Detroit Film Theatre has a rare treat in store for metro area movie fans. On March 22 and 23, they’ll be showing Carl Thedor Dreyer’s incredibly beautiful silent film La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc (1928), accompanied by the Rackham Symphony Choir performing Voices of Light, an oratorio by composer Richard Einhorn.
Passion is considered by many to be one of the greatest films ever made. It was considered lost for more than 50 years, as the negative was destroyed in a fire only months after its premiere. Dreyer cobbled together a cut using alternate takes but this too was destroyed in another fire in 1929. In 1981, a print of the original version was found in a closet at a mental institution in Norway.
The film tells the story of the trial of Joan of Arc (Maria Falconetti), a French woman born in 1412, who believed she was guided by the voice of God to lead France to victory against England. Historians still speculate about the origin of her inspiration, but there’s no question that the French had extraordinary success when she was with them. In 1430, she was captured by the rival Burgundians, sold to the English by the Duke of Burgundy, and put on trial for heresy by a politically-motivated bishop, who actually had no jurisdiction over the case. She was also denied a legal adviser. She was condemned and sentenced to die by burning at the stake in 1431. She was pronounced innocent and declared a martyr in 1456 by the Roman Catholic Church, beatified in 1909, and canonized in 1920.
Voices of Light draws from Joan's contemporaries: “Einhorn’s score is built around a series of texts by women writers of the middle ages, and brings to it both his research in medieval chant and his appreciation of compositional minimalism. The libretto is a montage of Latin and ancient French writings, and is presented with English subtitles.”
The combination of these two works of art promises to be an extraordinary evening not to be missed. La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc is showing at 8:00 p.m. on Friday, March 22 (dress rehearsal) and Saturday, March 23 at the Detroit Film Theatre, 5200 Woodward Avenue in Detroit. You can purchase tickets online at the DFT site.