The dark hall echoes with the amplified noises of a rickety projector. Subtitles and scene fragments flicker on the floor in black and white. These sounds and shadowy shapes come from Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1928 silent-film masterpiece The Passion of Joan of Arc, whose master negative went up in flames—like Joan herself—not long after it was finished. (Dreyer cobbled together another version from outtakes in 1935, but that burned, too; maybe casting the young Antonin Artaud as a monk brought bad luck.) In homage, Reid Farrington has now created The Passion Project, a 35-minute installation performance, to celebrate and lament this classic’s fiery past.
The audience stands and watches from all sides of a 10-foot-square playing area, where solo performer Shelley Kay performs a frantic ritualized dance among projections from the film’s various versions. As celestial martyr music swells, the silent Kay holds up 10 small white screens to the movie beams, capturing fleeting glimpses of faces, frames, and fragments. The Passion Project might look like Wooster Group video pastiche, but it prefers earnest tribute to layered irony. It’s ultimately a formalist exercise, technically accomplished but studious; this fascinating film’s embers, however, still give off heat.