Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Architecture of The Passion of Joan of Arc


Located in Glostrup, a quiet suburb of Copenhagen, the Danish Film Institute’s Archive is where a great portion of Danish film history, but also some unique prints of world cinema heritage, have entered a pleasant dormancy of minus 5°C.

The mundane looking front building is at the back attached to vaults, sheltering thousands of films and film objects. Inside, there is nothing as ear-pleasing as the silence of a film archive, where the continuous and vague hum of ventilators is the closest thing to the murmur of celluloid.

Mikael Braae, film historian and curator of the feature films at the DFI, generously took me on an tour of the Archive which, after passing through freezing vaults, arrived at a huge storage room where on a temporary platform my attention is brought to a wrapped object: the editing table of the spiritual father of Danish cinema, Carl Th. Dreyer, which looks as unglamorous and modest as my grandmother’s sewing table.

Only a few meters away, inside wooden boxes fresh from an exhibition in Paris, lay the architecture models of Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), a reminder of one of early cinema’s greatest sets, famous (or infamous?) for being a sturdy single-piece construction with bearing walls built merely to set the mood for the actors.

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