The Passion Of Joan Of Arc Review

As far back as I can remember, I have always been at odds with religion. I feel it is an exercise in futility, for it tries to compartmentalize all of God’s teachings into human ways. I could never make sense of this notion, for how could we perceive his teachings in our ways when his ways were so different from our own ? I asked my parents, who asked me to pray for faith to God. I was further befuddled. How could I pray for faith to God when I needed faith to believe in him in the first place ? All these quandaries and sixteen years later, I find myself quoting Garrison Keillor in saying ‘Anyone who thinks sitting in church can make you a Christian must also think that sitting in a garage can make you a car.’ Religion is a journey outwards, it perceives you as a societal being and attempts to mould you in its most ideal version. So, a case can be made that society probably invented religion and made God the propreitor to sanctify its hold. However spirituality, on the other hand, is a whole different case.

The Passion of Joan Of Arc by Carl Dreyer is a spiritual movie. It will reaffirm for some and rekindle in most (even I belong to the latter) their faiths. Joan of Arc, one of France’s most unfortuante daughters, and the trial which lead to her execution forms the crux of the movie. Joan is played, or to put it more correctly, lived by Renee Falconetti. The judges are full of spite against Joan for proclaiming herself as the daughter of God and her mission as the work of God through her, and want her to sign a confession which asseverates that is rather Satan who has worked through her. I haven’t more to say since this is all there is to it, and nor should I say more, for anything more than this should be experienced in its full glory and pain on film rather than be diminished of its greatness in mentions even as humble as this.

The trial sequence is heartbreaking, because it less Chayefsky and more Bresson. It is completely one-sided, with judges hurling questions which Joan is utterly clueless about. Tears continually stream from her eyes, at her naiveness and the even bigger one of the judges. Falconetti’s performance (although it feels wrong even now to confine it just in the realms of a ‘performance’) is to acting what 2001 is to cinema. I want to list every single gesture she makes, every stare, every smile and even the blanks, and talk about how every one of them defines and accentuates the moment in which it is delivered. I want to do all that and more, but I will never know where to start or where to end. So the only thing that I can bring myself to say is that one day, I hope I bring myself to a position where I feel that I can deserve to write about it.

That last bit holds true for the movie as well, but the thing is, I do know of three or four dogged minds who might not have heard of this work, and do love me enough to read till here. And now I beg of you, watch this movie. I hope you understand why I said beg instead of ask. I hope you understand why I can’t talk about Falconetti. And I sure hope you understand how when one of the judges says to Joan that it wasn’t God that commanded her, that he is right and wrong at the same time. Right, because it is Joan herself who posed the command. Wrong, because the kingdom of heaven is within onself.

And I hope you know why this is for Joan :-
Baby Jesus, meek and mild 
Pray for me, an orphan child 
Be my guide, be my friend, 
Be with me, until the end

Anatomy Of A Murder Review

As a lawyer, I’ve had to learn that people aren’t just good or just badPaul Biegler

One of the few things that bugged me about Anatomy Of A Murder was why had Paul taken the case. There were slim chances of winning and there wasn’t any ready cash in it. By the end, we know why. To bring his friend Parnell back into life. And that’s all the suspense there is in Anatomy Of A Murder. Now, if you expect to watch this movie and experience your pulse thickening and your heart beat racing, I have quite effectively destroyed all the chances you had of that, however slim that might have been. The facts are all laid out in the beginning itself . What follows for the next two hours or so is a mind game. And boy, O boy, don’t I love one of those !

Otto Preminger’s Anatomy Of A Murder is about Paul Biegler (James Stewart) who is defending a military who has killed presumably a man who raped his wife.

Do you know about the television debates between William F. Buckley Jr. and Gore Vidal in 1968 ? Well, if not, well in short they sort of molded modern television debates and their nature. What struck about those debates was the wit. They had me in splits ! And that is what most struck me while I was watching Anatomy Of A Murder. It is a murder trial, there is a man’s life hanging on the trial, but it wouldn’t hurt to infuse humor into it, would it ? There is a furry of one liners at a torrent pace throughout the movie. This is a strict, to-the-book trial movie. And here there are no people sobbing, witnesses shouting ‘You can’t handle the truth!’ nor are there even openings. Considering how the trial was going, I was all anticipated for the big dramatic stand-off. NOTHING.

Why ? Because this movie is not about what the facts are. They are laid out there and they won’t change. It is about the ever-dominating human factor in justice. How is it that a man’s life hangs in balance of what another person thinks at a point of time ? What is going on in their minds ? I have firmly believed throughout my movie watching experiences that the viewer is assigned a certain duty to play out in the movie. Walk out of one that doesn’t do that. Here, we are not one of the jury members, as some might perceive so. Here, we are one among those faceless crowds that sits behind and watches the drama unfolds. Our thoughts are obviously molding an opinion, no doubt at it whatsoever, but we have no control over the outcome. We are there also trying to figure out, what in God’s name are those 12 individuals thinking ? Are they actually not taking into consideration what the judge discredits ? Or do they have preconceived notions, with the utterances only confirming them or disproving them ?

We never know. It is more questions than answers. It is definitely a movie that an aspiring lawyer should watch. It is never the truth that wins. It is what is sold better as truth that wins. The movie, is as the title quite aptly suggest, an anatomy of a murder. It follows it, it examines it, it ends it and moves on. But, the fact that it leaves me emotionless after 166 minutes perturbs me. Yes, it had amazing portrayals, brilliant script and superb music, and it didn’t take sides, but wasn’t Laura’s promiscuity too much entertained ? And every  movie should have an emotional core. One without is like a Tarantino movie without any Samuel Jackson in it. But as the screen fades, I do oddly feel a certain warmth tugging me. It is of Paulie and Parnell’s friendship. I am contented, willing to leave behind a flaw, and admit this is a great movie. O, what a closing ! (No pun intended)

RATING : 9.4 / 10


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