The Passion of Joan of Arc

Though I haven’t heard Richard Einhorn’s new oratorio Voices of Light — which was a brisk seller on Billboard‘s classical charts early last year, written to accompany Carl Dreyer’s last silent film — I have seen the original version of Dreyer’s masterpiece, rediscovered in a Norwegian mental asylum during the 80s after having been lost for half a century. (The other prints were lost in a warehouse fire, and the two circulating versions since then have both consisted of outtakes.) Considering that this film’s beautiful original score resembled an oratorio at certain moments, I suspect that this rare opportunity to see the greatest of all Joan of Arc films in optimum conditions shouldn’t be passed up. (Anonymous 4 performs Joan’s voice in both alto and soprano, and Lucinda Carver conducts the Los Angeles Mozart Orchestra and the Zephyr Chorus.) Joan is played by Comedie-Francaise member Renee Falconetti, and though hers is one of the key performances in the history of movies, she never made another film. (Antonin Artaud also appears in a memorable cameo.) Dreyer’s radical approach to constructing space and the slow intensity of his mobile style make this a difficult film in the sense that, like all the greatest films, it reinvents the world from the ground up; it’s also painful in a way that all of Dreyer’s tragedies are. But it will continue to live long after all the commercial movies in town have vanished from memory. And bear in mind that if you miss this performance/screening, you’ll get another chance on Friday, February 21. Medinah Temple, 600 N. Wabash, Thursday, February 20, 7:30, 773-722-5463.

–Jonathan Rosenbaum

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.

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