The Passion of Jeanne of Arc (La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc)

[silent film, Carl Theodor Dreyer, France 1928]
live-music: Einfrierung [2003] by IzP

duration: 94'


(first performed: april 27th 2003, Jeonju / South-Korea)


Dreyer uses judicial records from May 1431 as the basis for his film on the trial, suffering, and death of St. Joan of Arc. Called a “symphony of faces” by a contemporary critic, it remains the film that to this day serves as one of the purest examples of the emotive power of the cinematic close-up. However, the film shows much more than that: it is a highly sensitive composition with the finest gray-scale nuances of black and white film. Moreover, it shows that a silent film can contain dialogue, and that it can break with the conventions of historical films, remaining timeless in its organization. Its content unmasks both the double-faced aspects of sanctimony as well as background power struggles of ecclesiastical and secular nature. It is thus a richly faceted work of cinematography from the multifaceted cinematic year of 1928.


[text: Peter Ellenbruch / Scopium]


In the silent film “La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc” of Carl Theodor Dreyer, the use of text panels goes far beyond the advancement of the plot: the panels deepen the cinematic content insofar as the spoken (but inaudible) words form a cinematic symbiosis with their written counterparts. Consequently, content that would not be conveyed purely by pantomime can be cinematically portrayed, in a sense as it would be in sound film. It is as if the written word forms a synaesthetic connection with the preceding or following close-ups, and this connection then begins to sound in the mind of the viewer. Interzone perceptible uses these phenomena, employing the spoken word as starting material, from which a “crystallizing” electronic music is created. This in turn transforms the film’s material into a merciless crescendo … complete solidification … ice crystals, that are still freezing in the air … a laryngeal scream that goes far beyond the length of the breath … the live musician will seldom be tolerated by the prerecorded CD sound.


[translated by Eric Flesher]