The Passion of Joan of Arc ★★★★★

I am not a religious man. Growing up, my mother took me to church because she felt she should, an obligation rather than any actual deep connection to a deity or the scripture that was referenced each week. My father would spend each Sunday morning out in nature, taking walks or just sitting and reflecting on the beauty of the world around him, thus he would rarely if ever join us at church. As I hated going and found the one hour to be painfully boring, absorbing nothing from the teachings of Jesus Christ, I finally spoke up and asked my old man why it was fair that I had to go and he didn't.

He explained that he did go to church as well, but his didn't require sitting in a building or giving a donation to feel a connection with a greater power. He felt it when he was outside, breathing the air, smelling the trees, and looking up at the sublime blue of the sky on a perfect day. His church was the world, and whether or not a God actually existed didn't matter when he was out there taking it all in. Whatever created this beautiful world was irrelevant, because it brought him peace.

I have only entered a church twice over the past 10 or so years, both times because I wanted to honor the lives of my wonderful grandparents after they had passed, but on a weekly organized level it just isn't for me. I do not judge or begrudge anyone whose faith brings them in each week to a place that brings them tranquility and a sense of understanding, as I believe people should embrace anything that brings them such joy. For me, those feelings come with the appreciation of film as an art form, and when a certain work strikes the right chord in me, I feel closer to God than I ever thought I could. The first time I felt a spiritual connection to a film was during my third viewing of The Tree of Life, as I didn't embrace it initially but after I allowed its themes and imagery to soak into the pores of my soul, I was literally a changed man.

I had not made such a connection again since The Tree of Life. On an emotional level, sure, other films have found a way into my heart and reinforced the power of cinema, but I have wondered if there was anything else out there that was so powerful, so glorious that it could leave me initially speechless. I have found that film, The Passion of Joan of Arc, by Carl Theodor Dreyer.

I was given the option to either screen the film the way it was originally intended, the totally silent version, or with the inclusion of the oratorio titled "Voices of Light" by composer Richard Einhorn. I did some quick research and found that while it wasn't added onto the work until 1994, "Voices of Light" was a stunning achievement that beautifully enhanced the already highly regarded film, so I chose that option. Obviously I won't know what the experience would have done for me without the music, but what I viewed late last night into the early portions of the morning absolutely blew me away. As of 2 AM, with the start of work lurking only hours away, I had trouble falling asleep. I stared at the ceiling thinking of what I had witnessed. I couldn't get it out of my mind.

In the next week or so, I am going to watch The Passion of Joan of Arc again before making anything official, but as of right now I have to consider the possibility that it is the greatest film I have ever seen. Shot and framed so masterfully, every facial expression affected me. Every tear that streamed down felt like it was on my own skin. I am humbled by the genius of this work.

5 stars doesn't do it justice. The Passion of Joan of Arc is why I love film.

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