Carl Theodor Dreyer John Hutchens - Essay

John Hutchens

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The Maid of Orleans has come singularly and movingly to life in Carl Th. Dreyer's film, The Passion of Joan of Arc. (p. 373)

The legends and fancies built about Joan in the last five centuries are so many and diversely colored, so blighted by fanaticism or fervor or chilling "analysis", that most of them have led either too tricky or too mystic a path back to that gray day of the murder at Rouen. To its vast credit, the scenario wrought by Mr. Dreyer and Joseph Delteil does nothing of the sort. Instead, with the absorbing directness of a piece of excellent trial reporting, it has hurdled the boundaries and by-the-way distractions of some centuries of legend, has gone back to understand what happened to Joan, and why. And such are its qualities, as suddenly refreshing and clarifying as those of good painting, that from it she now emerges a still simple child, heartbreaking alike in her helplessness and her courage.

Under Mr. Dreyer's direction, her story is told entirely as a series of individual studies,—of Joan herself and those who judged her, and the telling of it is a sharp and unsparing performance, the first of its kind the screen has seen. In each study is the completeness of a single portrait, such that the composition of The Passion of Joan of Arc is that of a gallery stirred to life and given flow and beauty by movement. Save for a few moments at the end of the film, the spectator stands no...

(The entire section is 405 words.)