Atheist alert: Maria Falconetti’s ecstatic Joan Of Arc could convert you.
FLESH AND SOUL: THE FILMS OF CARL THEODOR DREYER at Cinematheque Ontario (Jackman Hall, Art Gallery of Ontario, 317 Dundas West), from Friday (February 6) to March 14. 416-968-34576. Rating: NNNNN
The films of Carl Theodor Dreyer are like transmissions from another world - one with a purer atmosphere. Narratives are cleaner, performances more intense. Everything is precise, but there's no sense of artifice; it's just emotion, close up. On DVD it's powerful; on the big screen it can be positively overwhelming.
Cinematheque's Dreyer retrospective, curated in concert with Brooklyn's BAMcinémathek and the Danish Film Institute, is bringing Dreyer's body of work to Jackman Hall.
It's a pleasure to get lost in The Passion Of Joan Of Arc (Friday, February 6, 7 pm, and February 12, 9:30 pm). Eight decades on, Dreyer's greatest film remains a triumph of simplicity and focus. Its uncluttered sets are shot with just enough headroom to suggest the presence of a helpless God. The radiance of Maria Falconetti's Joan, lost in religious ecstasy while her persecutors rage and froth for the benefit of the crowd, is enough to wrench the heart of the crankiest atheist. (That would be me.)
Cinematheque is presenting Joan with live piano accompaniment by William O'Meara that, at a press preview last week, provided an intriguing contrast for those of us who've only experienced the film with Richard Einhorn's choir-and-orchestra soundtrack, Voices Of Light, on Criterion's DVD.
Another story of persecution, Day Of Wrath, arrives in a new 35mm print (February 15, 1 pm). They're going to the archives for Ordet (Monday, February 9, 7 pm), Vampyr (March 1, 3:45 pm) and Gertrud (March 10, 7 pm), but frankly, I'm delighted to see these screened at all.
Toronto's program reaches beyond Dreyer's own films to include related projects like Robert Bresson's Trial Of Joan Of Arc (February 12, 7 pm, before a screening of Dreyer's Passion); Jean-Luc Godard's Vivre Sa Vie (February 22, 3 pm), which uses a screening of The Passion Of Joan Of Arc as the setting for a key emotional moment; and Lars von Trier's 1988 adaptation of Medea (March 12, 7 pm), which evolved from an unproduced Dreyer script.
The Danish formalist turns out to be an ideal channeller of Dreyer's grim, unflinching, vision. You can't be sure which filmmaker came up with the horribly perfect tweak this version makes to the climax of the classic Greek tragedy.