Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Trial of Joan of Arc (1962)

Robert Bresson's pared-down style fits this film best out of the three of his I've seen. His unyielding eye and stark sense of composition, combined with his use of court transcripts, leave this feeling less like any old movie and more like some long-lost documentary from the 1600s. Anachronisms notwithstanding, this must have been what it felt like to watch the wheels of justice grind Joan of Arc to dust. Bresson's sense for non-professional talent didn't let him down here, either -- Florence Carrez makes for a striking Joan. In contrast to Maria Falconetti's ecstatic famed turn as Joan in The Passion of Joan of Arc, Carrez's Joan is a steely, righteous saint-in-waiting. Her conviction is unwavering -- God and his angels do talk to her, she is doing the work of God and there's nothing you can say to change her mind. Her performance makes divine inspiration seem like a true gift, which only makes it all the more heartbreaking when she gets martyred anyway.

Grade: A-


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