La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc, 1928

The Passion of Joan of Arc, 1928

Falconetti in Carl Th. Dreyer’s “La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc”, 1928. Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

The Criterion Collection DVD/Blu-Ray cover

Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc, 1412 – 1431) is considered a heroine of France for her role during the Hundred Years’ War and was canonized as a Roman Catholic saint.
Joan of Arc was born to Jacques d’Arc and Isabelle Romee, a peasant family, in north-east France. Joan said she received visions of the Archangel Michael, Saint Margaret, and Saint Catherine of Alexandria instructing her to support Charles VII and recover France from English domination late in the Hundred Years’ War. The uncrowned King Charles VII sent Joan to the siege of Orleans as part of a relief mission. She gained prominence after the siege was lifted only nine days later. Several additional swift victories led to Charles VII’s coronation at Reims. This long-awaited event boosted French morale and paved the way for the final French victory.
After having led numerous military battles against the English during the Hundred Years’ War, Joan of Arc is captured near Compiegne and eventually brought to Rouen, Normandy to stand trial for heresy by French clergymen loyal to the English. Her judges try to make her say something that will discredit her claim or shake her belief that she has been given a mission by God to drive the English from France.
The trial of Joan of Arc was politically motivated and it’s one of the most famous trials in history. After Bishop of Beauvais, Pierre Cauchon declared her guilty she was burned at the stake on 30 May 1431, dying at about nineteen years of age.
In 1456, an inquisitorial court authorized by Pope Callixtus III examined the trial, debunked the charges against her, pronounced her innocent, and declared her a martyr. In the 16th century she became a symbol of the Catholic League, and in 1803 she was declared a national symbol of France by the decision of Napoleon Bonaparte. She was beatified in 1909 and canonized in 1920.
La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc (The Passion of Joan of Arc) is a 1928 silent French film based on the actual record of the trial of Joan of Arc. The film was directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer and stars Renee Jeanne Falconetti as Joan. It is widely regarded as a landmark of cinema, especially for its production, Dreyer’s direction and Falconetti’s performance, which is often listed as one of the finest in cinema history.
The representation of Joan of Arc in Dreyer’s masterpiece is radically different from the image of her as a national warrior heroine in shining armour that was found in every French schoolbook, and the director almost completely leaves out the historical events of the Hundred Years’ War. The sets were big and costly but severely stylised, almost abstract looking in their sparseness. Dreyer places his camera in positions that rarely afford the observer an overview of the space in which the action is taking place. In consequence, all attention is concentrated on the spiritual and psychological confrontation between Joan and her judges, which is underscored by the dynamic, fast cutting and, not least, by the gigantic close-ups that lay bare every nuance of the characters’ reactions.

“In order to give the truth, I dispensed with “beautification.” My actors were not allowed to touch makeup and powder puffs… Rudolf Mate, who manned the camera, understood the demands of psychological drama in the close-ups and he gave me what I wanted, my feeling and my thought: realized mysticism.”
Carl Theodor Dreyer: Realized Mysticism in The Passion of Joan of Arc

