Appreciating Films: The Passion of Joan of Arc – The Haunting Images of Facial Expressions


The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) is a beautiful silent film that collects some of the most haunting images of facial expressions. The actors were not allowed to wear make up unlike the other silent films, also made possible by the newly developed panchromatic film that could capture a natural skin tone, making it a unique work from the silent era that stands the test of time.


It was directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer and starring Renée Jeanne Falconetti. Very few people had actually seen it prior to 1981 because the original print was destroyed after a fire. Dreyer himself died believing the original was lost forever. In 1981, a complete print of Dreyer’s original version was rediscovered in the closet of a Danish janitor in an Oslo mental institution. It is not known how the reels ended up in the institution. Some facts are stranger than fiction.


Cinematically, The Passion of Joan of Arc was not constructed with camera movements or the conventional movie language, but from a series of still shots that emphasize the facial expressions of the actors. Every shot is so beautifully framed that the stills deserve a spot in an art museum.


Watching this film again now I feel like appreciating a piece of history, as if a widely believed extinct animal being discovered alive again. The performance of Falconetti alone is worth your two hours.

Are you a film buff who found this article interesting? Go ahead and check out other articles from the Appreciating Films series!

written by tattso on 2011-10-18 #lifestyle #black-and-white #faces #expression #silent-film #carl-theodor-dreyer #appreciating-films-series


  1. vicuna
    vicuna ·

    Exceptional classic movie!!! I was always impressed by the way C.T. Dreyer was able to film the faces of his actors like this!

  2. bccbarbosa
    bccbarbosa ·

    This is an amazing movie. Dreyer was truly a genius. Great article!

  3. charliewagers
    charliewagers ·

    Best movie ever. The last image in this article, i have tattooed on me.

  4. tattso
    tattso ·

    @charliewagers, you serious? show us the tattoo!

  5. odax
    odax ·

    This is one of my favourite films, and no ones ever heard of it. Yay for :D

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