Monday, May 30, 2011

The Passion of Joan of Arc, a movie worth watching

30 May 1431, The Maid of Orléans is born into heaven
580 years ago, “at Rouen, St. Joan of Arc, Virgin, called the Maid of Orleans, who, after having fought bravely for her fatherland, was at length delivered into the power of her enemies and was condemned by a wicked judge and burnt at the stake. Benedict XV, Supreme Pontiff, inscribed her name on the roll of the saints.” (from the Roman Martyrology) The courageous Maid died at the age of nineteen.
In his Wednesday audience of 26 January 2011, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the last moments of St. Joan’s life: “On the morning of May 30, 1431, she received holy Communion for the last time in prison, and immediately after she was taken to her ordeal in the square of the old market. She asked one of the priests to put in front of the stake the cross of the procession. Thus she died looking at Jesus crucified and pronouncing many times and in a loud voice the Name of Jesus.”

The Passion of Joan of Arc – a movie worth watching
Carl Theodore Dreyer’s silent fill of 1928 is not only one of the best (and in my opinion, the best) Catholic movie of all time, it is also widely regarded as a landmark of cinema. Renée Jeanne Falconetti, who plays St. Joan of Arc, delivers a stunning performance which is often rated as one of the finest ever recorded on film. The film was well received by Mordaunt Hall of the New York Times who wrote, “as a film work of art this takes precedence over anything that has so far been produced. It makes worthy pictures of the past look like tinsel shams. It fills one with such intense admiration that other pictures appear but trivial in comparison.”
Additionally, the silent film is often presented with Richard Einhorn’s musical accompaniment “Voices of Light” – this is the music provided in the Criterion Collection edition. The musical score (produced only in 1994) includes many texts from Sacred Scripture as well as from the writings of St. Joan and from other female mystics of the late middle ages and early modern period (including, some who were censured by the Church). These texts can be found here, in pdf form.
The movie follows (quite closely) the historical account of St. Joan’s trial and execution. Though Carl Dreyer was not a Catholic, he captures well the martyrdom of the Saint and unites her passion with the passion of our Lord. Spiritually and theologically, this film will lead many souls to a new spiritual friendship with St. Joan of Arc and with the Lord.
[if you do purchase the movie, be sure to get the correct language and region code (USA is 1 and most of Europe is 2)]
The movie can also be found on YouTube:
The Passion of Joan of Arc, full movie (French text only)
The Passion of Joan of Arc, full movie in parts linked together in a playlist (English subtitles)
The final scene: The martyrdom of St. Joan of Arc


The Secret Thomist said...

What an awesome film. I could not stop watching it.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Yes indeed, it is an excellent movie!

If you like "The Passion of Joan of Arc", you may enjoy another film by Dreyer called "Ordet" (sometimes, "The Word") -- Ordet is a bit odd, it is about a somewhat strange religious community in which a young man name Johannes thinks he is the Messiah ... the movie culminates with an attempt at resurrection ...
You can see it on Youtube (in a playlist) --

Peace! +

[n.b. Ordet is not (inmho) as good as The Passion of Joan of Arc, but it is cinematically very interesting since the shots are from a long distance away (in contrast to the Passion, where Dreyer gives many many close ups)]

Dismas said...

I agree with Secret Thomist, incredible. I'll have to watch Ordet as well. Another movie in a seemingly similar vein that struck me deeply is Babett's Feast.

Petrus Augustinus said...

What are your opinions on Luc Besson's film? I found it entertaining though it was a bit irritating that it wasn't in French. Also, the cast was great.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

It has been many years since I have seen "The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc" ... as I recall, the movie is quite blasphemous.

I remember a scene near the end where Dustin Hoffman (as the Lord) visits Joan and hears her confession -- in it he convicts her of pride, egotism, being blood-thirsty and vengeful. The point seems to be that Joan of Arc was wrong in her "mission" to defeat the French and that her military pursuits were done out of pride. Indeed, it seems to even call into question the validity of her visions.

Even thinking about the movie is starting to make me angry!
[as a man, I get very defensive of female saints]

Regarding the cast (and on a more cheerful note), I will say that Dustin Hoffman is one of the best actors of the modern day (inho).

Also, I do have some slight memory of liking two scenes from the movie: When St. Joan recognizes Charles VII from amongst the crowd, and when St. Joan looks upon the crucifix held before her as she dies.

Pedro Erik Carneiro said...

Thank you for this film. I will post in my blog ( that is written in Portuguese.

Pedro Erik

Petrus Augustinus said...


Hmm...wasn't it rather just part of her simple confession? I mean, one may confess pride and blood-shedding without actually being an egoist, bloodthirsty bandit, right?

Also, Hoffman was, I'd say, the Lord as Joan of Arc saw Him. Could that be? I mean it's not hard to believe that she had doubts and fears and these fears manifested themselves as an accusing vision of our Lord. Or am I just talking nonsense here? :-)

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

You may be correct ... it has been a while since I saw the movie ...

Still, I distinctly remember thinking that the final confession was a liberally biased undercutting of the majority of St. Joan's mission ...

[it is interesting to note that it impossible for modernist liberals (e.g. nearly everyone in Hollywood) to accept St. Joan -- she is a strong woman, yet a devoted conservative; she is a peasant, yet a monarchist; she works and prays for peace, yet wages war; she is a visionary, yet relied on the Sacraments ...]

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