Author Pat Kirkham discusses the opening titles for Saint Joan, from her authoritative book Saul Bass: A Life in Film and Design.
The symbol for this ﬁlm is the broken body of a woman who in life battled conventional ideas of femininity (wearing armor and leading men), as well as the institutions of Church and State. It is one of Saul's most deeply ambiguous images for a ﬁlm that explores many dichotomies, including those between the modern and pre-modern worlds. In the one-sheet poster [left] and album cover, Saul set the symbol against a joyously colored mosaic reminiscent of the stained-glass windows of medieval cathedrals, and suggesting the sanctiﬁcation to come.
The black and white title sequence is full of pattern and movement in space, producing a strong visceral sensation as well as a sense of the ethereal. Taking his cue from Joan hearing the voices of saints in the moments after church bells have stopped ringing, Saul opened with bell clappers swinging back and forth.
“Credits appear as the bell clappers advance toward the viewer and fade after ﬁlling the screen, long cross dissolves lead to moments of both balance and tension when the credit that is fading out is of equal visual strength to the incoming one and the typography of one relates to that of the other. Eventually, a few white clappers are introduced, one of which advances and dominates the entire screen, whereupon the symbol of the ﬁlm materializes within it, followed by the ﬁnal credit.”
Pat Kirkham is Professor in the History of Design, Decorative Arts and Culture at the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design & Culture, New York. She has written and edited a number of books, including Charles and Ray Eames (1998) and Women Designers in the USA 1900–2000 (2001).
©2011 Laurence King Publishing Ltd. Used with permission.
Title Design: Saul Bass
Lettering: Harold Adler
Music by: Mischa Spoliansky
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SAUL BASS: A LIFE IN FILM AND DESIGN
By Jennifer Bass and Pat Kirkham