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Voices Appeared: La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc

Orlando Consort

RNCM Concert Hall, 24 November 2015

Street Scene Orlando Consort. Photo by Eric Richmond

Carl Theodor Dreyer’s La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc (1928), a portrait of a great yet all too human saint, shown alongside the voices of the Orlando Consort, who sang fifteenth century works by Binchois, Dufay and others, by way of accompaniment.

There was grandeur and sublimity here, on screen and in sound. We saw how Jeanne was interrogated by the clergy, the assault waged by their sophistry and verbal cunning against her naive honesty. That’s the engine of the film, what it was all about.

The way Jeanne is depicted, how we see her face up close, is quite wonderful. She is tearful sometimes, suffering yet radiant, like an icon. Madonna and Christ both. For some, Antonin Artaud will be the pull to see the film. He is fine as Massieu, though maybe underused. Whereas Maria Falconetti as Jeanne is glorious, her beauty otherworldly but always possessed of a human frailty.

As a way of arriving at the truth, it is a perverse process, this constant questioning. Jeanne is crushed, tortured on the rack, burnt at the stake. Yet these clergy, in condemning her to death, place their mortal souls in danger.

None escape at the apocalyptic end. We had seen a shadow of a mallet and mace, a ball and chain. Then, in an eruption of violence, they are wielded with tyrannical fury. Sacrifice begetting slaughter, Giraud’s paradigm perfectly cast.

Voices Appeared: La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc is touring worldwide, details here.