Last night I had an amazing yet wholly unexpected treat. Lyn had been sent tickets by a man at the Southbank centre, whom we hope she’ll be able to work with. It was for a concert, and she invited me along. To be honest I didn’t know what to expect – it could have been any type of music, any type of concert. Yet, as it turned out, it was just as much a treat for me as it was for Lyn: fate had sent us to a screening of Carl Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) set to live music. This is a classic bit of cinema, one of the cornerstones of early film, and to get to see it on the big screen was incredible. Some of the shots were absolutely beautiful: Dreyer kept using close-ups of Joan’s face, which, to begin with, I found faintly irritating, but then I realised how emotive her face was: he used it as a refrain – a piece of text to keep coming back to. I was intrigued.
Even more intriguing was that the live orchestra did not use the score of the original film, but had composed new music for it. I think it fitted the film quite well, although, as a film buff, I must raise my eyebrow at it. It sort of shifts authorship away from the original director, which raises all kinds of interesting questions. Is it right to tamper with such a classic text? It is probably best to describe a concert like the one last night as post-modern, which allows such fusions of old and new. Indeed, I think the performance last night was very post-modern indeed, as it was the fusion of three texts: the medieval court records of the original trial of Joan of arc, mentioned in the opening film; the 1928 movie based on those records; and the contemporary score, complete with awesome-sounding electric guitars. I must say I find such a convergence fascinating to reflect on.
I think I got a lot out of last night. It gave me a lot to think about. On top of that, I got very excited when I noticed they were using an ancient reel-to-reel projector. All told, it was an incredible night for me – I can’t believe my luck sometimes.