Friday, September 29, 2006

75 Great Performances: #6

6. Maria Falconetti as Jeanne d'Arc in La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc (1928)
Carl Theodor Dreyer's silent masterpiece La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc relied on Expressionist motifs and close-ups of the principal actors to get into the raw core of their emotions. The style proved nowhere as irresistible and intense as when it had the camera dwelling on Maria Falconetti, who played the title role of the persecuted saint. In what would be her last and most significant performance, Falconetti's despair, determination, and loyalty cut deep, and only with the movements of her eyes and mouth. If there was ever a doubt that silent films could convey as much emotion and expression, if not stronger, than talkies, one has to watch only a few scenes with Falconetti to forever dispel that notion. Her face is a haunting image of gloom when the situation calls for it, and that is often, for as is commonly known, Jeanne d'Arc's life was tragic, though ultimately redeeming. It could not be said how sound could have affected the film and the performances, but it is beyond doubt that Maria Falconetti's touching portrayal of Jeanne d'Arc is deservedly one of cinema's most unforgettable performances.

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#7: Emily Watson as Bess in Breaking the Waves (1996)

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