La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc (1928)
La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc is a silent film that depicts Joan of Arc’s trial, imprisonment, torture, and execution of burning at the cross. The film went into production during a time when Joan of Arc had a resurgence of popularity because of her canonization as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church (and also as a patron saint of France) in 1920. Carl Theodor Dreyer, the director, based the entire movie exactly on the records of her trial and execution. One of the many things that stood out in the movie was the emphasis on the actors’ facial features. Maria Falconetti, in the title role, wore no make up at all, and acted mainly through her facial expressions — which was made possible through use of the recently developed panchromatic film, which recorded skin tones in a naturalistic manner. This was Falconetti’s second and last film role. The original version of the film was lost for decades after a fire destroyed the main negative. Dreyer attempted to reconstruct a new version from outtakes and the surviving prints, but died before he was able to do so. The director died believing his masterpiece was lost forever, but happily enough, a virtually complete print of the original version was found in a janitor’s closet of an Oslo, Norway mental institution in 1981. La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc, and especially Falconetti’s performance, is highly beloved and rated among critics and viewers alike as one of the best silent films/performances of all time.