In a film medium without words, where the artists believed that the essence of a character was what the camera lens captured through their face, to gaze into the eyes of Renee Maria Falconetti, you feel as if she is allowing you to delve into the deep dark depths of her soul. 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." It was said Dreyer first caught Falconetti on the stage as he was struck by her face stating, "There was a soul behind that facade.” He arranged screen tests and found exactly what he was looking for, which was a woman who embodied the intensity of pain and human suffering. 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, and like his similar masterpieces Ordet and Day of Wrath, this film deals more about faith and spirituality, than just the fundamental basics of Christianity. 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. Dreyer was known to be a highly tyrannical director and according to film critic Roger Ebert, "For Falconetti, the performance was an ordeal. Legends from the set tell of Dreyer forcing her to kneel painfully on stone and then wipe all expression from her face—so that the viewer would read suppressed or inner pain. He filmed the same shots again and again, hoping that in the editing room he could find exactly the right nuance in her facial expression." [fsbProduct product_id='803' size='200' align='right']The film 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. Dreyer also projects a series of shocking and disturbing close-ups, portraying the judges without make-up, shot in bright light, and of high contrast, focusing on the grotesque details in the judges facial features, including their eyes, their mouths, and of their wrinkles, emphasizing the crevices and flaws of their skin which seems to reflect a aging and diseased inner life. 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. Perhaps it helps that Falconetti had never made another film, because we do not have her face in other roles to compare her to, making her performance in the film exist purely in itself, with French director Jean Cocteau famously stating, "It plays as an historical document from an era in which the cinema didn't exist”.
"At the Bibliotheque de la Chambre des Deputes in Paris resides one of the most extraordinary documents in the history of the world: the record of the trial of Joan of Arc, the trial that ended in her death. The questions of the judges and Joan's responses were recorded exactly. Reading it, we discover the real Joan not in armor, but simple and human...a young woman who died for her country and we are witness to an amazing drama; a young, pious woman confronted by a group of orthodox theologians and powerful judges."
The story begins with her being brought into the trial chained to the feet and brought up in front of the jury to place her hand on the bible and solemnly swear "to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth." They then begin her rough interrogation with questions, while mocking and threatening her.
"What is your name?"
"In France, I am called Joan..in my village, I am called Jeanneton."
"How old are you.?
She counts on her fingers. "Nineteen...I think."
"Do you know the Lord's prayer. Who taught it to you?"
"You claim to be sent by God?"
"To save France, it's why I was born."
"So you think God hates the English?"
"I don't know if God loves or hates the English, but I do know the English will all be chased from France...except those that die here!"
"Why do you wear women's clothing.? If we give you women's clothing would you wear it?"
"When the mission from God has entrusted me is over I will again dress as a woman."
"And what reward to you expect from God?"
"The salvation of my soul."
The judges interrogate Joan for several hours trying to make her say something that will discredit her claim or shake her belief that she has been given a mission by God to drive the English from France, but she remains true to her belief. There's two nobles that do believe her and try their best to comfort her during this trial. The authorities then try to deceit her by coming up with an idea of reading to her a fake letter that was supposedly written by her king, Saint Charles, telling her to trust in the bearer. But even that does not work, so the next step is for Joan to be taken to see the torture chamber, and when she is first brought upon it she is horrified. "Even if you part my soul from my body, I will confess nothing," she tells them.
The torture chamber is shown as a cage of large sharp knifes and tools and fast spinning wheels with spikes. She suddenly faints and the judges take her back to her cell. While still being questioned in her cell Joan tells all the judges, "You claim that I am...sent by the Devil...it's not true. To make me suffer...the Devil has sent you...and you...and you!" This accusation enrages all the judges and so they decide to alert the executioner realizing nothing else can be done. When Joan is threatened by death of execution with being burned at the stake, she finally breaks and allows a priest to guide her hand in signing a confession. However, she soon recants and is then publicly executed.
One of the younger nobles who has comforted her throughout the trial asks her, "How can you still believe you were sent by God?" She answers, "God knows our path, but we understand it only at the end of the road! Yes, I am his child." He then asks her what her great delivery is and her deliverance and she answers by saying martyrdom and death. The guards then start cutting off all her hair, while Dreyer shows shots of grave diggers digging a newly fresh grave for her around bones and skulls filled with maggots. Spectators and crowds already start arriving and gathering themselves outside to see the public execution. Finally being sent a priest for her to finally confess her sins, she is then dragged outside as she prays, "dear God...I accept my death gladly."
