I downloaded In the Nursery’s soundtrack to Joan of Arc a while ago (thanks to Tommaso for mentioning that it had been released) and last night I finally got around to playing it alongside the film. As I mentioned earlier in this thread, I’m not a fan of Einhorn’s accompaniment, and even now I would still say that the best companion to this film is silence – but ITN’s work here is extremely impressive, and light years ahead of Einhorn’s intrusive pomposity.
As usual with their scores, it’s great mood music, showing a real sensitivity to the shifting tones in the film. This is evident from the opening trial scene, where the score moves from the maudlin sentiment of Joan reminiscing tearfully about her mother, into the mounting terror as the judges mobilise against her. Low rumblings, vaguely rattlesnake-ish sounds, and drum beats evoke the assault-from-all-angles to which Joan is being subjected, but also convey the sense that this assault is, at this stage, not much more than an irritation for her. At times the music suggests voices filtering through to Joan from a great distance, through the blissed-out haze she has enveloped herself in. This is a story about the spirit overcoming the flesh, and ITN are peculiarly suited to its needs: their music seems to operate on a higher plane than the frenetic action on-screen, which is exactly what Joan’s spirit is doing.
At times this becomes a bit of a problem. For instance, I think the much later scene where Joan accuses her judges of having been sent by Satan to torment her – remember how she turns to each group and denounces them, prompting them to stand up in outrage, and the camera keeps panning frantically across their faces – requires something really jarring and intense from the accompaniment (if it must be accompanied at all), but here the score is curiously limp. There are a few occasions when ITN seem to have lulled themselves into a trance, and like Einhorn (but in a different way) they actually detract from the intensity of the images.
At other times, though, they rise to the challenge of these fiercer moments very well: the torture chamber scene is especially good, and best of all is the final reel of the film. Here the score really comes into its own, and I’d say the ending was at least as moving and terrifying on this viewing as it ever has been before – maybe a little more so, but this is so dependent on the mood of the viewer. ITN do pull out the church organ and bells in the climax, which is an obvious thing to do and might have fallen into some of the same pitfalls as Einhorn’s score, but somehow they pull it off; they give everything an edge that stops it from being cheap and sentimental. I was left feeling really overwhelmed.
And it doesn't need saying again, but what a film this is. So astonishing to see a narrative built almost entirely around human faces framed in unusual ways, from unusual angles, and seen with such unprecedented, unmerciful, and totally unflattering intensity. I guess it’s appropriate for a film that’s all about spirit transcending flesh that the camera seems so often to be trying to isolate heads and erase bodies – so much of the imagery is about Joan’s face aspiring upwards, away from this mass of writhing earth-bound serpents who are coiling about her. It must be wonderful to see it on a big screen, preferably from the front row, so I’ll try and get down to London in September; thanks to John Cope for the tip!