Ticket Information: $10.50 general admission at the door
courtesy of Janus Films:
Spiritual rapture and institutional hypocrisy are brought to stark, vivid life in one of the most transcendent achievements of the silent era. Chronicling the trial of Joan of Arc in the final hours leading up to her execution, Danish master Carl Theodor Dreyer depicts her torment with startling immediacy, employing an array of techniques—including expressionistic lighting, interconnected sets, and painfully intimate close-ups—to immerse viewers in her subjective experience. Anchoring Dreyer’s audacious formal experimentation is a legendary performance by Renée Falconetti, whose haunted face channels both the agony and the ecstasy of martyrdom. Thought to have been lost to fire, the film’s original version was miraculously found in perfect condition in 1981 in a Norwegian mental institution, heightening the mythic status of this widely revered masterwork.
Long available only in rare prints that necessitated live accompaniment, The Passion of Joan of Arc returns to screens in a new restoration, partnered with Richard Einhorn’s acclaimed score “Voices of Light” for the first time theatrically.
About the Restoration:
The Passion of Joan of Arc was restored in 2015 by Gaumont, with funding from the Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée.
The restoration was created from a 2K scan of a duplicate negative made from the Danish Film Institute’s nitrate copy of Carl Theodor Dreyer’s original cut.
Notes on the score:
Unlike many other large-scale productions of the time, Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc was not released with a prewritten score for venues with live orchestras. Over the subsequent decades, many musicians and composers have filled that absence. For this release, Janus has offered two scores: Richard Einhorn’s acclaimed, Joan-inspired operetta Voices of Light, and, in its first recording, a new score by
Adrian Utley and Will Gregory.
Voices of Light is a work for voices and amplified instrumental ensemble, created in celebration of Joan of Arc. The libretto is a patchwork of visions, fantasies, and reflections assembled from various ancient sources, notably the writings of medieval female mystics. The texts may be thought of as representing the spiritual, political, and metaphorical womb in which Joan was conceived. The performance on this DCP dates from 1995 and features the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Steven Mercurio, with vocals by the Netherlands Radio Choir, Anonymous 4, Susan Narucki, Corrie Pronk, Frank Hameleers, and Henk van Heijnsbergen.
Born in 1952, Richard Einhorn graduated summa cum laude in music from Columbia University, and has written opera, orchestral and chamber music, song cycles, film music, and dance scores. Among many other projects, he composed the music for the Academy Award–winning documentary short Educating Peter (1992); the score for the New York City Ballet’s wildly popular Red Angels (which premiered in 1994); and an opera/oratorio based on the work and life of Charles Darwin, The Origin (which premiered in 2009).
Lost and Found
courtesy of press notes:
Despite only screening in butchered, incomplete versions, if at all, for much of the twentieth century, Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) was considered one of cinema’s great masterpieces, regularly finding its way onto Sight & Sound’s renowned list of the best films of all time. When a print of the original version was finally discovered in 1981, the film world breathed a sigh of relief, and archivists began to untangle the story of a film that seemed almost as doomed as its subject.
The Passion of Joan of Arc premiered in Copenhagen on April 21, 1928. Its French premiere was delayed by a campaign against the film by many on the nationalist right, who did not believe that a foreign director should be entrusted with the myth of Joan of Arc. The archbishop of Paris demanded several excisions, and further changes were made by government censors, before the film was finally screened in the city in October 1928.
Six weeks later, on December 6, a fire consumed the labs of the famous Ufa studio in Berlin, where Passion’s cinematographer, Rudolph Maté, had developed the film stock. The original negative was destroyed, and Dreyer was devastated.
However, there was an available work-around. Famous for demanding repeated takes, Dreyer had enough outtakes to create a second version. Using one of the few remaining release prints for comparison, Dreyer and his editor, Marguerite Beaugé, created a new negative that matched the original almost shot for shot. Tragically, even this second negative was lost to fire, this time at the labs of G.M. de Boulogne-Billancourt in 1929.
