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Carl Dreyer's deeply moving biopic features one of the most desperate, brilliant performances ever captured in cinema’s history. Actress Renée Falconetti, as the 19 year old Joan condemned to death, was brutally forced by Dreyer to kneel on stone to show the pain on her face. Few ﬁlms since have used close-ups as intensely and overwhelmingly.
The Passion of Joan of Arc remains an unassailable giant of early cinema, a transcendental film comprising tears, fire and madness that relies on extreme close-ups of the human face. Renée Falconetti was 35 when she played the role of Joan (a teenager when condemned to death in 1431). Dreyer brutally extracted a desperate, brilliant performance from the actress, forcing her to kneel on stone to show the pain on her face and insisting that they shot in silence. In the 2012 Sight and Sound poll, Joan had risen to no. 9. But in 2010 it was designated the most influential film of all time in the Toronto International Film Festival’s ‘Essential 100’ list, where Jonathan Rosenbaum described it as “the pinnacle of silent cinema – and perhaps of the cinema itself”.
Biopic 1993 72 mins Director: Derek Jarman
Written for Channel 4 by radical literary theorist Terry Eagleton and directed by Derek Jarman, Wittgenstein is a bold, offbeat biography, exploring the politics and sexuality of the great, troubled philosopher.
Biopic 2017 116 mins Director: Dome Karukoski
The story of a gay icon is brought to life in Dome Karukoski’s handsome biopic of Touko Laaksonen, the artist whose homoerotic drawings gave visual expression to a growing gay culture.
Biopic 2013 114 mins Director: Bruno Barreto
Beautifully told true story of the love affair between American poet Elizabeth Bishop and Brazilian architect Lola de Macedo Soares.
Love Is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon Love Is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon
Biopic 1998 87 mins Director: John Maybury
Derek Jacobi and Daniel Craig star as artist Francis Bacon and his muse George Dyer in John Maybury’s darkly exquisite biopic.
Biopic 1988 84 mins Director: Terence Davies
Terence Davies' debut feature is a remarkable evocation of working-class family life in the 40s and 50s and a visionary exploration of memory.
Animation & Artists Moving Image 1968 80 mins Director: Sergei Paradjanov
The film that Martin Scorsese compared to ‘opening a door and walking into another dimension, where time has stopped and beauty has been unleashed’.
Tilda Swinton selects
Drama 2013 100 mins Director: Alain Guiraudie
A young man witnesses a violent crime at a gay cruising ground and becomes obsessed with the killer in Alain Guiraudie’s acclaimed mystery-thriller.
Fantasy 1946 95 mins Director: Jean Cocteau
Jean Cocteau’s ravishingly restored 1946 film is a cinematic classic. “Five stars. [This] magical exploration of the fairytale is a compelling and bizarre masterpiece” – Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
Fantasy 2010 109 mins Director: Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Apichatpong's Cannes prizewinner, about an ailing man revisiting his past, is a measured, lyrical evocation of mysterious beauty and quiet humanity.
Drama 1970 111 mins Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini
Pier Paolo Pasolini directs opera singer Maria Callas in a vivid adaptation of Euripides' Greek tragedy.
Drama 1954 86 mins Director: Roberto Rossellini
Roberto Rossellini's acerbic but finally very moving masterpiece about marital crisis boasts great performances from Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders
Comedy 1932 87 mins Silent Director: Yasujiro Ozu
Ozu's silent masterpiece follows two brothers as they try to outwit the local bully.
Directed by Carl Th. Dreyer
Horror 1932 73 mins Director: Carl Th. Dreyer
The first sound-film by one of the greatest of all filmmakers, Carl Theodor Dreyer, is akin to a waking-dream; guiding the viewer on a trance-like journey between reality and the supernatural.
Drama 1925 107 mins Silent Director: Carl Th. Dreyer
Carl Theodor Dreyer’s richly detailed tragicomedy of domestic manners is by turns funny, intensely emotional and deeply affecting.
Period drama 1943 97 mins Director: Carl Th. Dreyer
Dark and powerful tale of love and betrayal, and a community gripped by an obsessive fear of witchcraft.
Drama 1964 116 mins Director: Carl Th. Dreyer
Carl Theodor Dreyer’s final masterpiece centres on a woman who rejects the compromise of her marriage and retreats into a serene isolation.
Drama 1955 125 mins Director: Carl Th. Dreyer
Carl Theodor Dreyer’s beautifully photographed tale explores the religious intolerance and familial tensions within a Danish farming family.
Drama 2020 104 mins Director: Suzanne Guacci
Past mistakes haunt the present and threaten a new love affair between an older woman and her patient in this compelling melodrama.
Documentary 2020 107 mins Director: Sam Feder
A well-timed and thrilling analysis of the history of transgender stories on screen, from the silent era to the present day.
Documentary 2020 78 mins Director: Evan Purchell
This lovingly edited compilation of erotic gay film is the nearest you’ll get to experiencing queer life in the glory days between 1968 and 1986.
Drama 2019 108 mins Director: Lisa Zi Xiang
This impressive dissection of one Chinese family’s imperfect life gradually reveals discomforting secrets.
Drama 2019 89 mins Director: Olivier Ducastel
Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau (directors of Théo and Hugo), serve up a deliciously enigmatic chamber piece.
Keyboard Fantasies: The Beverly Glenn-Copeland Story Keyboard Fantasies: The Beverly Glenn-Copeland Story
Documentary 2019 60 mins Director: Posy Dixon
After his 1986 album Keyboard Fantasies is rediscovered, a black trans musician recounts his life, from the lonely 1960s to the joy of witnessing the present.