Studies in French Cinema Volume 6 Number 3 © 2006 Intellect Ltd Article. English language. doi: 10.1386/sfci.6.3.


‘Come Out of Here, My People’: Pandemonium and Power in Carl Theodor Dreyer’s La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc
Allen H. Redmon University of Arkansas at Monticello Abstract
Argument about La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc (Dreyer, 1928) focuses on the film’s eccentricities to such an extent that the peculiarities of Dreyer’s film become exaggerated and any sort of narrative cohesion is lost. Even the best readings of Dreyer’s film contend that a gap between style and narrative structure exists. These readings undervalue the role a dynamic interpretation of the cross can play in understanding perceived gaps between narrative and style. This essay shows that a cohesive reading of the film emerges when the film is viewed through the apocalyptic vision of The Revelation to John, a book that, like Dreyer’s film, has competing conceptions of the cross at the centre of its text.

Style Narrative Cinematography Editing Mimesis Apocalyptic

Carl Theodor Dreyer’s La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc (Dreyer, 1928) is internationally regarded as one of the masterpieces of world cinema. The film has been praised for establishing cinema as an art form, for creating new spaces of temporal and spatial representation, and for pioneering new means of editing, camera movement and film form.1 La Passion is at the same time considered to be ‘one of the most bizarre, perceptually difficult films ever made’ (Bordwell 1981: 66). The irregularities of the film result in La Passion being placed, as Raymond Carey claims virtually all of Dreyer’s films are placed, in the category of films that are ‘good for us’ despite the fact that they are ‘ponderous, difficult, or down-right dull’ (Carney 1989: 2–3). Unfortunately, critical discussion on the film has done little to clarify its ambiguities. Argument about the film often focuses on the film’s eccentricities to such an extent that the peculiarities of Dreyer’s piece become exaggerated and any sort of narrative cohesion becomes lost. Even the best readings of Dreyer’s film contend that a gap between style and narrative structure exists. David Bordwell, for instance, contends that the film is something of a paradox, ‘flaunting discontinuity and contradiction’ when unity is sought, and pulling itself into ‘coherent patterns’ when one attempts to show ‘total fragmentation’ (Bordwell 1981: 92). Such an understanding presents a narrative structure that is perpetually at odds with the style of the film and reduces La Passion to an ‘intersection of systems in which forces of narrative unity seek to hold together powerful stylistic contradictions’ (Bordwell 1981: 92). Following Bordwell, one must conclude that Dreyer’s film communicates despite tremendous internal conflict.

1. See as examples: Balázs 1970; Doolittle 1929; Klinger 1930.

SFC 6 (3) 183–194 © Intellect Ltd 2006


2. The reading of The Revelation on which this paper depends is expressed most fully in J. A. Jackson and A. Redmon, forthcoming.

