Christopher Miller on The Passion of Joan of Arc



A taster. Made in 1928, Carl Dreyer's masterpiece did a nose-dive at the box office. This isn't surprising, I suppose, when you consider its stark, modernist use of light and space. The film consists almost entirely of close-ups, but what close-ups: Dreyer frames faces in the way that Holbein might if someone had thrust a movie camera into his hands. ("The clerics", David Thompson writes, "are from Dürer.") Renée Falconetti was a stage actress who Dreyer discovered in a "boulevard comedy". She was in light entertainment, in other words, and she never made a film again. Nevertheless, according to Pauline Kael, this "may be the finest performance ever recorded on film". It looks slightly odd now but it's still extraordinarily compelling.



Christopher Miller is a teacher of film studies and a movie bore.