In This Article The Passion of Joan of Arc

  • Introduction
  • Screenplays and Editions
  • Writings by and Interviews with Dreyer
  • Critical Responses
  • Textual Analysis of Images
  • Analysis of Written Text, Silence, and/or Sound
  • Print History
  • Music
  • Legacy in Film History and Theory
  • Overviews of Films about Joan of Arc
  • Substantive Comparisons with Other Joan of Arc Films
  • Spirituality and Religion
  • Politics and Gender

Cinema and Media Studies The Passion of Joan of Arc
by
Robin Blaetz
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 July 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0189

Introduction

There are few films in the history of the medium with as stellar a reputation and complex a history as Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1928 film, La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc. Dreyer was a Danish director who had made eight films over the course of his career: The President (1919), The Parson’s Widow (1920), Leaves from Satan’s Book (1921), Love One Another (1922), Once upon a Time (1922), Michael (1924), Master of the House (1925), and Bride of Glomdal (1926). As is told and retold in the many essays about the film, the French production company Société Générale engaged him to make a film and gave him as a choice of subjects, Marie Antoinette, Catherine de Medici, or Joan of Arc. With his choice made, the casting of theatrical actress Renée Falconetti has become the stuff of legends, both for her remarkable performance wearing no make-up in a film shot largely in close-ups, and for the way in which Dreyer treated her so as to attain the image of suffering that he wanted. While the film’s reputation was not at all guaranteed from the start, it has become one if not the most respected and honored film in film history. It has become known not only for its rigorous formal structure, dominated by close-ups and a lack of establishing shots that create a world out of kilter, but also for the seriousness with which it approaches its subject, as well as its material history. It was variously lost in fires, reedited multiple times, and found in unlikely places. It is quite certain that the print found in Norway in 1980 is one of the two prints passed by the Danish film censors ahead of the world premiere in April 1928. Yet the film remains a tantalizing artwork that continues to attract scholarship because of its dramatic history as well as its formal integrity and beauty.

Screenplays and Editions

The study of the film and its multiple prints has been facilitated and complicated by numerous versions of both the screenplay as well as listings of subtitles, as found in “Carton Danois de la copie originale” 1988, and frame enlargements as seen in Guerrasio 1945. Dreyer 1983 and Delteil 1927 offer very different versions of the script in French, while Gassen 1996 presents a German translation. Kermabon 1988 offers an extensive description of the intertitles, shot distance, and shot length in French. Dreyer 2005 and Dreyer 2012 are digital versions of the film.

  • “Cartons Danois de la copie originale.” L’Avant-Scène Cinéma 367–368 (January–February 1988): 150–152.

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    A numbered listing of the 174 subtitles from the film in the Danish original.

  • Delteil, Joseph. La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc. Paris: Editions M. P. Trémois, 1927.

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    As Van Ness 1975 (cited under Making of the Film) notes, Delteil’s version of the script is very different from the one that Dreyer filmed, and only pieces of it found their way into the final film. However, Delteil’s name remains closely connected to the film’s history.

  • Dreyer, Carl Th. Oeuvres cinématographiques 1926–1934. Edited by Maurice Drouzy and Charles Tesson. Paris: Cinémathèque française, 1983.

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    The original French text of the screenplay, including marginal notes left out of the Danish translation from 1964, which is the basis for the English-language translation Four Screenplays (see Dreyer 1970, cited under Writings by and Interviews with Dreyer).

  • Dreyer, Carl Th., dir. La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc, 1928. DVD. Kinokuniya Company, 2005.

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    From the Oslo print, transferred at 20 fps, with original Danish intertitles.

  • Dreyer, Carl Th., dir. La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc, 1928. Blu-ray/DVD. Masters of Cinema series, Eureka Entertainment, 2012.

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    From the Oslo print, transferred at both 20 fps and 24 fps, with original Danish intertitles. Also includes the Lo Duca version, taken from the second negative.

  • Gassen, Heiner, ed. Carl Th. Dreyer’s Jeanne d’Arc. Vol. 43–44, Revue CICIM. Munich: Institut Français de Munich, CICIM, 1996.

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    German translation of the screenplay, preceded by essays by Hans Schmid and Enno Patalas.

  • Guerrasio, Guido, ed. La Passione di Giovanna d’Arco, Cineteca Domus in volumi. Milano: Editoriale Domus, 1945.

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    Contains more than 100 frame enlargements from a print derived from the second negative.

  • Kermabon, Jacques. “La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc de Carl Th. Dreyer.” L’Avant-Scène Cinéma 367–368 (January–February 1988): 42–149.

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    Full description of the film in French, with intertitles as well as shot distance, shot length, and a brief description of the action.

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