Men, women and children all watch her as she is tied up and slowly burned at the stake. With the final shot of the fire and smoke creeping through the camera lens slowly burning Joan alive; she shouts "Jesus." Exhausted, starving, scared and in constant pain through torture and abuse Joan was only 19 years old when she was finally burned alive, and the ending shot of her death is a devastating and emotionally powerful scene as it starts an immediate riot with the people. The film ends with the credits, "The flames sheltered Joan's soul...as it rose to heaven Joan whose heart has become the heart of France...Joan, whose memory will always be cherished...by the people of France..."
After the success of Master of the House in Denmark, Dreyer was invited to make a film in France and proposed a film about either Marie Antoinette, Catherine de Medici or Joan of Arc. He later claimed that the final decision on the film's subject matter was determined by drawing matches. Joan of Arc was in the news in France after World War I, having been canonised as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church in 1920 and adopted as one of the patron saints of France.
Dreyer spent over a year and a half researching Joan for the film, and the script was based on the original transcripts of Joan's trial and execution, condensing 29 interrogations over the course of 18 months into one scene. The transcripts of the trial had been published in 1921 by editor Pierre Champion and were the main basis of Dreyer's script. The rights to Joseph Delteil's 1925 book on Joan of Arc were also purchased for the production, but nothing from Delteil's book was used in the finished film. However, at the film's premiere Delteil was partially credited as a source.
The film had one of the most expensive sets ever built for a European film up to that time. Dreyer was given a seven million franc budget. He constructed an enormous octagonal concrete set to depict Rouen Castle. Production designers Hermann Warm and Jean Hugo were inspired by medieval miniatures for their designs, adding unnatural angles and perspectives to add to Joan's emotional state of mind. They also relied on medieval manuscripts with accurate architectural drawings, such as John Mandeville's Livre de Merveilles. The huge set was built as one complete, interconnecting structure instead of in separate locations.
The castle had towers in all four corners with concrete walls running along the sides. Each wall was 10 centimeters thick so that they could support the weight of actors, technicians and equipment. A functional drawbridge was also built into one of the walls. Inside the walls were small houses, the courtyard where the burning took place and a cathedral. The entire set was painted pink so that it would appear grey in the black and white film and contrast against the white sky above it. Despite all of the detail put into the set, only segments of it are ever visible in the film, which later angered the film's producers since so much money was spent on the set. Hermann Warm's original models for the film's set are currently stored at the Danish Film Institute Archives.
What especially stood out at the time when The Passion of Joan of Arc was made was the film's camera-work and emphasis on the actors' facial features. Dreyer shot a great deal of the film in close-up, stating that "There were questions, there were answers- very short, very crisp...Each question, each answer, quite naturally called for a close-up... In addition, the result of the close-ups was that the spectator was as shocked as Joan was, receiving the questions, tortured by them". Dreyer also did not allow his actors to wear makeup, the better to tell the story through their expressions—this choice was made possible through use of the recently developed panchromatic film, which recorded skin tones in a naturalistic manner.
Dreyer often shot the priests and Joan's other interrogators in high contrast lighting, but then shot Joan in soft, even lighting. Rudolph Maté's high-contrast cinematography also allowed the details in people's faces, including warts and lumps, to be grotesquely visible. Dreyer also used many low angle shots of Joan's persecutors in order to make them seem more monstrous and intimidating, and several holes were huge on the set, causing the crew to nickname him "Carl Gruyére" Dreyer also shot the film "from the first to the last scene ... in the right order."
This was star Maria Falconetti's second and last film role, despite achieving iconic status in film history almost immediately. Falconetti always perferred the theater to film and never understood the positive reaction to the film. Dreyer went to see Falconetti backstage at a performance of Victor Margueritte's La Garçonne, a comedic play that she was appearing in. Dreyer wasn't initially impressed with her, but when he went to see her again the next day he "felt there was something in her which could be brought out; something she could give, something, therefore, I could take.
