Friday, October 28, 2011

Blog Homework 3 10/28/11

Film Analysis Assignment
Dreyer's La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc
A still from the film of one of Jeanne's tormentors

Dreyer's chief opus La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc is the epitome of the style encapsulated in French filmmaking during the silent era. It contains simply breathtakingly beautiful cinematography, which is all supplementary to the story in an attempt to delve the audience into the mindset of the title character Jeannette d'Arc.  Every aspect of the film, cinematography, editing, lighting, and set, work together to achieve this impressionist goal set out by Dreyer.

Despite Dreyer originally hoping for the film not to have any accompaniment, the later added musical accompaniment greatly adds to the piece. Without it, it holds truer to Jeanne's world- making it utterly painful to watch this masterfully done film. However, this is a double sided sword, because this also makes it so painful to watch that very few people would be able to even sit through the first thirty minutes. Essentially, nobody wants to be in Jeanette's situation; the music just makes it tolerable for the audience to watch it by adding a thin layer of distance between the viewer and the pain of her world.

Another still showing the odd visuals 
The cinematography is one of the most used tools in Dreyer's arsenal for La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc. He brilliantly utilizes the photography of the film in accordance with the set to really hit all the emotional beats of the film leaving the audience with a huge weight in the pit of their stomachs by the end of the film. The film contains many tight shot- there are almost no very wide or establishing shots. All these tight shots help drive us into Jeanne's character- she is trapped just like we are while watching these images. The images are also very subjective. Her tormentors are often shown in a low angle with wide lens giving us a frightening and ugly figure of a man. The power dynamic for the film is all too clear. We, the audience, just like her, are constantly reminded of this power dynamic, and because of it, we genuinely are empathetic for her throughout the film. We do not see the world like it is that would be too mundane; instead, we are immersed into Jeanne's inner life seeing her grotesque and painful version of reality, which is in turn more realistic and much more effective for the film.
A still of Jeanne from the film

First and foremost, the set in this film is very bare bone, especially for a film with as comparatively high of a budget during this era as this one. Inasmuch as a lavish set would add to the beauty of the film, Dreyer rightfully consciously chose his set to have a lot of negative space. The story is not one filled with gaiety; it is a dark and hollow tale, which is why the very minimalistic and borderline abstract set really adds to the flavor of the film. In the film, Jeanne d'Arc is at her absolutely lowest point and the set reflects that. Also, this allows for selective contrast for certain moments, such as the moment right beforeJeanne falsifies her confession, she sees the beautiful outside world adding even more of a punch to the story- Jeanne's time is this world is short lived, so the beautiful outside world is very bitter sweet for her, and we can feel that. Furthermore, the minimalistic set also adds to the uncertainty of the location of the film, along with the absence of establishing shots. We know not where we are; all we know is that the danger is entirely too real. This traps us with Jeanne d'Arc in her trial making every moment ever the more painful. Also, this ambiguous set highlights the emotions of the actors, because it becomes one of the only tangible things for us, the audience, to hold onto throughout the film. This is especially important for Jeanne d'Arc because her emotions throughout the film are very repressed; all these terrible things befall her, but she must maintain keep herself in check and behave in a stoic and above all prophetic fashion.

The editing is very jagged throughout the film. This also helps immerse us into Jeanne's life- she is destitute. Essentially, every aspect of the film was incorporated with the sole goal of pushing the boundaries of the story and bringing us into Jeanne's world, which is why the film is so powerful and even still considered a masterpiece today.