Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Passion of Joan of Arc

In some ways this is one of the most remarkable silent films I've ever seen, though I didn't actually enjoy watching it that much. It tries to accurately portray the last days of Joan's life, as she is tried, tortured, and executed, so you can imagine that it's not that fun to watch. It has a pretty quick running time, although with it consisting mostly of the actress playing Joan crying and staring intensely while people try to force her to confess to some holy crime, it doesn't exactly fly by. It's a bit different from most other silent movies I've seen, having no accompanying musical score, which adds to the starkly cold and bleak spirit of the story, and featuring a lot more subtitled dialogue than usual. It probably would have benefited from actually being a sound picture more than other movies of the era, though I guess it's possible the performance might not have played so hauntingly.

What's really the most impressive thing about the movie is the very advanced filming techniques used to make it. There are lots of close ups and rapidly edited moments, which is pretty unlike the style of the time and contributes heavily to its unique feel. It's also by far the earliest film I've seen to feature some of its more graphic content. I guess it deserves a lot of credit for how watchable it ends up being despite being an 80 year old French silent film, but I still found myself continuing on because it was important and not because I liked anything about it. It's really the ultimate example of a movie that people should see but probably don't want to. I don't want to seem harsh on it - it really is a noteworthy, important, often powerful film. It's just the kind of thing I doubt I'll ever want to see again.

No comments: