The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

passion of joan of arc poster 1928 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 8/10

Great performance by Maria Falconetti

Silent movies are challenging

Movie Info

Movie Name:   The Passion of Joan of Arc

Studio:  Société générale des films

Genre(s):   Silent/Drama

Release Date(s):   April 21, 1982 (Denmark)/October 25, 1928 (France)/March 28, 1929 (US)

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

passion of joan of arc crown maria falconetti crying

She’s either a tortured soul or a hipster kid posing for an Instagram picture

Joan of Arc (Renée Jeanne Falconetti) has been captured and facing trial.  Dressing like a man and claiming she is instructed by God, Joan of Arc has angered the Church and threatened England.  Joan is pushed to the limits of her faith as she must decide if her life or her belief is more important.  There is only one solution for Joan and she could become a martyr.

Written and directed by Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer (with addition scripting by Joseph Delteil), The Passion of Joan of Arc (La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc) is a French silent drama.  For years, the only existing copy of the film was heavily edited but a copy was found in a mental asylum in Oslo, Norway in 1981 which had the original editing.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #62).

Silent films are sometimes very tough to watch.  It is even harder if you know where the story is going.  The Passion of Joan of Arc suffers from both aspects of this challenge.  The movie took a couple of sittings to watch, but the movie still has power.

passion of joan of arc maria faconetti praying shaved head crying

Girl knew how to bring the tears

The story is based on the transcript of the actual trial.  It also goes into the interesting sticking points of the trial.  Much of the attention of the trial was why Joan dressed like a man and how it was an offense to God.  It also shows the tricks to trap Joan in her claims along with the moment that Joan did agree to sign a confession along with her recant of the confession.  The tough part of the story is that now Joan would probably be diagnosed with a mental condition like schizophrenia or possibly just a lower mental capacity.

The movie really is a powerhouse for Renée Jeanne Falconetti (credited as Melle Falconetti).  She cries and is tormented by the moment.  She goes all out in the movie and is pushed to the limit.  Without sound, it is even tougher for an actor to emote what they are experiencing, but Falconetti succeeds.

passion of joan of arc burned at stake maria falconetti cross

Faith above all else…

Dreyer uses a very toned down set for the movie.  It is a lot of white and very basic.  There was controversy at his selection when the film was announced since the French felt it was a French story and a Danish director shouldn’t have been selected (but he succeeded in winning the audience).  The movie is strong and with very stylized shots.

The Passion of Joan of Arc is a classic.  It is tough to watch but not for the reasons you’d expect (though a very real bloodletting is hard).  Watch it in chunks and see a telling of a story you probably already know.  The difficulty comes from watching a silent film and not Joan’s experience…but it is worth making the effort to see the film even if you have an aversion to silent films.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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