A classic of the silent age, this film tells the story of the doomed but ultimately canonized 15th-century teenage warrior. On trial for claiming she'd spoken to God, Jeanne d'Arc is subjected to inhumane treatment and scare tactics at the hands of church court officials. Initially bullied into changing her story, Jeanne eventually opts for what she sees as the truth. Her punishment, a famously brutal execution, earns her perpetual martyrdom.
Maria Falconetti is superb as the eponymous tortured soul betrayed and tried for heresy in 15th century France. The history is well known, and Carl Theodor Dreyer sticks fairly faithfully to the more established, traditional, chronology which leaves us, the audience, to focus much more on the wonderfully emotive, gritty and poignant efforts from the cast and the wonderfully creative talent behind the camera. The combination of innovative, intimate and intense photography coupled with the beautifully expressive facial expressions from Miss Falconetti; the subtle but potent brutality of her persecutors - personified well by Eugene Silvain's Bishop Cauchon but also well exemplified by the cold and soul-less panel of judges all make this an effective and chilling film. The score - semi angelic, frequently intimidating but always powerful helps create an atmosphere that genuinely makes you feel fear and trepidation for this young woman, a pawn in things she little understands, but sticking faithfully to her beliefs of divine intervention and pureness of spirit. That emotional link is contagious, and even as a man of little faith myself, I found myself feeling an overwhelming pity for this person caught up in a trap of very much earthly ambition and deceit. It's a tough watch at times, especially as the chronicles remove even the slightest of chances for this woman. It is also pretty short - and that helps keep that momentum moving really well; there is no time for extended and sprawling cinematography to lessen the impact - it's a film about humanity, trauma and fear; and takes some beating...