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The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928, Fr.) (aka La Passion De Jeanne D'Arc)

In director Carl Theodor Dreyer's silent film masterpiece - shot mostly with close-ups (and a few medium shots) and in stark black and white (and high-contrast lighting), with dialogue (on inter-title cards) derived from the actual 500 year-old transcripts of French warrior heroine Joan's heresy trial:

  • 19 year old French warrior heroine Jeanne D'Arc (Maria Falconetti) was captured by French loyal to the British, imprisoned, and brought to trial (bound in chains) before the Holy Office, composed of cruel, tormenting, grotesque inquisitors (stern priests, prison guards and judges)
  • during her heresy trial, she was charged with claiming divine guidance and heavenly visions for her military exploits ("You claim to be sent by God...How can you still believe that you are sent by God?"), by those who ridiculed her, shouted at her, and beat and tortured her, when she asserted under oath: "To save France"; she claimed that the judges were sent by the devil to make her suffer
  • when the Chief Inquisitor Juge (Armand Lurville) asked: "Has God made you promises?", she responded: "That has nothing to do with this trial"; he replied to her: "Shouldn't we let the judges decide that? Shall we put this question to a vote?"; all the judges were compelled to raise their hands and answer the question with an affirmative; then he again asserted and pressed further: "So! What has God promised you? Perhaps that you will be delivered from prison? When?"; tears streamed down her cheeks as she answered: "I know neither the day nor the hour"; she was led back to her prison cell
  • in prison, she was mocked and abused, given a fake crown to wear, deceived, and denied the Holy Sacrament, while she continually clung courageously and painfully to her faith (eventually with tears streaming down her face) without confessing to the charges
  • the real-life Jeanne D'Arc's 29 cross-examinations (combined into one inquisition in the film) were combined with torture and head shaving
  • the verdict of guilty was handed down, and she prayed: "Dear God, I accept my death gladly but do not let me suffer too long. Will I be with You tonight in Paradise?"
  • her execution - burned at the stake (with an uplifted, beatific, giving a look of forgiveness and pity directed at the gawking onlookers)

Inquisitor: "Has God Made You Promises?"

Courtroom Trial


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