The Psychology of the Close-up in ‘The Passion of Joan of Arc’

joan of arc

Proximity and personality become entwined.

The close-up is a cinematography technique used often on faces to show nuanced emotions or to hammer in broad emotions on an otherwise jaded audience. Recently, it’s been used more for details on small procedures or actions, highlighting the minutiae of machinery or hands working. But its usefulness in the realm of audience effect, changing how we see the minds of characters, is paramount.

As One Hundred Years of Cinema investigates in his video essay, the enhanced view of the protagonist closely relates her plight to our own. “The Passion of Joan of Arc is a masterpiece of cinema, detailing the story of Joan’s last days,” he says. By focusing on the performance from Maria Falconetti, it reveals something deeper about the human condition.

Reminding us that humans are humans, even if they are characters, is something done physically, even if the end result is emotion. Closeness to a face means closeness to understanding, even if the emotion is beyond our limited experience.

Jacob Oller: Jacob Oller writes everywhere (Vanity Fair, The Guardian, Playboy, FSR, Paste, etc.) about everything that matters (film, TV, video games, memes, life).