The Passion Project: Joan’s Story is in the Room
When asked about his process, the artist explains in splendidly considered detail non-stop: “My projects begin with a fascination with a particular film (“currently developing another work around director Alfred Hitchcock”) and with Passion Project he “basically fell in love with the actress Falconetti” who plays Joan in The Passion of Joan of Arc. Farrington felt compelled to “bring Falconetti back in some way.” This turned him toward live acting. It becomes a kind of talisman for the cinematic.
As film expert Acquarello asserts, “The Passion of Joan of Arc is a profoundly moving, indelible film of courage and perseverance, spirituality and conscience; a fitting tribute to the memory of the Maid of Orleans: a heroine, a martyr, a saint.”
On YouTube the 1985 reconstruction of the film can be seen in eight parts. In light of Farrington’s Passion Project, the artist notes that the original footage:
· The original film is shot almost entirely in close ups;
· The victimized Joan is filmed downward while inquisition judges only upward;
· Viewers only briefly at the outset get a sense of space between actors; and
Falconetti as muse
Renée Jeanne Falconetti was a celebrated stage artist and had appeared in two films, La contesse de Somerive and Le Clown (both in 1917) when Dreyer witnessed her acting on stage and cast her as his Joan in his La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc (1928). Her depiction is widely considered one of the most astounding performances ever committed to celluloid, and it would remain her final cinematic role. It is said that Dreyer's method of directing his actors pushed Falconetti to emotional collapse. This was said to have taken place so Falconetti could experience the same deprecation which Jeanne most surely received in her trial.
Researching widely, including the Danish Film institute, Farrington’s aesthetic impulses are drawn to cinematic celluloid vulnerability itself and this work was at least in part heightened and inspired by the particular ironic saga of Dreyer’s film’s destruction and resurrection, the 1928 original censured, then the print destroyed and thought for years to be lost by fire, then re-cut later in Dreyer’s 1935 version, only to have a good print of the original inexplicably show up in 1980 in a closet of a Norwegian mental institution (now the print offered in the Criterion Collection), Farrington informed me.
Rather than creating an homage, which would be tedious, Farrington began his Passion Project “with a fascination with a particular film, but basically I fell in love with the actress.” He then took on the daunting task of lifting his own rapturous experience into a shared one. He has looked at and experienced viscerally multiple aspects of this film, its subject, its vulnerable celluloid history and its palpable impact on the viewer.
Sampling as inspiration and device
Originally Farrington dedicated his efforts toward the process of sampling the original film and juxtaposing portions in ways it was not originally issued. In so doing Farrington used the collaged pieces much in the same way a Jack Chambers film such as Hart of London uses cinematic images in new editings, evoking far wider emotions than the originals might have. Juxtaposition is the key.