September 18, 2011

La Passion de Jeanne d' Arc

Last night at Edmonton's Metro Cinema there was a special showing of Carl Theodore Dreyer's La Passion de Jeanne d' Arc, featuring an original score written and performed live by an eclectic group of local musicians. A silent film, originally released in 1928, La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc, is based on the record of the trial of Joan of Arc and is remarkable not only for its production and its innovative cinematography, but also for the riveting performance of Renee Jeanne Falconetti as the title character. The staggering depth of emotion in Falconetti's performance as Joan of Arc, as well as the austere portraits of her judges (the sinister church fathers), are expertly brought out by Dreyer's careful attention to the to the human face. Especially with a thoughtful score behind it, the film is simply devastating.

Originally, the music for the film was played live in the theatre and it's widely believed that Dreyer purposefully avoided giving the film a definitive score. Since being rediscovered in 1981, the film has even been scored by the likes of Nick Cave and Cat Power. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find any footage with the accompanying music online, but just by watching the part of the film, you can begin to see why it continues to serve as a muse for all kinds of musicians and composers.

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