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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Caught on Tape: Joan of Arc

After reading Queen by Right by Anne Easter Smith and exploring a little bit of the story of Joan of Arc, I decided that I wanted to check out portrayals of this woman in film.  She was seen as a heretic, a valiant warrior, leader, messenger, and many other things.  There is certainly a lot of room for various portrayals of the character.  Here is a look at the three films I found.

Joan of Arc (1999)

She died at 19.  500 years later her legend lives on!
“Leelee Sobieski shines as the legendary 15th-century warrior, who, at age 17, led one of the world's greatest campaigns for freedom in this miniseries that blends inspiration, triumph and tears for a compelling look at the martyred heroine. Inspired by divine voices, the French peasant was determined to unify her nation against the British, and later put on trial for heresy.”
This was a made for tv movie/miniseries with quite the stellar cast. Leelee Sobieski (who I have never heard of) stars as Joan, Neil Patrick Harris is the future King Charles VII, Shirley MacLaine is Madame Beauroevoir, and Peter O’Toole is Bishop Cauchon. O’Toole would win an Emmy for this role. I have only see the preview for this but it looks pretty well done. Various reviews suggest that it suffers from being too long but that the performances were amazing. Another interesting angle taken in this film is that it doesn’t directly make a statement as to whether Joan is really hearing voices or if she is imagining them.

Joan of Arc (1948)

Greatest of all spectacles!
“Ingrid Bergman scored a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her powerful portrayal of the brave 15th century French girl who leads soldiers against the Brits. Instead of being lauded by the newly crowned king (José Ferrer), Joan becomes the object of his suspicions. Making his big-screen debut in this historical epic, Ferrer received a well-deserved Best Supporting Actor nod for his performance as the treacherous royal.”
Another classic from the Golden Age of movies – which I still need to see! Ingrid Bergman stars as Joan in this film. This film was directed by the celebrated director, Victor Flemming, who a decade before directed the epic Gone with the Wind. The movie was based on the Broadway play Joan of Lorraine. While the movie came out to mixed reviews at the time, amid controversy in the private lives of some of the stars, it seems to be receiving better reviews today. My only outward complaint is that Bergman is way too old to be playing a teenage Joan (while this was a very common practice at the time and is still somewhat true today).

I couldn’t find a trailer for this film, so here is a scene, from what I imagine is early in the film.

The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999)

I’m just the Messenger!
“Director Luc Besson's visceral historical drama captures the life, moral convictions and death of the young French girl who came to be known as Joan of Arc. Battling the enemies of France while propelled by heavenly visions, the teen who would become a saint is betrayed by King Charles of France, who, after taking advantage of her military prowess, consigns her to be burned at the stake as a heretic.”
Alright, if I said there was a stellar cast in the movies above, this one has some big names too! Milla Jovovich stars as Joan, Dustin Hoffman is her conscience/voices in her head/God, Faye Dunaway is Yolande of Aragon, and John Malkovich is King Charles VII. This was a French and American film. From what I have seen of this trailer below, this looks like the best of those we have discussed thus far – action packed, well acted, intelligent, beautiful to look at, and has some great music. Although reviews are mixed, I have added this to my must see list.

Have you seen any of these films? I would love to know what you think as I haven’t seen any myself yet. Any others?

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. Milla Jovovich is so much better in The Messenger than Ingrid Bergman's portrail of Joan of Arc. In my humble opinion ;} I've seen the classic and the acting of the time is over dramatic and the music is worse. I also feel like you don't get enough of the story of the politics of the court as you do in The Messenger. Hope this helps ;}

  2. How amazing is it that Joan is still a character that sparks debate. I haven't done my research, but I have my doubts. But even if she was a complete fake, she still makes for great history!

  3. The other trailer that you have here for Joan of Arc with Leelee Sobieski also looks fantastic...too bad it's not available in Netflix as yet ;{ I'll be on the look-out for that with all the great actors in it...thanks ;}

  4. Roberta - thanks for the suggestions. I thought the trailer for The Messenger looks awesome, but I will have to see the classic too! My netflix list is SO long thanks to these features!

    Allison - I am like you, I don't know if I think she was really hearing anything or just believed she did - but she is still a polarizing figure today!

  5. Heather,

    You might want to get the 1928 silent movie about Joan of Arc. I forget who the director was, but he drove the actress who played Joan so hard, she died shortly afterwards. But this is an incredibly powerful & harrowing movie so don't watch if you just want to flake out!

    Best, Cynthia.

  6. Cynthia - I had not heard of the 1928 film version, but I do enjoy silent films. I looked up the actress and while it is crazy how hard she was worked for this role, she didn't die soon after the filming - it was about another 20 years before she died. But I will have to look up this film - it is incredibly lauded!


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