The Passion of Joan of Arc / La passion de Jeanne d’Arc

Directed by: Carl Th. Dreyer

Released: 1928

Featured Actors: Maria Falconetti






General Notes

  • Main Goal is realized mysticism in a physical form (and the form is film)
  • Dreyer’s films need the viewer to assume responsibility for their choices and understandings
  • Dreyer limits (or sculpts away) the choices the viewer has
  • Dreyer intended to create an authentic experience, a documentary of this moment
  • Joan of Arc was canonized in 1920
  • The film is not an exact reproduction, but imitates documentary (the scribe is the link between the past occurrences and the present film depicting those moments)
  • Originally no credits were used, Dreyer said (loosely): why impose our livelihoods on the character? It ruins the illusion.
  • The film chooses to focus upon theological issues


  • Dreyer searches for the face to convey the mood
  • Uses unknown actors willing to follow his dictates (actor as model)
  • All actors ate 15th century food, stayed on set for the shoot (4 months)
  • No Make-up, Dreyer sees make-up as a mask

Judges (representing the Catholic Church, the scholars of the Church)

  • Authority challenged, by Joan bypassing the church
  • Hypocritically sympathetic
  • Patriarchal
  • Allied with English conquerors
  • Attempt to trap Joan through logic

Joan (representing innocent and pure truth in the face of intellectual cleverness)

  • Dressed in men’s clothing
  • Dreyer averts the conventional visual representations (2nd only to Napoleon in French illustrations and imagery) – the film excludes the peasant girl or warrior representations
  • Lillian Gish was initially rumored to play Joan
  • Joan cannot read – shows no cleverness or awareness of the struggle to win an argument

Cinematography & Composition & Visual Style

  • Close-ups used to exclude & emphasize
  • Judges surround her
  • Judges’ faces are similar to landscapes, hostile
  • Note contrast between the close-up & the frenetic
  • Movement can occur from L to R or R to L