30. 08. 2023

Images ︎

The Passion of Joan of Arc is the cinema of the human face. This much is clear when you watch the film and you are instantly hit with images of Renée Jeanne Falconetti, almost completely in close-up. 
There is no sound and supposedly the director, Carl Theodor Dreyer was never happy with any musical accompaniment to the film. This was exciting to me as it made you free to choose the music to play with the film, like a “choose your own” adventure. Riyuchi Sakamoto had recently died and his musical score for The Revenant was one of the highlights of that film for me. The score is seventy minutes long, just ten minutes shy of the run time of Passion of Joan of Arc. I synced up the start of the opening titles with the beginning of the score and watched it this way in its entirety. 

For me the score worked extremely well. There was something about the close-ups and the modern music, the lack of spoken dialogue and use of intertitles gave it a modern purity and a pure expression of feeling. 

I’ve recently started watching more silent cinema after becoming bored and uninspired with the images in contemporary cinema. Before I began watching these films I expected something antiquated but going back a hundred years I found a dynamism and clarity, the use of the human face, light, staging and editing an invention of an entirely new language of seeing things. Dialogue seemed an unnecessary distraction. 

In the same spirit Passion of Joan of Arc reminded me of watching Steve McQueen’s Hunger for the for the very first time. The opening silent stretch, and its perfection in pacing... 
Or the opening section of Aguirre Wrath of God as they descend down the mountain in a scene that stretches for ten or so minutes. It is also a cinema of faces, with Klaus Kinski going batshit insane in the peruvian jungle in a full royal purple shirt, covered in conquistador armour. It’s a cinema of images and feeling rather than of full comprehension. I cannot remember the plot even though I watched it last week. 

Another film that has recently been on my mind is The Beach Bum by Harmony Korine. It’s a very unique film, switch your brain off and let it wash over you. Korine recently quoted in an interview how you only really remember certain moments from movies, not necessarily the plot or the whole narrative. Why can’t you make a whole film containing only those scenes?

I never remember full movies, not really. I remember the opening, closing and the faces in Beau Travail. The car driving for the first time through the woods in Phantom Thread, with the camera mounted on the boot. The tunnel sequence in Milennium Mambo. The candlelight dinner in Barry Lyndon. The way Perfidia swells in a scene by the phone booth in Days of Being Wild. 

Cinema has always been an emotional experience since its inception.