM on August 5, 2012

I love way it's shot. Frankly I was unprepared for the sophistication. The panning over the whispering ugly faces, the quality of editing, every shot so beautifully composed. Just lovely.
posted by mattoxic at 6:44 AM on August 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've only seen it once, on the big screen, and the closeups were enormous. It's an unpleasant experience to never be given a break. It's similar to the way that Speed Racer doesn't let the audience rest. It pushes away and alienates the audience from exactly the kind of intimate experience that Dryer desires. The human mind creates a three dimensional representation of the space we are in, so that, for example, you could close your eyes and be able to point to the door of the room you are in now and be right. The use of establishing shots allows the viewer to create this mental map and then, after the geography is established, you can cut to close-ups because they are being placed in a mental 3d space. You know what the room looks like, so you can stay in closeups without creating confusion and claustrophobia. Spielberg, for instance, is a real master at that.

The unpleasantness of this film, which, as I observed before, many people consider a classic, is similar to something like Dancer In The Dark, where I mostly was just angry at the filmmaker at the end, and never wanted to repeat the experience. In that one, it was principally the sadism and misogyny of the director, and the hopelessness of the worldview. Here, Dreyer is trying to connect us with the psychology of the protagonist, by not giving us wide shots to relieve the tension. But, IMHO, it fails for the same reason no one wants to listen to "Flight Of The Bumblebees" solid, with no breaks, for two hours. It is too intense, without breaks, and so it pushes the audience away and creates an unpleasant experience.

Better to use closeups to create intensity and tension, and then, like a piece of music, have moments of rests, pianissimo and decrescendos. When everything is at forte the whole time, it feels bombastic, and that is what a feature made of nothing but unrelieved closeups feels like to me.
posted by MythMaker at 6:45 AM on August 5, 2012

"... similar to something like Dancer In The Dark ..."

Which is also, perhaps noncoincidentally, known as a film where the director treated the female lead so crappily that she vowed never to act in another movie ever again.
posted by kyrademon at 7:17 AM on August 5, 2012

I missed the live score of this film In the Nursery did at SXSW a few years ago, and it's a big regret of mine.
posted by immlass at 8:57 AM on August 5, 2012

God, what an amazing movie. I would suggest that the discomfort you feel---the disorientation, the too-close perspective, the way external space becomes disorienting through the rigors of the trial---is exactly the intended effect. It's a profoundly and appropriately Catholic film for its sense of a world built of thought and doctrine, and quite Scandanavian-Protestant for its commitment to making the external world irrelevant in the face of religious ecstasy.

It's the latter quality that makes it still revolutionary today---film is an art of surfaces, but Dreyer focuses on the surface of the face so intently that the external facts of the universe are dissolved, as if in acid, before the emotional and theological conflict. Dreyer's VAMPYR has a similarly disorienting effect---cinema still hasn't caught up to his knack for destabilization and uncertainty in this most literal medium.

Also: Guest appearance by young and beautiful Antonin Artaud! Crazy expressionist sets, deliberately undershown rather than shown off! And many a shot to is irresistibly useful for video collage!
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:33 AM on August 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Perhaps worth nothing that in 1928, Joan had only been a saint for eight years.
posted by BWA at 1:34 PM on August 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Worth noting...
posted by BWA at 1:49 PM on August 6, 2012

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