The Passion of Joan of Arc (found silent French film; 1928)
The Passion of Joan of Arc is a 1928 silent French film by Carl Theodor Dreyer. It is incredibly influential, pioneering the use of close-ups, particularly without makeup. The film cronicled the events of the final days of Joan's life, leading up to her execution. The dialogue was taken almost verbatum from her court records. To this day, it is considered one of the most depressing movies to sit through, often surpassing United 93, Requiem for a Dream, and Schindler's List as far as movies that the viewer is often left too uncomfortable to watch again.
It also contains what is often called cinema's greatest onscreen performance: Renee Jean Falconetti as the title character. It is often rumored that she got so into her method acting that she had to be institutionalized for a short while because she really believed she was Joan.
The film went through a long and troubled production. Dreyer, a perfectionist, demanded several takes of scenes and his sets he demanded to be flawless. The film had loads of raw footage that Dreyer slaved over to create his vision of the perfect movie to tell Joan's story. Unfortunately, though, the film was blasted with controversy upon release.
Because the film portrayed members of the British church in a rather unflattering light, many theaters refused to screen it. This led to very few copies of the film existing to begin with. It became one of the first films to be destroyed due to it's silver nitrate composition in many studio fires, with the final known copy having been destroyed in 1929 in a lab fire.
The film was re-made using spare footage of alternate takes and camera angles into a 61 minute version in 1933. Often considered vastly inferior to the original, the film was mostly only shown to people for educational purposes. The movie was then taken many times and altered by various companies. Many of these altered versions include awkward voice dubbing, narration, subtitles explaining everything that was going on, and even strange inclusions of unrelated scenes from other movies.
Dreyer died disappointed that his masterpiece was long thought lost. Then, a miracle happened in 1981 when a janitor found an odd, prestine film reel of the original film in a Swedish mental hospital. It is often theorized and joked that for years the only people who were seeing the "true" version of the film for decades were insane and suicidal people. The movie was restored painstakingly over the course of a year and finally shown to a crowded theater in 1982.
The film is now famous for it's numerous musical compositions, most notably Richard Einhorn's "Voices of Light". It is now acclaimed as one of the greatest film compositions of all time and has even been analyzed in ways that only Beethoven's 9th and Rite of Spring have ever been analyzed. The film is highly recommended to be viewed with either that score, or in entire silence, letting the movie on it's own captivate the viewer.