For behind the make-up, behind the pose and that ravishing modern appearance, there was something. There was a soul behind that facade." Dreyer asked her to do some screen tests the next day, but without any make-up. During the tests, Dreyer "found in her face exactly what I wanted for Joan: a country girl, very sincere, but also a woman of suffering." Dreyer then told Falconetti about the film and her role in great detail and Falconetti agreed to star in the film, but secretly hoped that she would not have to cut her hair or go without make-up.
Jean Renoir praised her performance and said "That shaven head was and remains the abstraction of the whole epic of Joan of Arc." She was famously treated harshly by Dreyer, who had a reputation for being a tyrannical director. Dreyer would always clear the set whenever Falconetti needed to act in a particularly emotional or important scene, allowing her to focus without any distractions. Dreyer often had difficulties explaining himself to Falconetti and was known to turn bright red and begin stammering when passionately directing her. Dreyer had stated that a director "must be careful never to force his own interpretation on an actor, because an actor cannot create truth and pure emotions on command. One cannot push feelings out. They have to arise from themselves, and it is the director's and actor's work in unison to bring them to that point."
Later in post-production, Falconetti was the only cast member to watch the rushes and stay involved in the film while it was being edited. According to film critic Roger Ebert: "For Falconetti, the performance was an ordeal. Legends from the set tell of Dreyer forcing her to kneel painfully on stone and then wipe all expression from her face—so that the viewer would read suppressed or inner pain. He filmed the same shots again and again, hoping that in the editing room he could find exactly the right nuance in her facial expression. There is an echo in the famous methods of the French director Robert Bresson, who in his own 1962 The Trial of Joan of Arc put actors through the same shots again and again, until all apparent emotion was stripped from their performances."
In his book on Dreyer, Tom Milne quotes the director: "When a child suddenly sees an onrushing train in front of him, the expression on his face is spontaneous. By this I don't mean the feeling in it (which in this case is sudden fear), but the fact that the face is completely uninhibited.”
Among the other cast members was French playwright Antonin Artaud as the monk Massieu. Artaud later stated that the film was meant to "reveal Joan as the victim of one of the most terrible of all perversions: the perversion of a divine principle in its passage through the minds of men, whether they be Church, Government or what you will."
The Passion of Joan of Arc debuted on April 21, 1928 at the Cinema Palads Teatret in Copenhagen. After a few private screenings, it finally premiered in Paris on October 25, 1928 at the Cinema Marivaux. The film was delayed because of persistent efforts of many French nationalists who objected to the fact that Dreyer was not Catholic and not French and to the then-rumored casting of Lillian Gish as Joan. As early as January 1927, Jean-Jose Frappa said that "whatever the talent of the director (and he has it)...he cannot give us a Joan of Arc in the true French tradition. And the American 'star'...cannot be our Joan, wholesome, lively, shining with purity, faith, courage and patriotism. To let this be made in France would be a scandalous abdication of responsibility."
Before its French premiere, several cuts were made by order of the Archbishop of Paris and by government censors. Dreyer had no say in these cuts and was angry about them. Later that year on December 6, a fire at UFA studios in Berlin destroyed the film's original negative and only a few copies of Dreyer's original cut of the film existed. Dreyer was able to patch together a new version of his original cut using alternate takes not initially used. This version was also destroyed in a lab fire in 1929. Over the years, it became hard to find copies of Dreyer's second version and even harder to find copies of the original version.
It was re-released in 1933 in a 61 minute version without any intertitles and including a new narration by radio star David Ross. In 1951, Joseph-Marie Lo Duca found a copy of the negative of Dreyer's second version in the Gaumont Studios vaults. Lo Duca then made several significant changes, including a new musical score by Bach, Albinoni and Vivaldi, removing many of the intertitles and replacing some with subtitles. Lo Duca's version was the only available one for many years. Dreyer objected to this version and said that it was in bad taste.
The next version of the film was made by Arnie Krogh of the Danish Film Institute. Krogh cut together scenes and sequences from several different available prints to attempt to create a version that was as true to Dreyer's original cut as possible.