The unusual ending of the film seems to lend credence to such a point of view. La Passion shifts in the final moments of the film from the story of a young heroine to a depiction of a community engulfed in crisis. While motivations for this shift have, of course, been proposed, critical evaluation of this supposed shift has yielded static or conflicted readings, allowing critics to miss the declaration of faith Dreyer offers in the ‘ability of the active soul to remain imaginatively free from being trapped or imprisoned by certain impinging forces’ (Carney 1989: 63). This paper provides a syntactic model for the film that identifies these ‘impinging forces’ as apocalyptic and Joan’s effort to ‘remain imaginatively free’ as the imitation of the slaughtered lamb at the centre of a prophetic understanding of The Revelation to John.2 Critics have long recognized the relationship between Joan’s passion and the execution of Christ recorded in the Judeo-Christian Gospels. The connections are obvious. Less obvious is the relationship between the film and the prophetic understanding of the cross presented in The Revelation. In this text, one consistently finds two competing interpretations of the cross – one militaristic and the other non-sacrificial. The collapse recorded in The Revelation, then, stages the conclusions of the logic on which these two interpretations depend. I contend that Dreyer is involved in the same project in La Passion. The result is a dynamic and cohesive reading of the film that unifies Dreyer’s narrative and style in ways that explain its brilliance rather than obscure it. In this article, I argue firstly that Bordwell’s analysis of La Passion, while valuable, fails to read the cross prophetically. Secondly, I introduce René Girard’s mimetic theory and bring it to bear on a prophetic reading of The Revelation as a way of showing how the film captures the tension within the competing readings of the cross Girard’s understanding creates. I argue that Joan’s shifting characterization succinctly encapsulates this tension by assigning Joan three identities: the militaristic Joan, the discordant Joan and the non-sacrificial Joan. This discussion ultimately demonstrates the way in which Dreyer’s style and narrative cooperate in a dynamic tension that stages the prophetic plea of The Revelation: ‘Come out of here, my people, so that you do not take part in her sins, and so that you do not share in her plagues’ (Revelation 18:4). Bordwell’s analysis of La Passion is one of the most useful examinations of Dreyer’s film not only in terms of the present argument, but also in terms of film scholarship generally. His move to ‘defamiliarize’ La Passion and to note its ‘gaps and dislocations, its estranging features,’ yields fresh insights (Bordwell 1981: 66). The most useful aspects of Bordwell’s summation are his naming of the ways in which Dreyer’s style disorients the viewer and his contention that the force of the film is in its ability to bring divergent elements into dialogue with one another. Bordwell shows that Dreyer’s unconventional editing, lighting and camera movements all disorient his viewer. Of the more than 1500 cuts in La Passion, Bordwell finds that ‘fewer than thirty carry a figure or object over from one shot to another; and fewer than fifteen cuts constitute genuine matches on action…[presenting] a virtually unprecedented challenge to continuity editing’ (Bordwell 1981: 78). Dreyer refuses to provide viewers with lighting elements such as shadow or muted lighting, which typically reveal distances between characters and their surroundings. The movements
Allen H. Redmon

of the camera further disorient the viewer. The seemingly unmotivated camera positions and angles create a world in which characters must struggle to occupy the space they are given. The collective effect of these stylistic elements ensures that all sense of ‘sceneographic space and stability of the viewer’s vantage point’ are lost, leading Bordwell to conclude that the film’s communicative ability ultimately lies outside the film’s peculiar style (Bordwell 1981: 77). Such a conclusion fails to note the ways in which Dreyer’s style communicates important thematic shifts that Bordwell finds in the Dreyer’s tight narrative structure. Bordwell identifies a recurring narrative strategy in La Passion, namely, the way in which the narrative moves in and out of Joan’s cell. The film opens in the courtroom and then retreats to Joan’s cell. The characters gather in the torture chamber only to return to her cell. The final segments of the film shift from the courtyard to Joan’s cell and, then, back into the courtyard. Each of these sequences adhere to the same inveterate dialogical pattern: 1) the participants assemble; 2) the authorities engage in dialogue with Joan; 3) Joan or an ally challenges the authorities; 4) the authorities attack her or her ally; 5) the participants disperse (Bordwell 1981: 86–89). Bordwell shows that this narrative pattern allows the film to assume several powerful dialogical tensions. There is the obvious tension between the characters. Joan, Massieu and Ladvenu struggle in one direction while Cauchon, Loyseleur and the other judges work in another. There is a second dichotomy between the spoken and the written word. Joan’s illiteracy consistently distances her from the written record from which the judges cannot escape and on which the film is based. A third tension is the ways in which Joan’s ordeal parallels the suffering and death of Christ recorded in the Gospels. Bordwell notes, ‘the outcome of the film is programmed from the beginning not only because we know the historical Joan, but also because we know the story of the Passion’ (Bordwell 1981: 90). Interestingly, Bordwell varies on how these tensions are to be understood. He insists that the tensions between characters and the spoken and written word are not to be reconciled. For the film to communicate, Bordwell argues, these elements must be left in the taut, dynamic relationship Dreyer gives them in the film. However, Bordwell does not insist on the same dynamic tension when discussing Dreyer’s use of the cross. Instead, he follows traditional conceptions of the cross, which fail to underscore the competing conceptions of the cross being presented in Dreyer’s film. This oversight leads to Bordwell’s mistaken claim that the narrative and style in La Passion are at odds with one another. To correct this underestimation, one does well to turn to René Girard, whose dynamic discussion of the cross makes possible a fuller appreciation of the ways in which narrative and style cooperate in La Passion. Girard contends that a great tension between sacrificial and nonsacrificial logic results in the account of the crucifixion of Christ. One has, on the one hand, a sacrificial logic that assumes that Christ dies for the sins of the world to restore a relationship between a sinful world and an angry god. The primary disclosure of the cross in Girard’s estimation adheres to a second logic, a non-sacrificial logic. This understanding finds the motivation for Christ’s death within the culture. Christ dies not for the
‘Come Out of Here, My People’: Pandemonium and Power…