In 1951, the French film historian Joseph-Marie Lo Duca discovered an intact copy of the negative of Dreyer’s second version that had escaped destruction. Unfortunately, Lo Duca made significant changes. Wherever possible, he replaced intertitles with subtitles, and when that proved to be impossible, he replaced the original intertitles with text on images of stained-glass windows and church pews. The negative of Lo Duca’s version was also lost, but prints of it endured for many years. This was the version of the film that most audiences saw over the next three decades, and the one that Anna Karina famously watches in Jean-Luc Godard’s Vivre sa vie (1962).
Finally, in 1981, while cleaning out a closet in the Dikemark sykehus, a mental institution just outside Oslo, Norway, a worker found several film canisters, which were then sent to the Norwegian Film Institute. When they were opened, the canisters revealed not just a print of The Passion of Joan of Arc but wrapping paper bearing the Danish censor’s stamp of approval, dated 1928. Dreyer’s original version had finally been found.
How did the film end up in a closet? Harald Arnesen, the director of the institute at the time, may have wanted to screen it for staff and patients. (There are no records of it being screened in Oslo upon its release, but the print had been projected several times.) Regardless, the film was immediately preserved and new negatives created. Still, with very few 35 mm prints having been struck, the film remained difficult to see in a proper theatrical setting.
But no more. In 2015, Gaumont scanned a negative created from that fragile nitrate print discovered in Norway, creating a restored DCP for worldwide distribution and ensuring that Dreyer’s original vision not only exists but can be seen in theaters, in public, once again.
“Nothing in the world can be compared to the human face. There is no greater experience in a studio than to witness the expression of a sensitive face under the mysterious power of inspiration. To see it animated from inside, and turning into poetry.”
The creator of perhaps cinema’s most purely spiritual works, Danish master Carl Theodor Dreyer is one of the most influential moving image makers of all time, his arrestingly spare and innovative approach echoed in the films of Ingmar Bergman, Robert Bresson, Andrei Tarkovsky, Lars von Trier, and countless others. After making his mark with such narrative silent films as the provocative Michael (1924) and Master of the House (1925), Dreyer created The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), which, though deemed a failure on its release, is now considered, with its mix of stark realism and expressionism (and astonishing, iconic performance by Maria Falconetti), one of the great artistic works of the twentieth century. For the next four decades, Dreyer would continue to make films about people caught in battle between the spirit and the flesh and to experiment technically with the form. Vampyr (1932) is a mesmerizing horror fable full of camera and editing tricks; Day of Wrath (1943) is an intense tale of social repression, made during the Nazi occupation of Denmark; Ordet (1955) is a shattering look at a farming family’s inner religious world; and Gertrud (1964) is a portrait of a fiercely independent woman’s struggle for personal salvation.
LinksHere is a curated selection of links shared on our Facebook page for additional insight/information:
1/18/18 – “Dreyer’s most universally acclaimed masterpiece remains one of the most staggeringly intense films ever made.” Tony Rayns, Time Out New York
1/22/18 – “The miracle of Joan is that it manages to be spiritual and visceral. It was conceived as a sort of documentary. Makeup was forbidden. The sets were constructed as actual rooms (although they were never fully shown), and the movie was shot in chronological order. This ‘realized mysticism,’ as Dreyer termed it in a 1929 essay, is reinforced by the score, Richard Einhorn’s 1995 oratorio ‘Voices of Light.'” J. Hoberman, New York Times – link
2/13/18 – As Adrian Curry explores over at MUBI’s Notebook, The Passion of Joan of Arc has had some incredible poster art over the years. – link
2/15/18 – “Although it might be tempting to save the best till last, Dreyer’s most respected film, The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), offers the most accessible introduction to his work. The apotheosis of Dreyer’s silent film craft, the film is rightly considered to be one of the true masterpieces of the pre-sound era.” – link