The original version was lost for decades after a fire destroyed the master negative and only variations of Dreyer's second version were available. In 1981, an employee of the Dikemark Sykehus mental institution in Oslo found several film canisters in a janitor's closet that were labeled as being The Passion of Joan of Arc. The canisters were sent to the Norwegian Film Institute where they were first stored for three years until finally being examined.
It was then discovered that they were Dreyer's original cut prior to government or church censorship. There were never any records of the film being shipped to Oslo, but film historians believe that the then director of the institution may have requested a special copy since he was also a published historian.
On its initial release, it was an unprecedented critical success and immediately called a masterpiece. It was also a huge financial flop and caused the Société Générale to cancel its contract with Dreyer after the failure of this film and of Abel Gance's Napoléon. Dreyer angrily accused the Société Générale of mutilating the film so as to avoid offending Catholic viewers and sued them for breach of contract. The lawsuit went on until the fall of 1931, during which time Dreyer was unable to make another film. The New York Times film reviewer Mordaunt Hall raved:... as a film work of art this takes precedence over anything that has so far been produced. It makes worthy pictures of the past look like tinsel shams. It fills one with such intense admiration that other pictures appear but trivial in comparison.
Of the star, he wrote, "... it is the gifted performance of Maria Falconetti as the Maid of Orleans that rises above everything in this artistic achievement." Pauline Kael wrote that her portrayal "may be the finest performance ever recorded on film." Her performance was ranked 26th in Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time, the highest of any silent performance on the list. Jean Sémolué called it "a film of confrontation" and Paul Schrader has praised "the architecture of Joan's world, which literally conspires against her; like the faces of her inquisitors, the halls, doorways, furniture are on the offensive, striking, swooping at her with oblique angles, attacking her with hard-edged chunks of black and white."
Some critics have found faults in the film, and Paul Rotha called it "one of the most remarkable productions ever realized in the history and development of cinema, but it was not a full exposition of real filmic properties". Tom Milne stated that "somehow the style Dreyer found for the film seems irremediably false. Instead of flowing naturally from his chosen materials...it seems imposed upon them...Throughout the film there is a constant stylistic uncertainty, an impurity, which jars heavily today," but adds that "Jeanne d'Arc has a magestic power which steamrollers its way through all its faults and excesses."
It was banned in Britain for its portrayal of crude English soldiers who mock and torment Joan in scenes that mirror biblical accounts of Christ's mocking at the hands of Roman soldiers. The Archbishop of Paris was also critical, demanding changes be made to the film.
The virgin of Orleans and those matters that surrounded her death began to interest me when the shepherd girl’s canonization in 1920* once again drew the attention of the public-at-large to the events and actions involving her—and not only in France. In addition to Bernard Shaw’s ironical play, Anatole France’s learned thesis aroused great interest, too. The more familiar I became with the historical material, the more anxious I became to attempt to re-create the most important periods of the virgin’s life in the form of a film.
Even beforehand, I was aware that this project made specific demands. Handling the theme on the level of a costume film would probably have permitted a portrayal of the cultural epoch of the fifteenth century, but would have merely resulted in a comparison with other epochs. What counted was getting the spectator absorbed in the past; the means were multifarious and new.
A thorough study of the documents from the rehabilitation process was necessary; I did not study the clothes of the time, and things like that. The year of the event seemed as inessential to me as its distance from the present. I wanted to interpret a hymn to the triumph of the soul over life. What streams out to the possibly moved spectator in strange close-ups is not accidentally chosen. All these pictures express the character of the person they show and the spirit of that time. In order to give the truth, I dispensed with “beautification.” My actors were not allowed to touch makeup and powder puffs. I also broke with the traditions of constructing a set. Right from the beginning of shooting, I let the scene architects build all the sets and make all the other preparations, and from the first to the last scene everything was shot in the right order. Rudolf Maté, who manned the camera, understood the demands of psychological drama in the close-ups and he gave me what I wanted, my feeling and my thought: realized mysticism.
But in Falconetti, who plays Joan, I found what I might, with very bold expression, allow myself to call “the martyr’s reincarnation.”