3. This idea borrows from Sandor Goodhart, who writes: ‘If we understand the notion of the prophetic as the recognition of the dramas in which human beings are engaged and the naming in advance the ends of those dramas, then Girard’s thought … is prophetic in the same way’ (Goodhart 1996: 102).

sins of the world but because of them. This subtle shift comes as the extension to Girard’s idea that desire is the product of cultural imitation rather than autonomous preference. One wants what the other has, and as a result, human interaction quickly leads to human rivalry, which results in subjects continually reaching for the same object. Girard labels phenomenon ‘acquisitive mimesis’ (Girard 1987: 26). Repeated acquisitive gestures ultimately lead to rivalry. One of the primary characteristics of this rivalry is that neither party recognizes the source for their enmity – the other against whom and with whom the subject is always striving. In desperation, the agitated participants arbitrarily select a third party against whom some measure of guilt can be generated. They find that while they can have the same opinion on anything else, they can reach agreement to converge on this mutual adversary. Because other members of the community are engaged in the same sort of rivalries and are just as unable to name the cause for their hostility, the number of participants forming against this enemy swells until the entire population participates in the act. Girard refers to this corporate act as ‘conflictual mimesis’. Those who cooperate in this conflictual gesture typically feel a sense of relief once the act is committed, which the group takes as evidence that their action was, indeed, justifiable. Girard calls this mechanism the single victim mechanism and locates it at the foundation of all human interaction. The efficacy of this mechanism is such that the community rarely recognizes the drama in which they have participated. To see what has occurred plainly, one would have to appreciate the innocence of the victim upon which the group has converged. Girard identifies the crucifixion of Jesus as it is recorded in the Judeo-Christian Gospels as the most overt display of the single victim mechanism. The victim of the cross, in Girard’s estimation, is most assuredly innocent and, therefore, is not to blame for his demise. It is through the innocence of the Christ that the cross gains a prophetic ability it would not otherwise have, an ability that enables it to name the desperate drama in which human communities participate and to name in advance the likely end of that drama.3 This recognition is not self-corrective. Girard contends that because human communities are both attracted to and repelled by the violent gesture on which continued concord depends, they feel ‘the constant need to re-experience’ this gesture (Girard 1977: 99). The ability of the mechanism to deliver the social cohesion it promises wanes each time the mechanism is employed, however, until, eventually, the mechanism fails entirely. Communities become unable to abolish the violent contagion that erupts around them. In this moment, Girard claims that human community either ‘topple(s) into a form of violence with infinite powers of destruction, or into the non-violence of the kingdom’ disclosed in the cross (Girard 1987: 201). The discussion that follows demonstrates that an appeal for the latter is the purpose of The Revelation. Handlings of The Revelation are plagued by the same competing logic Girard locates in the cross. There are those who view the book as the moment in history during which Christ will appear as a lion and pour wrath and vengeance on his enemies. Adherents to this interpretation ascribe to the very sacrificial logic exposed in the cross. Others find in The Revelation the same non-sacrificial response to violence revealed in the Gospels. The Revelation becomes a text in which the mechanisms of violence
Allen H. Redmon

are fully disclosed and pushed to their logical conclusions. The book functions in the same prophetic mode that Goodhart assigns to the cross, that is, as a commandment that ultimately refuses the temptation to respond to violence with violence (Goodhart 1996: 102). The basis for this second reading insists that The Revelation be read through the slaughtered lamb that appears the moment after the Lion is announced. The appearance of the lamb in the place of the lion is not merely metaphor, nor is it the lamb paving the way for the lion; instead, the shift is completely metonymic. The Revelation reveals that the lamb and the lion are one. The power of the lion is expressed through the performance of the lamb. In order to understand the cross of the Gospels, one must also comprehend the implications of this statement. The Revelation becomes the place in which the two logics being

