'The Passion of Joan of Arc'

Watching a classic movie on the big screen for the first time is akin to traveling back in time to meet your parents before you were born. Whatever you thought you knew no longer applies.

I've seen Carl Theodor Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) several times at home, but SXSW gave me the opportunity to experience it the way it was meant to be seen. Or at least an approximation: I doubt that Dreyer ever imagined that his movie might be accompanied by musicians playing synthesizers, or that people would be eating a breakfast burrito and sipping hot coffee at a place called the Alamo Drafthouse while his inspirational film unreeled. I was immediately -- I mean literally from the moment the first image appeared -- captivated, and quickly became enthralled in the drama of an 82-year-old creation. And I realized that everything I thought I knew about the film no longer applied.

Superficially, there's not much, story-wise, to Passion. Joan, played by the great Maria Falconetti, is tried in court. A judge forges a letter. Joan is further interrogated in her cell. She is threatened with torture. Things do not end well for Joan. Within those few sequences, however, is encapsulated a lifetime of religious fervor and piety. Joan looks to be in constant communion with a higher power. Those who judge her feel secure in their own righteousness.