August 20, 2011

Bunuel on Dreyer


This evening there is a rare screening of Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), within the Christchurch Arts Festival. In June, I bought two books about Luis Bunuel from a secondhand store in Edgeware; in one -- Luis Bunuel: A Critical Biography, by Francisco Aranda (Da Capo, 1976) -- there is a collection of Bunuel's work as a critic. He reviewed Dreyer's Joan of Arc, calling it "certainly the most original and interesting film of the new cinema season". An excerpt:
The humanity of the Maid in Dreyer's work transcends that of any other interpretation we know. We all feel the urge to prescribe her a whipping so that we can give her a sweet afterwards. To take away her dessert from her, to punish her childlike integrity, her transparent obstinacy, yes; but, why burn her? Lit by tears, purified by flames, head shaved, grubby as a little girl, yet for a moment she stops crying to watch some pigeons settle on the spire of the church. Then, she dies.