In Carl Dreyer's silent masterpiece The Passion of Joan of Arc, actress Falconetti creates a emotionally harrowing and devastating performance, presenting to us a woman who embodies fear, pain and sorrow, lowering her head in defeat while a single tear rolls down her face. Surprisingly Falconetti made only this one single movie with critic Pauline Kael stating, "It may be the finest performance ever recorded on film. The Passion of Joan of Arc is one of the greatest silent achievements of all celluloid; a film so tragic, painful and devastating and yet holy, transcendent and divine. It was directed by the legendary Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer, who is considered one of the great masters in the art form of the cinema.
The Passion of Joan of Arc is famous for it's bizarre cinematography, as Dreyer uses strange and distorted medium shots, emphasizing the aesthetic tension between a frightened and disoriented Joan, and of her cruel and mocking tormentors. Shots are taken from an extremely low angle which give the impression that the judges are hovering above Joan like larger than life demons, presenting to Joan a form of dominance, fear and intimidation. The original screenplay that was given to the director was thrown out, and Dreyer instead spend over a year and a half researching the story of Joan of Arc by turning to the transcripts of Joan's trial, magnificently combining all 29 cross-examinations into one inquisition over the course of 18 months. The original negative of The Passion of Joan of Arc was unfortunately destroyed in a fire, with Dreyer dying thinking that the original negative would be lost forever. In one of the most important discoveries in cinema history, a virtually complete print of Dreyer's original version was miraculously discovered in 1981 in a janitor's closet of a closed off Norwegian mental institution in Oslo.