Follow TV Tropes


Film / The Passion of Joan of Arc

Go To

The Passion of Joan of Arc is a classic French silent film from 1928, directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer. Generally regarded as one of the greatest films ever made (to the point of being named the ninth greatest film of all time in the 2012 Sight & Sound Critics' Poll), as well as considered to have one of the greatest filmed performances ever, given by Maria Falconetti in the title role.note 

In 1431, Joan of Arc is put on trial by the English. They attempt to get her to back down from her claims of holy visions. She refuses, and is eventually burned at the stake. The film's plotline is highly conventional, being adapted straight from the actual records of Joan of Arc's trial, and essentially serving as a highly condensed version of the real event. The film's real strengths come in the form of Dreyer's excellent direction, Falconetti's performance, and the fact that you'll barely be able to see either of those things though all of your tears.

Famously, this film survived only due to one single copy, which was found in a closet in a Norwegian insane asylum. How strange is that?

This film provides examples of:

  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Joan is very pretty in a innocent sort of way, while her tormentors are often downright repulsive.
  • Being Good Sucks: Boy, does it ever.
  • Big Bad: The Bishop of Beauvais, Hanging Judge of Joan's trial.
  • Book Dumb: Joan can't read and needs help signing her "confession". She's also uneducated in theological minutia, which, in both real life and the film, is what leads to her conviction.
  • Boyish Short Hair: Joan has her hair cut short.
  • Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie: Joan pleads for her body to be buried on consecrated ground. In real life, her ashes were thrown in a river.
  • Burn the Witch!: Joan's ultimate fate.
  • Break the Cutie: The ultimate example.
  • Corrupt Church: The Bishop of Beauvais. Averted by several of the Priests, who try to help her.
  • Disturbed Doves: Joan watches the birds fly off from the church roof as she is being burned.
  • Doomed Moral Victor: Joan of Arc, burned at the stake. But she has clearly won the PR battle, seeing as how a peasant in the crowd screams "You have burned a saint!", followed by a riot. And of course everyone watching the movie would have known that not all that long after Joan was executed the English were driven out of France for good.
  • Dutch Angle: Used by Dreyer several times in the film, usually to give the judges a more sinister apperance.
  • Eye Take: At several points Joan's eyes widen like this during trial as a sign of surprise or horror.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Joan's attitude towards being burned.
  • Fainting: Joan faints when shown the brutal torture instruments intended to extract her confession.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Just about anyone who at least has a passing familiarity with Joan of Arc's life will know exactly how it'll end for her.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: In this case, good monk/bad monk, used in her interrogation.
  • Good Eyes, Evil Eyes: Joan has shiny, beatific gray eyes throughout the entire film.
  • Good Is Impotent: Joan is powerless to prevent her fate throughout the film.
  • The Hero Dies: Joan is burned at the stake.
  • High-Pressure Blood: A fountain of blood coming from the puncture wound on Joan's arm. note 
  • I Die Free: Joan's death.
  • Jeanne d'Archétype: Joan of Arc is the Ur-Example, but this film, by itself, does not show the trope. Instead, it's more like a Deconstruction Played for Drama — after breaking the laws of man in the name of God, the brilliant and brave visionary girl is captured by the enemy, nearly broken by interrogation, and finally, brutally executed.
  • Kangaroo Court: Joan's trial.
  • Kill the Cutie: Joan's death.
  • The Late Middle Ages
  • Lima Syndrome: Not enough to save Joan's life though.
  • Locked in the Dungeon: Joan's imprisonment.
  • Messianic Archetype: The movie is The Passion of Joan of Arc for a reason. Many scenes in the film echo The Bible, from questioning by religious authorities to the English soldiers dressing Joan in a "thorny crown."
  • Mission from God: What Joan believes herself to be on.
  • Not So Stoic: Even one of the guards weeps to see Joan burned.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: Richard Einhorn's "Voices of Light" soundtrack, composed for the movie in 1985 and often played with it in later showings (and included on home video releases) is nothing but Ominous Latin Chanting from beginning to end.
  • Passion Play: A play on this, focusing on the death of Joan of Arc instead of Jesus.
  • Public Execution: Which quickly leads to full-scale rioting.
  • Prayer Pose: Joan, upon receiving communion.
  • Prone to Tears: Joan herself. She cries virtually ever time she's given a closeup.
  • Security Cling: Not quite a cling, but Joan tries to hold the hand of a priest while suffering a fever. He pulls it away.
  • Shamed by a Mob: The people witnessing Joan's execution weep in sympathy, and a riot breaks out when one shouts "You have burned a saint!"
  • Shown Their Work: The dialogue is all the actual court records of what Joan of Arc is known to have said at her trial.
  • Single Tear: One of the monks cries a single tear when Joan recants her confession, as he knows it will lead to her death. Joan herself sheds Single Tears on multiple occasions.
  • Spiteful Spit: One of the church officials spits on Joan during her trial.
  • Tears of Fear: Nearly constant on part of Joan during the movie.
  • Tears of Remorse: Joan, after signing her confession, which she then recants.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Joan's hair is cropped to stubble on-camera. It counts as a real-life example too, as Falconetti apparently begged Dreyer not to have to do it.
  • Villain Respect: By the end, it is clear that some of the clergy are rather impressed with her courage and are feeling at least some sympathy for her.
  • Waif Prophet: Joan herself.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Joan herself, who wears men's clothes. She is grilled about it.
  • The X of Y: The Passion of Joan of Arc
  • You Can't Go Home Again: It's not stated in the dialogue — it's all in Joan's face when the priest asks her who taught her how to say her prayers, and she answers, "My mother."