The Trial of Joan of Arc [Procès de Jeanne d'Arc] (1963) dir. Robert Bresson
Venue: Harrie Massey LT (25 Gordon Street)
With Robert Bresson’s The Trial of Joan of Arc, you get more or less exactly what it says in the title. Like Dreyer’s astonishing The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), Bresson’s film relies almost entirely on the historical transcript of Joan’s interrogation and trial – with only the addition of eye-witness accounts from the rehabilitation that led to her sainthood, to inform the circumstances of her burning at the stake – but Bresson’s film is even more minimalist, portrayed with characteristic simplicity, naturalism, neutrality and humanism.
The actors stick to delivering the known transcripts of the trial with little in the way of expression or inflection, yet the film – through that inimitable Bressonian style – still manages to bring across the solemnity and the gravity of the situation with an almost documentary-like naturalism. Using non-professional actors, Bresson captures the sense of these being real people in real time, undergoing deep emotional and spiritual conflicts. Delay under Bresson’s undoubted careful direction, leaves you in no doubt whatsoever of the deep underlying resources of Joan’s physical and emotional strength, her belief in her purity and the strength she gains from it, allowing the real words of Joan (remarkably preserved from 15th century records) to demonstrate what a remarkable woman she was.
‘My voices were from God. All I did, I did at God's command. My voices did not lie. My visions were from God.’