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Another Glimpse at a Film Classic

Dreyer's "La passion de Jeanne d'Arc" is subject of April 5 event

Prof. Eileen Sweeney (Philosophy) says there is “an endless fascination” with Joan of Arc. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

By Rosanne Pellegrini | Chronicle Staff

Published: Mar. 27, 2014

French heroine and Roman Catholic saint Joan of Arc has inspired numerous works of literature, music and film, including the 1928 silent movie masterpiece “La passion de Jeanne d’Arc,” which will be presented on the Boston College campus next week.

Directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer and renowned for the performance of Renée Falconetti as Joan, “La passion de Jeanne d’Arc” will be screened on April 5 at 7 p.m. in St Ignatius Church.

The free, public, screening, which is sponsored by an Institute for the Liberal Arts grant, will be enhanced by original instrumental and choral musical accompaniment by the Boston-area group The Seraphim Singers in collaboration with organist Peter Krasinski, and will include a panel discussion.  

“I think the event should have a broad popular appeal because of the endless fascination with Joan of Arc and the importance of this film in the history of cinema,” said organizer Professor of Philosophy Eileen Sweeney.

Dreyer’s film, based on the actual trial record of Joan of Arc, is hailed as a landmark of cinema for its innovations and techniques, she noted, while Falconetti’s portrayal of Joan is widely viewed as one of the best performances ever captured on silent or sound film.

 “The musical accompaniment at this event combines organ improvisation with choral settings by different composers using texts appropriate to particular scenes in the film, including music composed for this performance,” said Sweeney, a member of The Seraphim Singers, known for performances of sacred music and commitment to new music and neglected parts of the choral repertoire.

“As the chorus has rehearsed, we have come to see how much the music heightens the drama and spirituality portrayed in the film,” she added.

Professor of Fine Arts John Michalczyk will be part of a panel discussion on the historical Joan of Arc, the film and the nature of musical accompaniment to silent film that will precede the screening. Other participants include Karen Sullivan, a Bard College Joan of Arc scholar, and Krasinski, a specialist in silent film accompaniment who performs in the US, Canada, Europe and Japan.

“Six hundred years after Joan of Arc, ‘the Maid of Orleans,’ participated in the battle against the English for the city of Orleans, we still are concerned about women in a combat milieu,” Michalczyk said.

“Joan in battle will break all gender stereotypes, something even more radical in the 15th century. Carl Dreyer’s film, with the incredible actress Falconetti in the title role, focuses not on the battle but on her trial. Using the transcripts of the 18-month Inquisition-like trial, Dreyer constructs a profound and deeply psychological study of the heroic Joan.”
For more information on the event, see or email the ILA at