Thursday, December 26, 2013

Passion of Joan of Arc [dir. Carl Dreyer]

I recently saw Passion of Joan of Arc on the Eureka blu-ray. The last I had seen this film about the trial of Joan of Arc at Beauvais and her subsequent burning at the stake was several years ago on a version that used Richard Einhorn's Voices of Light as the soundtrack. I held back a long time on getting this blu-ray for the reason that this score was a very integral part of the images I was seeing. But anyway, I took the plunge. This time I saw the film in a specially prepared 20 frames per second version (using frame interpolation) with a piano score by Mie Yanashita (I know director Dreyer intended for the film to be seen in complete silence, but I can't imagine doing that, at least for now). It remains a powerful experience. Earlier I used to wonder why large portions of the film do not have inter-titles, but now I realize that the inter-titles only reflect the words actually recorded in the written proceedings of the trial, and the script fills in the gaps with imagination and conjecture and does not give them any written dialog. Maria Falconetti's performance is THE reason to watch this film. Out of context it may just appear like a bunch of sad face expressions, but one can really believe her as a women tormented for her genuine conviction about being given a divine mission to rid France of the English.

Visually, the change in frame rate itself does not make a huge difference for me, but the image quality is a major bump from the standard definition version. Of course it's by no means reference grade material, because even after restoration there are plenty of minor scratches and other slight issues, but the image now has tremendous depth and nice texture especially in the (many) close-ups. The piano score does not have the awe-inspiring feel of the Einhorn score, but it is actually pretty good in holding the mood of the scenes.
The package is one of the most beautiful looking I have scene from Eureka. I have posted a few pics (from a crappy camera) of it here:


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