Figure 1: Poster for La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc.
‘Come Out of Here, My People’: Pandemonium and Power…


described in this paper – the militaristic logic entrenched in sacrificial logic and the non-sacrificial logic informed by the cross as it is described by Girard – are shown to exist in dynamic opposition to each other. La Passion can be read in the same way, and the instances of recurring narrative and peculiar stylistic choices owe themselves to this understanding of Joan’s ordeal. By viewing the film through an apocalyptic syntactic model in which mechanisms of violence are exposed rather than evoked, one is able to understand the motivation for the film’s peculiarities in its final moments has at its foundation the way in which Joan’s transformation disrupts audience’s ways of seeing. During the film Joan moves through the militaristic notion of the cross she has at the beginning of the film to a place where she becomes paralyzed between the two logics of the cross during the middle parts of the film. In the final section of the film, at the moment she realizes the error of her compromise and recants, she embraces the non-sacrificial understanding outlined in this paper and imitates the lamb she sees in the cross. The remainder of the film becomes an apocalyptic vision of what her separation from this world looks like. The opening sequence of La Passion follows a surprisingly conventional cinematographic style. Tracking shots establish narrative space, which medium close-ups then segment. Characters are properly centred in almost every frame. The participants in the trail maintain specific places in the room. Even the editing choices mostly adhere to conventional principles. The camera frames the person asking the question, shifts to the respondent, captures the reaction the response creates and then the cycle repeats. Unconventional elements do, of course, appear. Interestingly, these irregularities appear in the moments when the sacrificial, militaristic logic described in this paper is being expressed most plainly. For instance, the first significant stylistic departure occurs immediately after Joan is asked about God’s attitude towards the English. Dreyer shifts the camera to a high angle shot that looks down on Joan as she answers. The motivation for this stylistic shift is offered in Joan’s response, which reflects a militaristic confidence that characterizes her early interactions with her accusers. When Joan adds after a brief delay, ‘except those who die here,’ which signals Joan’s commitment to a militaristic logic to its conclusions, Dreyer’s style becomes even more extreme. The camera zooms in and out on an English soldier who begins to verbally accost Joan. Rather than merely capturing the ‘discordant, fraudulent nature of the trial,’ as Pipolo offers (Pipolo 2000: 21), this paper contends that these elements signal that the paradigms in which these interactions occur are more unstable than they first appear. When understood in this manner, rather than disrupting the narrative in the way that Bordwell and others propose, Dreyer’s unconventional camera positions could be understood as a commitment to an exploration of an apocalyptic logic. Such an understanding could lead one to conclude that the stable cinematographic style used throughout the majority of the opening sequence represents the prominence of a paradigm predicated on a sacrificial, militaristic logic that allows society to postpone a violent collapse. By using the same conventional style to frame Joan, Dreyer reveals that she is as embedded in this sacrificial logic as the rest. Her absolute and authoritative resolve are the product of a militaristic ideology that, if followed, will
Allen H. Redmon

