(Carl Theodor Dreyer, Netherlands, 1929)
Okay, so, now that I've indulged my compulsions a bit, I can set about with the task at hand.
I was happy to discover a terrific film, and also a very strange one; it contains that special mix of grand ambition and peculiarity that tends to produce artistic greatness. There's no doubt that Dreyer was a genius - his obsessiveness and ambition are evident in every frame. In retrospect, what is most remarkable about the film that it is a two-person show. To an extent that seems increasingly rare in this post-silent era, The Passion is devoted utterly to its star: built around and focused to an almost insane degree on the performance of Maria Falconetti. She's in nearly every scene and appears in practically every other shot for a good three-quarters of the film, framed almost exclusively in close-up and perpetually on the brink of a colossal nervous breakdown. Falconetti's performance is uncanny and heartbreaking and difficult to watch; just the sheer volume of shed tears is enough to make the mind reel at what an ordeal the shoot must have been for her.
This is the kind of paradoxical effect that tragedy is supposed to engender, I believe. Pity and sorrow infused with a sense of peace. And I think this film accomplishes that.
Does this satisfy the requirements of my ego? Have I contributed something lasting? Not, surely, as much as Saint J. But maybe just a smidgen. That ought to be enough for now.