Prior to its release, the film was controversial due to French nationalists’ skepticism about whether a Danish person could direct a film that centered on one of France’s most revered historical icons. Dreyer’s final version of the film was cut down due to pressure from the Archbishop of Paris and from government censors. For several decades it was released and viewed in various re-edited versions that had attempted to restore Dreyer’s final cut. In 1981 a film print of Dreyer’s final cut of the film was finally discovered in a mental institution in Oslo, Norway and re-released. Despite the objections and cutting of the film by clerical and government authorities, it was a major critical success when first released and has consistently been considered one of the greatest films ever made since 1928.
On 28 March 2018, The Criterion Collection will release a new digitally restored copy of The Passion of Jean of Arc in DVD and Blu-Ray.
Carl Theodor Dreyer (1889 – 1968) was a Danish film director. He is regarded by many critics and filmmakers as one of the greatest directors in cinema. His best known films include The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), Vampyr (1932), Day of Wrath (1943), Ordet (1955), and Gertrud (1964).
Dreyer was born illegitimate in Copenhagen, Denmark. His birth mother was an unmarried Scanian maid, who gave him up for adoption immediately. He spent the first two years of his life in orphanages until his adoption by Dreyer family and was named Carl Theodor after his adoptive father. His adoptive parents were emotionally distant and his childhood was largely unhappy. But he was a highly intelligent school student, who left home and formal education at the age of sixteen. He dissociated himself from his adoptive family, but their teachings were to influence the themes of many of his films.
As a young man, Dreyer worked as a journalist, but he eventually joined the film industry as a writer of title cards for silent films and subsequently of screenplays. He was initially hired by Nordisk Film in 1913. His first attempts at film direction had limited success, and since the Danish film industry was in financial ruin he left Denmark to work in the France. While living in Paris with his wife, he met Jean Cocteau, Jean Hugo and other members of the French artistic scene.
In 1928 he made his first classic film, The Passion of Joan of Arc and four years later Vampyr, a surreal meditation on fear. Both films were box office failures, and Dreyer did not make another movie until 1943.
Denmark was by now under Nazi occupation, and his Day of Wrath had as its theme the paranoia surrounding witch hunts in the seventeenth century in a strongly theocratic culture. With this work, Dreyer established the style that would mark his sound films: careful compositions, stark monochrome cinematography, and very long takes. In more than a decade before his next full-length feature film, Dreyer made two documentaries. In 1955, he made Ordet (The Word) based on the play of the same name by Kaj Munk. The film combines a love story with a conflict of faith. The Word was the first time Dreyer had a film unanimously proclaimed a “masterpiece” by Danish critics. Internationally, the film was a big hit as well, winning the Golden Lion for best feature at the 1955 Venice Film Festival and an American Golden Globe for best foreign film the following year. Dreyer’s last film was 1964’s Gertrud. Although seen by some as a lesser film than its predecessors, it is a fitting close to Dreyer’s career, as it deals with a woman who, through the tribulations of her life, never expresses regret for her choices.
Dreyer died of pneumonia in Copenhagen, on 20 March 1968, at age 79.

Falconetti in a French postcard, by Editions Sid, Paris (ca. 1920’s?)

Renee Jeanne Falconetti (1892 – 1946) -sometimes credited as Maria Falconetti- was a French stage and film actress of Corsican-Italian ancestry, born in Pantin outside Paris. Growing up poor, Falconetti was schooled by nuns who did not much encourage her acting ambitions. Her fortunes improved when she met a much older factory owner whose she became secretary. Against all odds, Falconetti was admitted to the Conservatory, where she trained under the tutelage of Eugene Sylvain, who years later would play the grand inquisitor in The Passion of Joan of Arc.
During World War I, Falconetti entertained the French troops and started getting small parts on stage. She became established in the early 1920s, mainly playing “Boulevard roles” (light comedies) but also performing some classic repertoire and doing a fair bit of singing.
Dreyer discovered Falconetti while she was performing La Garconne, a scandalous play about a free thinking feminist. By the time Dreyer watched her act she was already a celebrated stage artiste, and had appeared in one film, La Comtesse de Somerive (1917). Falconetti was 35 years old when she played the role of 19-year-old Joan of Arc in La Passion. During nine months of filming with Dreyer, Falconetti endured some very tough and demanding work conditions but poured everything she had into her performance. Her portrayal is widely considered one of the most astonishing performances ever committed to film, and it would remain her final cinematic role. The emotional highlight of the shoot was the scene that required her to cut her hair, something she had agreed to in her contract. Many technicians are said to have cried with her during that scene.

