Repertory Picks

Silent Rapture in Winston-Salem

On Film / In Theaters — Oct 18, 2018

Cinephiles in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, won’t want to sleep in this Saturday morning: Carl Theodor Dreyer’s transcendent The Passion of Joan of Arc will show at 9:30 at the a/perture cinema, an early-bird screening copresented by Wake Forest University religious-studies professor Ulrike Weithaus. Bringing to life the fraught final hours of the future saint, the shattering silent masterpiece has at its heart a legendary lead performance by Renée Falconetti, who would never appear in another movie. And on the level of form, Dreyer’s film possesses a purity that extends well beyond its devotion to close-ups of faces, most of which provide a window into Joan’s embattled soul, as a clerical court prepares to send the nineteen-year-old visionary to her execution. As Dreyer wrote in a 1929 director’s statement that’s included in our edition of the film, “In order to give the truth, I dispensed with ‘beautification.’ My actors were not allowed to touch makeup and powder puffs.” He also sought to achieve a heightened psychological realism by shooting the whole thing in sequence: “I let the scene architects build all the sets and make all the other preparations, and from the first to the last scene everything was shot in the right order.”