The Passion of Joan of Arc (La passion de Jeanne d'Arc) is widely regarded as Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer's finest achievement and one of the greatest films of all time. Dreyer recreates the trial and execution of St. Joan with near-documentary authenticity, as if one were present at the actual 15th century event and both defendant and accusers were the genuine article. The director's use of huge, probing close-ups -- detailing every pockmark and even the saliva at the sides of the mouths -- adds a shocking immediacy which makes it hard to believe that this film is nearly 70 years old. As Joan, Renée Maria Falconetti (in her only film) transcends mere praise. The Passion of Joan of Arc is a silent film, but the original transcripts of Joan's trial are brilliantly conveyed by the pantomime of the actors. The film's title is supremely double-edged -- Joan's "passion" is shown to be as erotic as it is spiritual.
by Hal Erickson synopsis