reach the very conclusions Joan names. The unconventional moments in the opening sequence signal the instability of this paradigm and foreshadow the apocalyptic collapse that will occur by the film’s conclusion. The opening shot in her cell explicitly establishes Joan’s commitment to a militaristic notion of the cross. Joan is visibly shaken. She frets and cries, holding her hand in her mouth. She despairs until she sees a shadow of the cross on the floor. At once, she is revived. She begins working on a straw crown that was lying on her bed. The question that emerges is ‘what in the image of the cross revives Joan?’ Her interaction with the judges in the moments that follows answers this question: Joan expects a militaristic ‘deliverance’ from her circumstances to come at the hands of her king for whom she has fought. Joan’s judges, and Dreyer with them, use this expectation against Joan throughout the remainder of the scene. A forged letter addressed to Joan from Charles promising an eventual march on Rouen to allow her freedom reinforces Joan’s confidence in her delivery. By filming Joan using the same stable style adopted in the opening sequence, Dreyer signals her recovery. Joan’s confidence in a militaristic reading of the cross is revived. However, a militaristic reading of the cross can only lead to a parody of the cross, such as that staged in the final moments of the first exchange in Joan’s cell. Those guarding Joan place the straw crown that had been part of her revival on her head. They drop an arrow in her hands. Joan’s expression in the resulting shots is far from the conquering victor one can presume she expects to be. Rather, she is forlorn. Dreyer returns to this pathetic image of Joan a number of times in the next few moments, which punctuates the logical conflict between Joan’s militaristic confidence in spite of her recognition of the conclusions of this logic, a conclusion already revealed in the execution of Christ that earlier encouraged Joan. Joan begins to realize the instability of her own logic during the torture scene that follows. When the scene opens, Dreyer casts Joan in the same way he has in the first two sequences. The camera continues to place Joan in the centre of the frame and offers the same medium close-up shots that have comprised most every still with Joan in it up to this point. She withstands gibes from one of the attendants and the accusations from her judges. A different Joan emerges by the end of the torture sequence, however. Dreyer alerts the viewer that this shift is coming throughout Joan’s exchange with her judges. Shots of the judges become quicker and the speed of the editing accelerates. The camera becomes less stable moving with the characters rather than remaining fixed around them. The pace becomes most frenzied after the judges order that the attendant begin spinning a spike-laden wheel. Dreyer inter-cuts shots of Joan with shots of the wheel until Joan finally collapses presumably overwhelmed by the greater force that confronts her. The militaristic Joan is overcome. Dreyer connects this shift to the militaristic understanding of the cross by intercutting a picture of the straw crown in Joan’s cell one more time. The crown is kicked into the corner of the room as Joan is dropped into her bed. Dreyer uses the crown as a motif to signal the shift to the discordant Joan that fills the middle part of the film. Two interrelated changes further signal the shift from the militaristic Joan to the discordant Joan: first, the stable and relatively conventional
‘Come Out of Here, My People’: Pandemonium and Power…


shots that were prominent in the opening three sequences are used sparingly after this. Dreyer offers in their place stills with Joan off-centre and, finally, out of focus. Second, Joan’s responses become more delayed and less definitive. These changes cooperate to signal to the audience that Joan is in a new state, one in which she lingers between the two notions of the cross competing within her. When the judges come into her cell for the second time, Dreyer cants the entire frame right and captures only the top of the door. Joan’s world is increasingly unstable. She begins to move away from the militaristic notion of the cross to which the judges adhere, but she has yet to recognize an alternative. Her assertions that she is ‘a good Christian’ and that she ‘loves God with all [her] heart’ seem to be offered as much for her as they are for the judges. The sequence ends with Joan in the centre of the frame, but out of focus. The motivation for this technical choice comes in the sequence that follows.

Figure 2: Joan observed in La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc. During the questioning she is forced to endure from the executioner, Joan begins to scan the landscape. Dreyer provides some of the only reliable point-of-view shots in the film as he lets the camera move to places Joan looks. The first shot captures a field of flowers, which functions as something of a biblical allusion to Jesus’ promise to provide for his followers just as God provides for the flowers of the field (Matthew 6:28). Joan’s uncertainty in this promise becomes apparent in the next shot which shows a gravedigger unearthing a skull. These two shots underscore the psychological tension of the moment. Joan questions that which had earlier been indisputable: her physical and spiritual protection and deliverance. After cutting to Joan, Dreyer cuts back to a more extreme close-up of the skull. Worms can now be seen crawling through one of the eye sockets. Joan is as distraught as she is at any other moment in the film.
Allen H. Redmon

