The Passion of Joan of Arc

The Passion of Joan of Arc

The Passion of Joan of Arc
Starring: Maria Falconetti, Eugene Silvain
Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer
Format: Black & White
Rated: NR
Studio: Criterion Collection
DVD Release Date: November 9, 1999
Run Time: 82

“Passion of Joan of Arc” was beautiful. I put it on my list of essential DVDs after viewing the last part of it on Turner Classic Movies.

Other reviews have said that "Passion" was the best of the films of Joan of Arc, and after viewing this masterpiece directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer (cq), it’s hard to think that something better could be out there.

Five stars across the board for the presentation, quality (sound and video) and for the film itself, which is one that demands the most caring team to make certain that a DVD presentation is of the best quality. This comes from the Criterion Collection, and make no mistake about it, they did what this archive in cinematic achievement demanded.

The DVD contains a digitally restored, black and white transfer from an original negative which was discovered in 1981 in a Norwegian mental institution (perhaps the person who hid this gem was not crazy, after all). Originally a silent movie, the film is accompanied by a digital stereo composition performed by Anonymous 4 with soloist Susan Narucki and the Radio Netherlands Philharmonic and Choir. The audio, which is optional to the viewing of "Passion" is GORGEOUS. The music alone is worth the price of admission.

Included with the DVD is a "Voices of Light" libretto booklet. Kudos to composer Richard Einhorn. If you’re reading this, I’d love your autograph. This work is a "must have" in a serious collector of cinematic (and orchestral) genius, so if you’re both, kill both birds with the same stone.

For the movie, I was stunned at the cinematic approach to filming "Passion." This is why I am certain that no one has come to within the state border of being close to the depth of passion that pours out of EVERY frame. From the opening scene to the bitter end, this DVD keeps you involved. By the end, you may be in tears, as I was. Lead actress Renee Falconetti is flawless in her role as Joan of Arc, and it’s simply a pity that her nature kept her away from acting. She only made two films, "La Comtesse de Somerive" [1917] was her first and "Passion" was her second. It seemed as though she became Joan from the start, and as she presented her role, she seemed to almost be consumed by the spirit of Joan’s demise herself. I wonder if Falconetti was all but traumatized by the structure in which she had to play the part? A website said that she fled her country during World War II for Buenos Aires, where she lived until 1946.

For those interested in filmmaking, this movie MUST BE SEEN. Repeat that sentence, which bears repeating. To this day, you will not see the wonderfully filmed and lit scenes, credited by Rudolph Mate, director of photography. The filming doesn’t go by the book, because in 1928, no book was even written on filmmaking. Today, I wish more directors and DP’s would go more by the books of Dreyer and Mate.

Technical details: This is ONLY for the Criterion Collection version: Transfer of an original print, via digital restoration; 82 minutes, B&W (no colorization) at its original screen aspect ratio of 1.33:1 (which is now TV format ratio); French inter-titles and optional English subtitles; optional silent- viewing or the digital stereo 5.1 surround of "Voices of Light," which was written for "Passion"; optional audio commentary by Univ. of Copenhagen Dreyer scholar Casper Tybjerg; audio interview with Falconetti’s daughter; details on the film’s restoration (with video comparisons); video essay on "Voices of Light"; 3- page dual- sided pamphlet which includes a small passage that Th. Dreyer wrote; 25- page "Voices of Light" libretto booklet; plus a Criterion catalog.

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