The Passion of Joan of Arc ★★★★★

Faces. Joan is stoic and pained, always looking slightly up to the camera, to her accusers, to her god, or to the floor when she feels abandoned. So much attention has already been spent on describing Maria Falconetti's performance and it is quite remarkable what she's able to convey in close-up frames without audibly delivering her rebuttals. In a way, the lack of sound for dialogue might actually assist her poise and strength, because we never hear her voice tremble or crack. But as great as she is, for me, the faces of the men who judge her are equally if not more important; their looks as they demand her to put on woman's clothes, to admit her pact with the devil, who sentence her to death, and who delight in her torture given the same tight framing as Joan.

Each face shows a different dismissive side of these men. Some are aghast at her conviction, some shrivel their noses in disgust, some are embarrassed by their admittance and hide their faces from her like a Judas, some point and shout and demand satisfaction, and some giggle to themselves because they get to make a clownish spectacle of her. This parade of men's faces runs the full gamut of patriarchal rebuttals then and now of women when they stick up for themselves in a room full of men. And it's the room full of men that allows for this wide-breadth of reaction to take place. The whole tribunal is "what do we do with her" which already puts her in a crushed position, with their collective faces as the clenched fist. When they walk into the courtroom they can discard her forever or knock her down permanently.

Joan of Arc shows great resolve when in the presence of these shifting levels of disdain for her. But the power of the movie isn't just in her martyrdom but in the immense and diverse villianry on display. She did not have a chance in that room unless she submitted wholly to the power of those men. Which continues on for all those who don't have representation in those rooms, with gender, race, and social classes represented. The questions have a dismissive quality because through a show of hands they've already learned that they own the room and the discourse that will happen therein.

I am also transfixed by Dreyer's ability to move the camera within the confined space, with fantastic pans that show the commotion in the court room while Joan sits or stands firmly. It's a testament to Dreyer's visual palette because the court room has forever proven to be a stuffy place for dramas to film with very little desire for camera movement in courtroom dramas. The camera adds to the anxiety of emotional faces by showing this experience as a swirling parade of individuals who just wanted to get this over with. Dreyer wants you to see the face of injustice but also to see how many individuals it takes to carry out such an injustice, and all their varied and inhumane reasons for doing that. And that the very nature of carrying that out societal silencing in the name of dignified men, is a busybody task.

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