Saturday, September 27, 2003

Tonight I watched Dreyer's Passion of Joan of Arc on vid, the 2nd of my borrowings this week from the UNT media library. (Last night I watched Fellini's The White Sheik, which I liked.)I'm not quite sure what to make of Passion. The acting is fairly subdued for a silent(based on my admittedly limited experience of them), but there's this curious cutaway shot when Joan is being led away to the stake. We see a closeup of a baby suckling at a quite visible breast, then cut back to Joan, then cut to the baby again, who stops looking and goes back to nursing. Is the baby supposed to suggest the baby Jesus, as in various famous depictions of the Jesus baby with mum, suggesting Joan's sense that she has been forsaken? I imagine many 20-something film students, weaned on Tarantino, tittering at the scene. Yes, yes, I know reception from an insensitive audience shouldn't matter; but it is a bit jarring.

Maria Falconetti's performance is supposed to be one of the transcendent film performances of all time, but as I said, I'm not sure what to think, and not just because of that shot. It reminds me of how disappointed I was with Griffith's Intolerance, which I saw a good 15 years ago, and which I'll admit I really don't remember very well. Maybe I need to see more dramatic silent features to allow me to have a better sense of her performance, or maybe I just need to watch it again.