The Passion of Joan of Arc


I’m going to have to be a naysayer on this one. While I appreciate director Carl Theodore Dreyer’s evocative and, for the time, inventive use of the close-up and his restraint on insisting that the film be shown without any music or sound, I found The Passion of Joan of Arc to be more dull than not. Yes, Renee Maria Falconetti’s performance is emotionally stirring and deserving of the decades of hype. However, The Passion of Joan of Arc is based on the transcripts of the original trial, so this silent film is rather dialog heavy. Unlike the previous GFOATs that find novel ways of progressing plot without dialog, most of Joan of Arc relies on dialog to move things forward.

Because the film is based on her trial, the majority of the film takes place inside thereby denying the tale of the epic scope it deserves. Only when the story moves outside for her execution does the film suggest the cultural impact of her life.

I’m not saying that this is not a great and important film. It most certainly is. But compared to the other films made prior to this one which made the list, Joan of Arc doesn’t quite feel deserving of inclusion. It’s a bit difficult to see this film on the list at the expense of some other movies from the silent era that didn’t make the cut: Pandora’s Box, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, or Nosferatu.

After 4 films, my personal rankings look like this:

  1. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)
  2. The General (1926)
  3. Battleship Potemkin (1925)
  4. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

Next Up: Metropolis