The Voice of Joan. On the Paragonal Interplay Between Word, Cinema and Theatre in the Medium of Film in Carl Th. Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc

Auteur / Author: 
Anna MROZEWICZ (University of Copenhagen, Danemark, Adam Mickiewicz University, Pologne)
Mardi 23 Août 2011 - 8:30


The last mute film in Carl Th. Dreyer’s oeuvre, The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), is often referred to as a film “made of close-ups” and purely cinematic. Dreyer used to stress himself that close-up was the specifically cinematic device that asserted film’s position as autonomous art. He especially insisted on film’s independence from theatre and from superfluity of words. In my paper I focus on the theatricality in Dreyer’s film, arguing that “the theatrical”, being allied with as well spoken as written word (embodied in both the Bible, the trial, the sentence and the film manuscript), and “the cinematic” are two different strategies within the film medium, used to present two different worlds of ideas and beliefs: that of the judges, clergymen, and inquisitiors, which at the same time is the world of literate males, and that of Joan, an illiterate woman who strives alone against a group of powerful men for her ideas about God and spiritual freedom. What we observe in the film is a growing presence of “the cinematic”, the strategy allied with Joan, who in the final scene triumphs over the judges, just like cinema triumphs over word and theatricality. The complex interplay between Word and Image is enhanced by the specificity of film medium, and Dreyer’s masterpiece can still be perceived as an early forerunner of contemporary intermedial practices in art.