Critics unanimously praised the film for its artistic qualities, Falconetti for her performance in the title role, the DP for the excellent shots and Dreyer for his courage. It is striking that the reviewers considered Joan of Arc to be an experimental film and an attempt at innovation, while consistently voicing their reservations and scepticism about whether that innovation is the future.
This dilemma is evident from two uncredited Danish newspaper clippings, "Artistically, he [Dreyer] has triumphed, but we think he is so far ahead of his time that for some time yet it will be difficult for the audience to digest this kind of film. It needs to be educated thereto." Falconetti receives accolades for her performance, which is called "the most sublime art seen on the silver screen in a long time."
Another unnamed reviewer, deeming the film "a realistic and radically artistic experiment," makes a similar point, stating that, although the viewer tires as the film progresses, "Naturally this film had to be an experience, indeed, I dare say our cinema audience has never had a greater artistic experience." This dilemma is clearly expressed at the end of the review: "Whether film as an art form will even be able to satisfy these ideals is probably doubtful. Something was lacking to merge the high artistic standard with real audience appeal."
The film was not on the marquee in Denmark very long. In Biograf-Bladet, the cinema journal, we can track the film’s run in Copenhagen cinemas: 21 April – 6 May at Palads, 14 May – 20 May at Park Teatret and 21 May – 25 May at Odeon Teatret. Sophus Madsen, general manager of Palads and the film’s distributor, tried a unique marketing stunt. On the suggestion of A.C. Meyer, a Member of Parliament, he invited 1,800 unemployed people to the cinema to solicit their opinions on the film.
By Lisbeth Richter Larsen | 03. June