would like to tell you a story. It is a tale full of drama and intrigue,
fire and madness, and the odd twists-of-fate usually confined to prose
fiction. This, though, is a true story... a story with a happy ending....
filmmaker Carl Theodor Dreyer
to France in the late 1920's to film his interpretation of the last days of
Saint Joan of Arc. The film, in honor of her recent canonization, was a
big budget production in which Dreyer was given free artistic reign. He
rejected the original script in favor of the actual transcripts to Saint Joan's
trial, he built extravagantly realized sets and shot all of his actors without
make-up to lend a purity and realism to his film which, to this day, has never
cast for his lead a little known actress (Renče
Falconetti - who had never
worked in film before) as the martyr. His methods of extracting her
performance are legendary: Dreyer forced her to kneel on stones to convey
pain; he had her repeat the same action again and again to find the soul of the
woman she was portraying; he forced her to shave her head for the final
sequence. For Falconetti it was all too much - she never worked in movies
opened to universal acclaim. Falconetti's portrayal of the doomed Joan was
hailed as the greatest performance ever recorded on
- an assertion which still holds true to this day. All seemed well until
disaster struck shortly after its 1928 premiere. The original
negative and almost all known prints were destroyed in a warehouse fire.
Dreyer scrambled to reconstruct another version from the outtake footage which
had survived the conflagration. Again, all seemed well until disaster
struck once more when this second version was also destroyed by fire.
Dreyer gave up and went to work on his next project while this film was thought
to be lost forever.
For years, only
corrupted prints of Dreyer's masterpiece
(culled from the remaining fragments of the other two versions),
were in circulation. He disowned all of these bootleg prints and went to his grave
in 1968 thinking that this work, not just one of the greatest films ever made, but one of
the greatest works of art to have ever existed in any medium, would never be seen again in
its original form.
But as we have promised
you a happy ending, our story will not end here. Miraculously, in 1981 while
cleaning out the contents of a janitor's closet
a mental institution in Oslo, Norway... a complete print of the first cut of Dreyer's
masterpiece was found in near perfect condition. Home Vision Cinema and The
Criterion Collection are proud to present the home video premiere of the original version
of Carl Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc.
We are honored to have
for this special edition of The Passion of Joan of Arc - Richard Einhorn's brilliant
orchestral piece Voices of Light. The film has been touring the country to sell-out
crowds with Mr. Einhorn's oratorio as live accompaniment. Now you can experience the
combined majesty and power of these two great works, one visual and one aural, on both VHS
to Home Vision, distributors of "The Passion of Joan of Arc" for the