The brightness that marked her face disappears; her confidence in her deliverance wavers. Dreyer makes certain that the audience recognize the reason for Joan’s despair by filling virtually every frame in the sequence with a cross. The cross appears in more than twenty shots during the eight-minute execution sequence. One could easily misconstrue the purpose of the cross at this moment as little more than an interpretation of the events being depicted in the same way Bordwell seems to equate the story of Christ and Joan. With great subtlety, Dreyer proposes that as Joan reaches the executioner’s station these two texts should not be conflated. She stands in the middle of the frame with a cross on the both edges. It is as though it is at this particular point in the film, at the moment when Joan’s psychological struggle becomes most intense, that Dreyer wants the subject of her dilemma to become most salient. She is left to determine which cross she will embrace: the militaristic or the non-sacrificial. Her recantation signals that she is, for the moment, still attached to a militaristic notion that takes as its hope the promise that she will regain her ability to fight her enemies. The full extent of Joan’s compromise is revealed in the opening moments of the final cell sequence. The camera struggles to keep Joan in the frame. Her story begins to merge with the carnivalistic mayhem that occurs outside her cell as Dreyer inter-cuts shots of Joan with stills of a sword-sallower, a pretzel-man and a trickster balancing a wheel on his head. Viewed outside of the apocalyptic model which I propose as the most appropriate way of reading the film, these scenes and the camera’s inability to keep Joan in the frame lack adequate justification. They seem like eccentricities rather than principled elements. When viewed through the apocalyptic model, however, these moments become extensions of Joan’s compromise and a warning about the unstable environment in which continued existence would take place.

Figure 3: Jeanne and the straw crown in La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc.
‘Come Out of Here, My People’: Pandemonium and Power…


Joan’s separation from this profane world and from the sacrificial logic on which it depends begins when she sees the straw crown. She immediately demands that the judges return to her cell. Joan tells her judges that she has sinned, that everything she said was for fear of the stake. Her words seal her fate. The preparations for her execution begin. Joan’s reversal is not the product of some moral change; rather, it comes as a result of her freeing herself from the militaristic conception of the cross that has driven all previous action. The straw crown thus comes to represent the promise of deliverance, the naming of the way in which that deliverance will come and the visual signal to the audience of each of the shifts Joan undergoes in the film. Dreyer articulates the logic of this final shift during Joan’s exchange with Massieu who wonders how Joan can still believe that she has been sent by God. She responds, ‘His ways are not our ways …I am his child.’ Joan goes on to redefine her great victory as her martyrdom and her death as her deliverance. In this moment and with this confession, Joan has articulated the message and the hope of John’s apocalyptic vision and accepts this vision as her own. Her triumph, her conquering, has no other way to manifest itself but by imitating the Lamb. Dreyer reinforces the certainty of this declaration with shots filled with nothing but Joan’s expression. Every part of her face communicates a purity and an honesty that is unparalleled in the film. The wide-eyed optimism that dominated the early scenes and the dismay that existed throughout the middle scenes finally yields to a confident calm that enables Joan to exist within the ambiguities and uncertainties of the moment. Joan’s shift alters the motifs and the style throughout the remainder of the film. The first alteration is the appearance of the crucifix in the place of a cross of shadows or wood. The cross becomes a prominent motif during the execution scene; however, none of these images are of a crucifix. This image of the cross is only perceivable, or so it seems, after Joan’s non-sacrificial understanding of the cross has been articulated fully. Having articulated the non-sacrificial logic Girard names and discussed earlier in this paper, Dreyer is now able to portray the pandemonium that creates the need for Joan’s execution. The first of a series of inverted-overhead shots of people pushing widely through the gate fill the screen. These shots, which appear unmotivated apart from an apocalyptic syntactic model, gain new significance when understood in relationship to the crucifix and signal the close relationship between Dreyer’s narrative focus and stylistic choices. Dreyer closes the final sacrament scene with a shot that seems to make explicit his desire for his film to be read apocalyptically. In what is one of only a handful of establishing shots of the film, Dreyer situates each of the participants involved in an apocalyptic drama. Dreyer places Joan in the left-centre part of the frame kneeling under the crucifix. A group of English soldiers occupy the extreme left part of the frame as they peer into the room. Loyseleur fills the right edge of the frame. Directly above him is a drawing of a fire-breathing beast. In this shot, Dreyer reveals the three positions being explored in his film: the militaristic represented by the English guards; the sacrificial, which is a mere extension of the militaristic, represented here by Loyseleur’s position under the beast; and, finally, Joan’s non-sacrificial position under the crucifix. The final moments of the film simply perform the drama that this scene represents.
Allen H. Redmon

