Carl Th. Dreyer’s The Passion Of Joan Of Arc is inspiring the general direction of Hope Lies at 24 Frames Per Second heavily at the moment. Not only are we screening the film theatrically in a couple of weeks time, but it’s also our most anticipated home video release of the winter. Ever since the UK’s foremost boutique cinema label, Eureka’s Masters Of Cinema imprint announced their aquisition of the film for the British market back in January we’ve held steady with bated breath, ever anticipatory of what the good folk at MoC HQ had lined up. The news that Masters Of Cinema were to be handling it was all the more notable given that the film had not been afforded the honour of a home video release on these shores since the dawn of the digital age. A fuller review of the film itself will follow, but so impressed were we with the package that we felt it necessary to present our initial impressions.
The Film – Perhaps due to the nature of the film’s home video ubiquity The Passion Of Joan Of Arc is a film we’ve long associated with the theatrical experience. Indeed, our own initial experience with the film involved a cathedral, so it goes without saying that any home exhibition is going to pale. But alas, such is the nature of the film, in one breath intimate, yet projecting the most ambitious of emotional facades, that it works just as well on the small screen as it does the big.
The disc contains a transfer that is exclusive to the Masters Of Cinema disc, and it looks fantastic. As others have observed the film itself looks cleaner than one might expect, with this being in part due to the nature of the celluloid utilised by Dreyer. It lacks the grainy texture that many associate with the period. The stills illustrating this article are ripped directly from the Blu-ray transfer of the film, click to enlarge them (courtesy of DVDBeaver – click through for more images and tech info). The film is presented at both 20 and 24 frames per seconds. 20fps is the optimum speed, with a noticeable and almost comical speeding up coming with the 24fps version. Separate audio options accompany each speed, with a stripped down piano accompaniment from Japanese composer Mie Yanashita on the 20, and a “bigger” sounding piece from Loren Connors on the 24. Having only sampled the two our thoughts aren’t definitive as such, but the Yanashita score is the preferred option at the moment. Kind of. Dreyer himself spoke of his desire for the film to be played silently, and it’s difficult to argue with the director’s intentions: it works all that much better.
The Extras – Video extras are limited to the Lo Duca version of the film. The Lo Duca version is the truncated version of the film that was circulated in France during the film’s first great reappraisal, and the one celebrated by the Nouvelle Vague writers. It was the chief edition of the film in circulation prior to the 1981 discovery of Dreyer’s original cut in a janitor’s office of an Oslo mental institution (aka the main feature on the disc). The Lo Duca cut ought to be filed very firmly under curiosity. The most impressive piece of supplementary material comes in the form of a 100-page book. Featuring significant musings on the film from Bazin and Bunuel, the manuscript offers up all manner of thoughts on Dreyer’s film. It might even be the largest single volume available solely on the film itself.
The Packaging – While not one to especially hold such things in particularly high regard, it’s difficult not to be impressed with what Eureka have put together here. Three versions are available; a Blu-ray edition, a DVD edition and a Dual-format Steelbook edition. All three are housed in a sturdy cardboard case, that feels closer to wood than anything else of late, with said case adorned by one of the original pieces of artwork created for the film upon it’s 1928 release. The aforementioned 100-page book also accompanies. Check out detailed pack shots of the Steelbook edition here.
As stated afore, a bona-fide examination of the film will be up soon, in essay form, ahead of our own screening of The Passion Of Joan Of Arc on December the 2nd. The Blu-ray and DVD is released on November 26th, but can be bought now directly from Eureka by clicking here.