“…in Falconetti, who plays Joan, I found what I might, with very bold expression, allow myself to call “the martyr’s reincarnation.”
Carl Theodor Dreyer: Realized Mysticism in The Passion of Joan of Arc

In 1929, Falconetti was at the peak of her career. She acquired her own theatre, though it quickly went bankrupt because of mismanagement. When her millionaire benefactor passed away, she became increasing unstable and unreliable in her professional life, although she still maintained the favour of the Boulevard audiences. In the early 1930s the public spoke more of her extravagances than her performances. In 1935 she was singing in a cabaret under a pseudonym and acting in a play with Louis Jouvet. It was the last time she acted in France. Falconetti left France and spent a few years in Italy and Switzerland. Although she was almost broke, she maintained a frivolous lifestyle. As her financial situation deteriorated, she headed to South America, in 1942. After spending a year in Rio, she arrived in Buenos Aires in 1943. By now she had lost what remained of her fortune, presumably from horse-track gambling. Though Buenos Aires was full of expatriate French actors, she only managed to form a small company of amateurs, which performed four plays at a small, insignificant theatre. To make ends meet, she gave elocution classes to young French-Argentines.
As the years passed, her activity slowed. When she attempted to make a theatrical comeback after World War II she was heavily overweight. Falconetti passed away on 12 December 1946 under mysterious circumstances. Some sources say she died as the result of a self-imposed crash diet. Her remains were entombed in an Argentine cemetery until 1960, when they were cremated. Her ashes now rest in the Montmartre Cemetery in Paris.

Sources/More to Read:
Wikipedia: Joan of Arc
Wikipedia: The Trial of Joan of Arc
The Criterion Collection: The Passion of Joan of Arc
Wikipedia: The Passion of Joan of Arc
IMDb: La passion de Jeanne d’Arc
Wikipedia: Carl Theodor Dreyer
Danish Film Institute – Carl Theodor Dreyer
Wikipedia: Maria Falconetti
European Film Star Postcard: Maria Falconetti
NY Times, March 31, 1929: “POIGNANT FRENCH FILM”
Carl Theodor Dreyer: “Realized Mysticism in The Passion of Joan of Arc”

Mark Cousins & Lars Von Trier on Carl Dreyer
Excerpt from 2011 documentary, The Story of Film: An Odyssey


Confirmation candidate, Cologne, 1911

August Sander, Part Two

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

Confirmation candidate, 1911 (Die Photographische Sammlung / SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv)

August Sander (1876–1964) was a German portrait and documentary photographer. He has been described as “the most important German portrait photographer of the early twentieth century”.
In 1911, Sander began with the first series of portraits for his work “People of the 20th Century”. In this series, he aims to show a cross-section of society during the Weimar Republic. August Sander became renowned for this work in which he put together hundreds of portraits of people from different levels of society and occupational groups in a series of portfolios developed in a project spanning decades. The series is divided into seven sections: The Farmer, The Skilled Tradesman, Woman, Classes and Professions, The Artists, The City, and The Last People (homeless persons, veterans, etc.). By 1945, Sander’s archive included over 40,000 images.

“The essence of all photography is the documentary manner” August Sander

In Christianity, Confirmation is seen as the sealing of the covenant created in Holy Baptism. In some denominations, Confirmation also bestows full membership in a local congregation upon the recipient. In others, such as the Roman Catholic Church, Confirmation “renders the bond with the Church more perfect”, because, while a baptized person is already a member, “reception of the sacrament of Confirmation is necessary for the completion of baptismal grace”.
Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, and many Anglicans view Confirmation as a sacrament. In the East it is conferred immediately after baptism. In the West, this practice is followed when adults are baptized, but in the case of infants not in danger of death it is administered, ordinarily by a bishop, only when the child reaches the age of reason or early adolescence. Among those Catholics who practice teen-aged Confirmation, the practice may be perceived, secondarily, as a “coming of age” rite.
In Protestant churches, the rite tends to be seen rather as a mature statement of faith by an already baptized person. It is also required by most Protestant denominations for membership in the respective church, in particular for traditional Protestant churches (Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, etc.), in which it is recognized as a coming of age ceremony.
Confirmation is not practiced in Baptist, Anabaptist and other groups that teach believer’s baptism. Thus, the sacrament is administered to converts from non-Christian religions, those aforementioned groups, and nontrinitarian churches.
Sources/More to Read:
Wikipedia: August Sander
Wikipedia: Confirmation
Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur
August Sander Foundation