Figure 4: The execution scene in La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc. As the film moves toward its conclusion, the stage on which Joan’s passion is portrayed completely collapses. The camera assumes positions that lack subjective motivation. Dreyer represents the crowds running to and from Joan’s execution in inverted overhead shots. The camera lens becomes the bridge on which the guard and the crowds fight for position. When the camera does move, it does so without the sense of stability that has marked earlier sequences. It swings vertically as it captures the guards in the tower arming themselves for their final confrontation; it swings horizontally as it scans the crowds who accuse the English of burning a saint. At other moments, Dreyer seems to miss his subject entirely, capturing only a part of the action. All of these peculiarities find their motivation in the apocalyptic insight the film reveals. In the midst of these peculiarities, we have Joan. Dreyer’s camera is firmly fixed when Joan is before it. Some critics have proposed that the stylistic contrast between the way in which Joan and the crowds are captured reflects ‘the conflict between an ideally unified human subject and a chaotic universe from which it is irrevocably alienated’ (Desilets 2003: 57). I maintain that the final moments of the film are meant to work apocalyptically more than psychologically or sociologically. The supposed contrast that appears is the product of Joan’s willingness to give her life rather than fight to keep it. The trial that sought to execute Joan – which had temporarily unified the French and the English – finally implodes the social order it was meant to restore. Aware of Joan’s innocence, the mob participating in the conflictual gesture Girard describes fails to realize the relief their corporate action typically provides. The result is mayhem. The participants begin to find some way to establish order. Dreyer’s style complements this observation.
‘Come Out of Here, My People’: Pandemonium and Power…


The film’s final visual image is thematically summative. A white cross is placed in the left of the frame; the top of Joan’s stake is set in contrast on the right. The white cross at the left of the frame can be charged with the pandemonium of the final moments. Its insistence on a sacrifice has led to cultural collapse. Joan’s stake, now a substitute for the crucifix and a representation of the non-sacrificial notion of the cross Girard identifies, reveals the way out of this pandemonium. Dreyer’s epilogue, which assures his audience that the flames around Joan’s body ‘sheltered her soul as it rose to heaven,’ captures the prophetic hope of The Revelation. In the midst of all the pandemonium, Dreyer offers the powerful response of one who hears the prophetic plea of The Revelation: ‘Come out of here, my people’. References
Balázs, B. (1970), Theory of Film, New York: Dover. Bordwell, D. (1981), The Films of Carl-Theodor Dreyer, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Carney, R. (1989), Speaking the Language of Desire: The Films of Carl Dreyer, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Desilets, S. (2003), ‘The Rhetoric of Passion’, Camera Obscura, 53, 18: 2, pp. 57–91. Doolittle, H. (1929), ‘An Appreciation’, Close-Up, 4: 3, March 1929. Girard, R. (1977), Violence and the Sacred, Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Press. —— (1987), Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Goodhart, S. (1996), Sacrificing Commentary: Reading the End of Literature, Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Press. Jackson, J.A. and Redmon, A.H. (2006, forthcoming), ‘ nd They Sang a New Song: A Reading The Revelation to John from the Position of the Lamb’, Contagion, 12, p. 5. Klinger, W. (1930), ‘ nalytical Treatise on the Dreyer Film, The Passion of Joan of Arc’, A Experimental Cinema, I, pp. 7–10. Pipolo, T. (2000), ‘Joan of Arc: The Cinema’s Immortal Maid’, Cineaste, 25: 4, pp. 16–22.

Suggested citation
Redmon, A.H. (2006), ‘“Come Out of Here, My People”: Pandemonium and Power in Carl Theodor Dreyer’s La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc’, Studies in French Cinema 6: 3, pp. 183–194, doi: 10.1386/sfci.6.3.183/1

Contributor details
Allen H. Redmon is at University of Arkansas at Monticello. He has published essays on Clint Eastwood’s films and Zhang Yimou’s Raise the Red Lantern (Yimou, 1991). He is currently working on a book about the detective film in American cinema. Contact: School of Arts & Humanities, University of Arkansas at Monticello, P O Box 3460, Monticello, AR 71656, USA. E-mail:


Allen H. Redmon

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful