Yesterday after an exhausting week, I decided to sit down and watch a movie that i've been told is a MUST SEE. When they told me it was a silent movie, I immediately came to the conclusion it was Charlie Chaplin's City Lights, a great piece of cinema, in my opinion. Their response was no, no, this one was WAY better than city lights. So with that I had to see what this movie was all about, and with a help of a friend, I got the dvd. The movie was called The Passion of Joan of Arc.
A french silent film, created in 1928 by Carl Dreyer, It stars Renee Falconetti, whose performance as Joan in this movie would put actors of today to shame. The movie is a little more than an hour long. It goes through the trial and execution of a young french woman who claims that she had been sent by god to save France. The movie was made close to the time that the catholic church officially canonized Joan of Arc as a saint. It was perfect timing, especially since at the time France had gone through hell during world war 1. This film and many others at the time were not only to made to celebrate this new saints life, but also promote nationalistic pride. So the demand to make a Joan of arc film was high and it allowed this director Dreyer to do his film in whatever way he wanted, with no limitations,no restrictions, it was a free for all.
Dreyer let his artistic creativity go insane with this movie, he wanted to really grab his audience emotionally, but above all make a TRUTHFUL movie. He demanded his actors not to wear any make up, shave their heads, and keep it that way until the end of production, which would last as many days as did the actual trial of Joan of arc. To add to the truthfulness factor, the film was produced using a new material (that escapes me at the moment) which allowed skin and skin tones to be shown in a more natural realistic way. Dreyer was also obsessed with the close up, in fact the film was made almost entirely of close ups. I cant even tell you how many shots in total there were in this movie, but there were to many to count. Dreyer also deliberately broke with the rules of filming multiple times to add to the emotional impact of the scene,
When i was finished with the movie i was in total shock at how absolutely brilliant it truly was, and yet at its time it was considered avant garde. The film wasnt widely shown in theatres because it was just too controversial and felt the mainstream audience just wouldn't like it. The truth is, it was way ahead of its time, and people were just not ready to be uncomfortable yet.
I wonder how they would feel if they had scene Gibsons passion of the Christ? If i had to compare the two passions, hands down Joan of Arc wins. It portrays Joan's sufferings and trials much more affectively than Gibsons beat up Christ. Of course the difference is that Dreyer used a more artistic approach, to tell the story. Gibson went for a more primitive approach, the actual physical beating of Christ to tell his passion story. One is more conceptually thought out in order to bring out the emotion of the story, the other just kept beating a man until people couldn't take it anymore. I'm not putting down Gibsons passion, I thought it was great movie, i simply prefer Dreyers approach because he took the harder path.
If you want to work in film, maybe create a movie someday, i highly suggest you see this movie. It definitely inspires you as an artist, and is a must have in your movie library. Its hard to find ART in films today, and i'm not talking about a greatly designed kraken, i'm talking about film as art. Money is to blame for that, but thats another topic for another day.