See also my other post about August Sander’s work
Widower with his sons, Cologne, 1914

Healing ceremony in the Pentecostal Church of God, 1946

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

Healing "laying on of hands" ceremony in the Pentecostal Church of God. Lejunior, Harlan County, Kentucky (Photo: Russell Lee / U.S. National Archives) 1946

Healing “laying on of hands” ceremony in the Pentecostal Church of God. Lejunior, Harlan County, Kentucky (Photo: Russell Lee / U.S. National Archives) 1946

Faith healing refers to notably overt and ritualistic practices of communal prayer and gestures (such as laying on of hands) that are claimed to solicit divine intervention in initiating spiritual and literal healing. Believers assert that the healing of a person can be brought about by religious faith through prayer and/or rituals that, according to adherents, stimulate a divine presence and power toward healing disease and disability. Belief in divine intervention in illness or healing is related to religious belief. Faith healing is claimed healing through supernatural or spiritual means.
Christian laying on of hands is used in Christianity as both a symbolic and formal method of invoking the Holy Spirit primarily during baptisms and confirmations, healing services, blessings, and ordination of priests, ministers, elders, deacons, and other church officers, along with a variety of other church sacraments and holy ceremonies.

16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” – Mark 16:16-18

Pentecostalism/Charismatic movement. At the beginning of the 20th century, the new Pentecostal movement drew participants from the Holiness movement and other movements in America that already believed in divine healing. By the 1930s, several faith healers drew large crowds and established worldwide followings.
Pentecostal Christians believe that the laying on of hands can have curative properties, based on biblical precedent set by Jesus, who would walk for days, offering his healing power. Both Christian and non-Christian faith healers will lay hands on people when praying for healing, and often the name of Jesus is invoked as the spiritual agency through which the healing of physical ailments is believed to be obtained.
Wikipedia: Faith healing
Wikipedia: Christian laying on of hands
Wikipedia: Laying on of hands

Hands of Healing

Hands of Healing

For more see my other post:
Handling serpents at the Pentecostal Church of God, 1946


Handling serpents at the Pentecostal Church of God, 1946

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

Handling serpents at the Pentecostal Church of God. Most of the members are coal miners and their families. Lejunior, Harlan County, Kentucky. (Photo: Russell Lee / U.S. National Archives) 1946

Handling serpents at the Pentecostal Church of God. Most of the members are coal miners and their families. Lejunior, Harlan County, Kentucky. (Photo: Russell Lee / U.S. National Archives) 1946

In 1946 the Department of Interior and the United Mine Workers agreed to a joint survey of medical, health and housing conditions in coal communities. Survey teams went into mining areas to collect data and photographs on the conditions of these regions, later compiled into a published report. The bulk of the photographs were taken by Russell W. Lee.
Russell Lee
(1903 – 1986) was an American photographer and photojournalist. By the fall of 1936 during the Great Depression, Lee was hired for the federally sponsored Farm Security Administration (FSA) photographic documentation project. He joined a team assembled under Roy Stryker, along with Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rothstein and Walker Evans. In 1946 and 1947, he created over 4,000 photographs of miners and their working conditions in coal mines. In 1946, Lee completed a series of photos focused on a Pentecostal Church of God in a Kentucky coal camp.
The Pentecostal Church of God was formed in Chicago, Illinois in 1919. It believes the Old and New Testaments of the Bible are the inspired word of God which is the only rule of Christian faith and practice.
Snake handling, also called serpent handling, is a religious ritual in a small number of Pentecostal churches in the U.S., usually characterized as rural and part of the Holiness movement.
The practice began in the early 20th century in Appalachia, and plays only a small part in the church service. Practitioners believe serpent handling dates to antiquity and quote the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Luke to support the practice:
16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mark 16:16-18)

“Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.”
(Luke 10:19)

George Went Hensley (1880–1955) introduced snake handling practices, founding the Dolly Pond Church of God in Birchwood, Tenn. in 1910. If believers truly had the Holy Spirit within them, Hensley argued, they should be able to handle rattlesnakes and any number of other venomous serpents.
Snake handlers do not worship snakes, instead using the snakes to show non-Christians that God protects them from harm. In church services, when they feel the anointing of the Holy Spirit come upon them, these Christians reach into boxes, pick up venomous snakes and hold them up as they pray, sing, and dance. They should also be able to drink poison and suffer no harm whatsoever.
Snake handling as a test or demonstration of faith became popular wherever Hensley traveled and preached in the small towns of Tennessee, Kentucky, the Carolinas, Virginia, Ohio, and Indiana.
In 1955, Hensley died of a snakebite .
Most religious snake handlers are still found in the Appalachian Mountains and other parts of the southeastern United States. In 2001, about 40 small churches practiced snake handling, most of them considered to be holiness-Pentecostals or charismatics.
Although exact records are difficult to substantiate, at least 71 people have been killed by venomous snakebites during religious services in the United States.
All Appalachian states except West Virginia outlawed the snake-handling ritual when it first emerged. Most snake handling, therefore, takes place in the homes of worshipers, which circumvents the process of attempting to obtain a government permit for the practice. Law enforcement usually ignores it unless and until they are specifically called in, which does not usually happen unless a death has resulted.

Jamie Coots, who was featured in a National Geographic Channel program, “Snake Salvation“, was cited in 2013 for illegal possession and transportation of venomous snakes. Coots died from a snake bite on February 15, 2014, after refusing medical treatment.
Kristen Wiley, curator of the Kentucky Reptile Zoo said that the risk of fatal bites is significantly reduced by the familiarity of the snakes with humans, and by the poor health of snakes that are insufficiently fed and watered and kept in crowded areas. Deaths related to snake-handling are more likely to occur when someone is bitten while handling a newly captive snake, still in relatively good health, and then refuses medical treatment. Snakes living in the captivity of snake handlers live an average of 3 to 4 months, compared to a well-cared for snake in captivity which can live 10–20 years.

More to read:
1. Take Away the Serpents from Us: The Sign of Serpent Handling and the Development of Southern Pentecostalism
2. Snake Salvation: One Way to Pray in Appalachia

Ο Ράσσελ Λη (1903 – 1986) ήταν ένας Αμερικανός φωτογράφος και φωτορεπόρτερ. Το 1936, ήταν μέλος της ομάδας φωτογράφων της Διοίκησης Αγροτικής Ασφάλειας (Farm Security Administration) που τεκμηρίωσαν τις συνθήκες ζωής στις Νοτιοδυτικές Πολιτείες κατά τη διάρκεια της Μεγάλης Ύφεσης, μαζί με τη Δωροθέα Λάνγκε, τον Τζακ Ντελάνο κ.α.
Το 1946 και το 1947, τράβηξε πάνω από 4000 φωτογραφίες, στα πλαίσια ενός προγράμματος του Υπουργείου Εσωτερικών και της Ένωσης Ανθρακωρύχων σχετικά τις συνθήκες διαβίωσης των ανθρακωρύχων στα Απαλλάχια Όρη.
Μια σειρά φωτογραφιών του, αφορούσε αποκλειστικά τις θρησκευτικές συνήθειες των μελών – ανθρακωρύχων με τις οικογένειες τους – της “Πεντηκοστιανής Εκκλησίας του Θεού” στο Λετζουνιόρ, στην κομητεία Χάρλαν του Κεντάκυ.
Η Πεντηκοστιανή Εκκλησία του Θεού σχηματίστηκε στο Σικάγο του Ιλινόις το 1919. Πιστεύει ότι η Παλαιά και η Καινή Διαθήκη είναι ο εμπνευσμένος Λόγος του Θεού, και είναι ο μόνος κανόνας της χριστιανικής πίστης και πρακτικής. Μέρος του τελετουργικού της εμπνέεται από τα αποσπάσματα των Ευαγγελίων Μάρκου και Λουκά:

