Dreyer's Lost Passion
Today in 1928, Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer was in Paris for the premiere of The Passion of Joan of Arc. Written from actual trial transcripts, the film dramatizes the famed French teen’s emotional and spiritual ordeal at the hands of church fathers through a series of close ups, mostly of the film’s star Marie Falconetti. While it was Falconetti’s second and last film performance, it would be remembered, as New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael wrote, as maybe “the finest performance ever recorded on film." Beloved by some, banned by the British for many years, the original film was lost when its master negative was burned in a fire (a fate not unlike that of its heroine). Despite fruitless attempts to reconstruct the original film from outtakes, Dreyer went to his grave, believing his masterpiece was lost forever. And then, miraculously, in 1981 a complete print was found in an Oslo mental institution’s janitor’s closet.