-Carl Theodor Dreyer
The Passion of Joan of Arc 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, and like his similar masterpieces Ordet and Day of Wrath, this film deals more about faith and spirituality, than just the fundamental basics of Christianity. Most of Carl Theodor Dreyer's early work began during the silent era with The Passion of Joan of Arc being his most known and respected. When he delved into sound he started with a horror film titled Vampyr which tells the story of a traveler at an inn who starts to get supernatural visits in what he thinks to be a vampire. Dreyer then made his masterpiece Ordet in 1955 which tells the story about a family on a Danish farm who all are struggling with their faith in different ways and it all comes apart when there is a sudden death in the family. Ordet is considered along with The Passion of Joan of Arc as one of the most spiritual films in the world and one of Dreyer's very best films. Day of Wrath is another amazing film which tells a story of an aging priest falling in love with his son amidst the horror of a merciless witch hunt in 17th century Denmark. His last film was Gertrud which tells a story of a woman and her unfullfilling marriage and how she goes on a journey to find ideal love.
The original screenplay of The Passion of Joan of Arc that was given to the director was thrown out, and Dreyer instead spend over a year and a half researching the story by turning to the transcripts of Joan's trial, magnificently combining all 29 cross-examinations into one inquisition over the course of 18 months. Dreyer was known to be a highly tyrannical director and according to film critic Roger Ebert, "For Falconetti, the performance was an ordeal. Legends from the set tell of Dreyer forcing her to kneel painfully on stone and then wipe all expression from her face—so that the viewer would read suppressed or inner pain. He filmed the same shots again and again, hoping that in the editing room he could find exactly the right nuance in her facial expression."
What makes The Passion of Joan of Arc the classic that it is all comes down to Maria Falconetti masterful performance. In a film medium without words, where the artists believed that the essence of a character was what the camera captured through their face, to gaze into the eyes of Renee Maria Falconetti, you feel as if she is allowing you to delve into the deep dark depths of her soul. Falconetti presents a emotionally harrowing and devestating performance, presenting to us a woman full of fear, pain and sorrow, lowering her head in defeat while a single tear rolls down her eye, after grueling hours of being mocked, humiliated and tortured. Surprisingly actress Falconetti made only this one single movie and it was said Dreyer first caught Falconetti on the stage as he was struck by her face stating, "There was a soul behind that facade.” He arranged screen tests without make-up, and found exactly what he was looking for, which was a woman who embodied the intensity of pain and human suffering.
Dreyer was given a seven million France budget and created one of the most expensive sets ever build for a European film at that time, which was delivered to him all in one piece, with movable walls to place its cameras including towers at four corners, linked with concrete walls so thick so they could support the actors and equipment. It is helpful to get a basic idea on what the set looked like as a whole, because there is not one single shot establishing it throughout the entire film. Dreyer shoots the film with a series of shocking and distorted images that mostly consist of strange and bizarre close-ups and medium shots, emphasizing the aesthetic tension between a frightened and disoriented Joan, and of her cruel and mocking tormentors. Many of the 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 and intimidation. Dreyer projects a series of shocking and disturbing images that mostly consists of close-ups without make-up, shot in bright light, and of high contrast, focusing on the grotesque details in the judges facial features, including their eyes, their mouths, and of their wrinkles, emphasizing the crevices and flaws of their skin which seems to reflect a aging and diseased inner life.
One interesting camera shot Dreyer projects pans the camera to the left and to the right presenting the judges to be lined up front to back, where their heads seem to be stacked on top of one another suggesting they are an audience watching a performance on the stage. Dryer purposely chooses actors who are not very attractive, and decides to emphasize the flaws in their features, presenting to the audience grotesque and demonic like figures, with one who has hair spiked up to resemble horns. Falconetti, by contrast, is shot in softer grays, rather than stark blacks and whites. Also without makeup, she seems solemn and consumed by inner conviction which critic Roger Ebert states,"Consider an exchange where a judge asks her whether St. Michael actually spoke to her. Her impassive face seems to suggest that whatever happened between Michael and herself was so far beyond the scope of the question that no answer is conceivable." They're several moments that symbolizes Falconetti's character as a divine and holy presence, with one particular shot projecting light from the outside piercing through the bars of Joan's cell, which gives off the reflection of the cross.