“Να και τα θαύματα που θα κάνουν όποιοι πιστέψουν: Με την επίκληση του ονόματός Μου θα διώχνουν δαιμόνια, θα μιλούν νέες γλώσσες, κι αν παίρνουν φίδια στα χέρια τους ή πίνουν κάτι δηλητηριώδες δε θα παθαίνουν τίποτε· θα βάζουν τα χέρια τους πάνω σε αρρώστους και θα τους θεραπεύουν.” (Κατά Μάρκο 16:17-18)

“Σας δίνω εξουσία να πατάτε πάνω σε φίδια και σκορπιούς, και να κυριαρχείτε πάνω σ’ όλη τη δύναμη του εχθρού· τίποτε δε θα σας βλάψει.” (Κατά Λουκά 10:19)

Σύμφωνα με τον εμπνευστή του τελετουργικού, Τζώρτζ Γουέντ Χένσλεϋ (1880–1955), αν οι πιστοί έχουν πραγματικά το Άγιο Πνεύμα μέσα τους, τότε θα μπορούν να κρατούν κροταλίες και δηλητηριώδη φίδια χωρίς αυτά να τους δαγκώνουν. Θα μπορούν ακόμα και να πιούν και στρυχνίνη χωρίς να πάθουν τίποτα. Ο Χένσλεϋ, κατάφερε με το κήρυγμα του να κάνει ιδιαίτερα δημοφιλή αυτή την πρακτική σε αρκετές περιοχές του Νοτιοανατολικών Πολιτειών της Αμερικής. Ωστόσο το 1955 τον δάγκωσε ένα φίδι στην εκκλησία και πέθανε.
Υπολογίζεται ότι πάνω από 71 άνθρωποι έχουν πεθάνει κατά τη διάρκεια του τελετουργικού με τα φίδια. Και ενώ έχει απαγορευτεί επίσημα σε όλες τις Πολιτείες στα Απαλλάχια Όρη, (εκτός από τη Δυτική Βιρτζίνια) υπάρχουν περίπου 40 μικρές εκκλησίες που συνεχίζεται ακόμα με την ανοχή της τοπικής αστυνομίας.
Οι κήρυκες ξεστομίζουν πύρινους λόγους ώσπου να τους κυριεύσει το Άγιο Πνεύμα, βγάζουν τα δηλητηριώδη φίδια από τα κουτιά τους, τα κρατάνε στα χέρια και προσεύχονται, τραγουδάνε και χορεύουν μαζί με το ποίμνιο τους σε θρησκευτική έκσταση, σε μια ομαδική επίδειξη πίστης.
Ωστόσο, σύμφωνα με την επιμελήτρια του Ζωολογικού Κήπου του Κεντάκυ, τα δηλητηριώδη φίδια δεν είναι τόσο επικίνδυνα όσο φαίνεται. Συνήθως είναι αφυδατωμένα, υποσιτισμένα και αρκετά εξοικειωμένα με την ανθρώπινη παρουσία. Επιβιώνουν μόνο μερικούς μήνες αντί για 10-20 χρόνια σε συνθήκες αιχμαλωσίας. Τα περιστατικά θανάτων από δάγκωμα, απλά προέρχονται από νεοφερμένα φίδια που δεν έχουν εξαντληθεί και όταν το θύμα αρνείται ιατρική περίθαλψη.

Three Hidden Women

Three Hidden Women