2 July 2007 | dbdumonteil
Jeanne D'Arc 1917
The problem with Joan of Arc is that she was only seventeen when her story began.Geraldine Farrar was 25 and she was obviously too old for the part.Most of the versions to come had the same problem:to name but three,Ingrid Bergman in Fleming's epic,or MIchèle MOrgan in Joan's native country or even Falconetti in Dreyer's masterpiece were not physically the maid of Orleans .Otto Preminger was right when he cast a nineteen years old Jean Seberg.
This is minor quibble .De Mille' s movie is a good,nay excellent epic. It was a propaganda movie,cause it featured a "modern" prologue and an epilogue which took place in the tranches during WW1.DeMille would continue in that vein in his "ten commandment" (1923) where a long biblical part was followed by a "realistic" contemporary tale.But propaganda movie does not mean bad movie!Cecil Blunt de Mille was a storyteller extraordinaire,only equaled in the silent era by David Wark Griffith.
Joan's adventures are half history (The meeting with the queen in Chinon,my own native town ,the trial ,Jean de Luxembourg selling Joan)half fictionalized history: Eric de Trent appears at the beginning of Joan's epic ,in Domremy,we find him back in Orleans,Compiègne,Rouen,all along the way,which has nothing to do with French history.Ditto for the king's failed abdication just when Joan is in the castle ,or worse the poisoned wine (by Bishop Pierre Cauchon,no less.Eric de TRent looks like an alter ego of Gilles de Retz (or Rais) -not present in the movie- who reportedly was in love with Joan and who ,becoming mad after her death ,buggered and killed lots of children (the legend made him Blue Beard).
This is a very well told story;La Tremouille's despicable role -he is referred to as "the spider" ,I have not noticed his name in the lines- is not passed over in silence;the battles in Orleans are better than ,say,the Lara Croftesque ones depicted by Luc Besson's recent "the messenger" ;the martyrdom in Rouen where De Mille makes an unusually inventive use of color for the fire.All the lines are in Middle -Ages English :funny how ,since William the Conqueror,many French and English words look like each other (coward=couard ,old French for "lâche" ).Sentences from the trial are often authentic.
French's honor!This "Joan of Arc" is one of the best!
Like this? Try these:
"La Merveilleuse HIstoire de Jeanne D'Arc" Marc(o) De Gastyne,1928 "La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc " Carl Dreyer 1928 "Joan of Arc " Victor Fleming 1948 "Destinées" Jean Delannoy 1953 (one sketch) "Giovanna d'Arco al rogo" Roberto Rosselini,1954 "Saint Joan" Otto Preminger 1957 "Procès de Jeanne D'Arc" Robert Bresson 1962