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Long lost film on Joan of Arc showing Sunday in Wilton

“The Passion of Joan of Arc,” a 1928 silent film thought to be lost, will be screened at the Town Hall Theatre on Sunday at 4:30 p.m.

This ground-breaking European feature film was considered lost for decades until a copy surfaced in Oslo, Norway. The film is noted for its innovative camera work and an acclaimed performance by actress Maria Falconetti.

Directed by Denmark’s Carl Theodor Dreyer, the film chronicles the trial of Jeanne d’Arc on charges of heresy, and the efforts of her ecclesiastical jurists to force Jeanne to recant her claims of holy visions. The film’s courtroom scenes are shot almost exclusively in close-up, situating all the film’s meaning and drama in the slightest movements of its protagonist’s face.

Before the premiere, several cuts were made by order of the Archbishop of Paris and by government censors, which Dreyer had no say in and was angry about. Later that year, a fire at UFA studios in Berlin destroyed the film’s original negative and only a few copies of Dreyer’s original cut of the film existed. Dreyer was able to patch together a new version of his original cut using alternate takes not initially used. This version was also destroyed in a lab fire in 1929. Over the years it became hard to find copies of Dreyer’s second version and even harder to find copies of the original version.

In 1981, an employee of the Kikemark Sykehus mental institution in Oslo, Norway found several film cans in a janitor’s closet that were labeled as being “The Passion of Joan of Arc.” It was later discovered that the prints were of Dreyer’s original cut of the film before government or church censorship had taken place.

Live music will be provided. Admission is free with donations accepted.

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