We never get a clear idea on what the scale of the setting is throughout the film, and although we get sharp architectural lines and angles behind several of the characters, were not exactly sure where we are in the scene, which feels that Dreyer is clearly trying to disoriente the viewer. It's hard to be quite sure if the walls, doors or windows behind the characters are close or far away, and these asthestic techniques create a claustrophic and surreal like experience while watching the film. The weird geometry of its setting, and off-kilter architecture brings to mind the artistic designs of German Expressionism and French avant-garde, which was at the height of its movement when this film was being made. I find it fascinating that the visuals are not linked between shots, as David Bordwell states, "Of the film's over 1,500 cuts, fewer than 30 carry a figure or object over from one shot to another; and fewer than 15 constitute genuine matches on action.” When a judge is questioning a defendant, a camera's placement and its editing will create a sequence that will make sense to an audinece, and we become clear on where we are in the scene and what exactly we are watching. And yet those traditional visual cues that come with camera placement and editing is completely missing when watching The Passion of Joan of Arc.
The Passion of Joan of Arc was the victim of several ordeals. Censored before its release in 1928, the original master negative was destroyed in a fire. For more than a half-century, this silent classic was known only in mutilated copies, or in a sonorized version which made numerous changes to the original. Dreyer himself attempted to reassemble a version from outtakes and surviving prints, but he died 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. (Which is ironic since a lot of people over time are convinced that the real Joan of Arc was insane.)
Thanks to the aid of Ib Monty, Director of the Danish Film Museum, and of Maurice Drouzy, who reestablished the French text, the Cinematheque Francaise has been able to reconstitute this French version, probably very close to the original. This version is now available on the Criterion DVD, with a powerful orchestral soundtrack created by Richard Einhorn's Voices of Light, since it was believed Dreyer never made any original music to be shown for the film. This new soundtrack creates a new entrancing power to the upcoming tragedy of the film and makes it feel even more spiritually epic then it already is.
Maria Falconetti was known to have been in only this one film. Pauline Kael wrote "It may be the finest performance ever recorded on film," and her performance was ranked 26th in Premiere Magazine's top 100 performances of all time, the highest of any silent performance on the list. Falconetti brought to the role a face of innocence, honesty, pain and suffering that was needed for the tragic historical character of Joan. Legendary director Jean Renoir praised her performance and said "That shaven head was and remains the abstraction of the whole epic of Joan of Arc." Dreyer had stated that a director "must be careful never to force his own interpretation on an actor, because an actor cannot create truth and pure emotions on command. One cannot push feelings out. They have to arise from themselves, and it is the director's and actor's work in unison to bring them to that point." The Passion of Joan of Arc has appeared on Sight and Sound's magazine's top ten films poll three times: as number seven in 1952 and 1972, and as number ten Critic's List and six Director's List in 1992. The Village Voice ranked it the eighth of the twentieth century in a 2000 poll of critics. The New York Times film reviewer Mordaunt Hall raved "as a film work of art this takes precedence over anything that has so far been produced. It makes worthy pictures of the past look like tinsel shams. It fills one with such intense admiration that other pictures appear but trivial in comparison." The Passion of Joan of Arc was ranked as the most influential film of all time, and it is currently ranked as the number one most spiritually significant film of all time by the Arts and Faith online community. Critic Roger Ebert says, "Perhaps it helps that Maria Falconetti never made another movie (she died in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1946). Since we do not see her face in other roles to compare her face too, the movie seems to exist outside space and time." The French director Jean Cocteau famously said it played like "a historical document from an era in which the cinema didn't exist''. Religious or Atheist, The Passion of Joan of Arc touches on so many universal issues that we all question and hope exist including faith, forgiveness and redemption, which is all the more amazing because of the poetic way Dreyer presents it to us, which doesn't give out the feeling that he is merely preaching; which I believe is an extraordinary achievement. To sum it up: You can never really say you've seen a silent film until you've seen Carl Theodor Dreyer's silent The Passion of Joan of Arc, and you can never really say you've seen acting until you've seen the face of Renee Maria Falconetti. The Passion of Joan of Arc is one of the greatest silent film achievements of all celluloid, a film in which its power becomes a form of transcendental art. This is one of the most spiritual and life affirming films I have ever witnessed within the cinema; a film so tragic, painful and devastating and yet at the same time extremely holy, transcendent and divine.