Many associate the genre of historical movies with epic, big-budget Hollywood blockbusters. But the first movie we're examining is none of those things. "The Passion of Joan of Arc" is a silent film released in 1928 that recounts the trial and execution of the famous saint. As a French avant-guard art film, it is narrowly focused both in narrative and visuals: The camerawork is unconventional and devoid of expositional shots that set a scene. Instead, it consists mostly of close-ups and shots from Joan's point of view.
The result of Danish director Theodor Dreyer's artistic style is a primarily emotional film. However, it's also historically accurate. As a silent film, it displays dialogue in intertitle cards, but these are almost all taken from historical record of the trial [source: Lerner]. And movie critic Roger Ebert pointed out that even though the costumes aren't spectacular, they are historically accurate [source: Ebert].
As a result, it gets uncommon praise for its authenticity. In the words of French director Jean Cocteau, the film was like "an historical document from an era in which the cinema didn't exist" [source: Ebert]. And historian Gerda Lerner writes that Dreyer has "shown us how film can speak truth to history without a cast of thousands or budget of millions."