Carl Theodor Dreyer Harry Alan Potamkin - Essay

Harry Alan Potamkin

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The Passion of Jeanne d'Arc is a] profound and truly passionate motion picture. (p. 7)

There is no extraneous detail in the film. Not once does a detail fail to directly relate and contribute to the subject-matter. At one point, Jeanne sees the grave-digger pull up a skull. Unnecessary? Obvious? There is a swift succession, almost staccato in its brevity, of a field of flowers. The previous detail becomes inevitable, poignant. In fact, the entire film has that virtue, that at any moment the detail on the screen validates what preceded it. This is rhythm, this is art. The beautiful flight of birds, as Jeanne is perishing, the mother suckling her child—the former might be a sentimentalism, the latter a surrealistic simplicism; but by the severe control of the director, they become terrible convictions of the world that would let one who loved free flight perish bound, and one who herself would suckle life burn at the stake. Creation against desolation! (p. 8)

[In the film there is no] specious prettiness, but hardiness, man in his physical variousness, man in his spiritual diversity serving the same master—Interest. The Interest of State, the Interest of Church, the Interest of God….

The Passion of Jeanne d'Arc is an historical film, but not a costume film; an historical film that is contemporaneous in its universal references. The Passion of Jeanne d'Arc is a religious film, but not a sanctimonious film. Life, it urges, is transcendent. It is a transcendent film. (p. 9)

Harry Alan Potamkin, "'The Passion of Jeanne d'Arc'," in National Board of Review Magazine (copyright, 1929), Vol. IV, No. 1, January, 1929, pp. 7-9.