• Mercian24 October 2004
    There are many deviations from the accepted facts of Jeanne d'Arc's life as set out in her trial documentation and the writings of the time. This said, the central question of whether she was a saint, an inspired lunatic, wholly mentally ill, or simply a headstrong girl determined to grab her chances while she could is well asked. Many of the comments here assert that Besson makes it clear that the Maid was simply mentally ill, yet I read the film as deeply ambivalent about what was going on. Were her visions the hallucinations of a schizophrenic? Were they given by God? What's the difference? More questions are asked: Why does an omnipotent, omniscient, all-compassionate deity allow terrible things to happen? What is the meaning of kingship - to own or to serve? What is the difference between taking the lives of individuals and killing en masse? What's the difference between Christianity and the earthly institutions of that religion? Where does conviction end and fanaticism begin?

    Jovavich's Jeanne is plagued by the difference between her idea of utter submission to God and the consequences of doing so; by doubt over the veracity of her visions; and by the gap between her ideals of the divine rights of kings and realpolitik. She is constantly on the verge of a nervous breakdown - is this a manifestation of her mental illness, or of her "burning for God"? And where's the difference between the two?

    The film raises more questions than it answers, and that's as it should be. It is something of a shame that Besson's film takes liberties with the facts as we understand them (though history is more often about our interpretation of events than the events themselves), but in terms of raising important questions on the nature of faith, it succeeds beyond measure.
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  • I found Luc Besson's take on the story of Joan of Arc thoroughly compelling. Like all of Besson's films, The Messenger is highly stylized, nicely cast, and visually powerful. The film is also forgivably anachronistic in terms of language while developing a strong period feel through sets and costume.

    Joan was, of course, the deeply religious teenage girl who lead Prince Charles' army to improbable victory over the invading English at Orleans and helped re-consolidate French sovereignty. Joan considered herself God's appointed messenger, and France apparently saw her as an avenging angel. Today, she is commonly regarded as a schizophrenic. She was canonized in the 1950s, 500 years after her death. Regardless of whether God or insanity was the source of her strength, power, will and incredible courage - there is little ambiguity about her role in the salvation of France nor the fate that awaited her afterward.

    In general, the acting is quite good. Jovovich's much-maligned performance is actually very good and exactly appropriate for what Besson was trying to do with the film. Comparing Joan of Arc to her other Messianic role as Leelu in the Fifth Element is, frankly, ridiculous. I believe that the problems people find in Jovovich's performance are problems those same people bring to the film. Malkovich and Dunaway are phenomenal. Tcheky Karyo and Vincent Cassell provide excellent support.

    Besson strays from what we think we know about the details of Joan's story, but only to present the truth of the big-picture more accurately. His film steadfastly refuses to answer the questions many people will bring to it:

    * Was Joan schizophrenic? * Was she a catholic messiah or divinely inspired prophet?

    Why is Besson so careful about accurately presenting the ambiguity of the story? I think he wanted to make a moving film, but not a film which would unsubtly challenge its audience's beliefs. If you do not believe, you will tend to explain Dustin Hoffman's character as a manifestation of Joan's psychological problems. If you do believe, you may want to think of him as Satan, am angel, perhaps both. Thus, Besson, who is a deeply spiritual person, makes a powerful statement about faith through his metanarrative while maintaining an appropriately unevangelical position. He took similar paths in his more uplifting films The Fifth Element and Angel-A.

    Highly recommended for Besson and Jovovich fans. Not a biography - avoid this if you must have the "plain" facts! Mildly recommended as a piece of historical fiction.
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  • If it were not based on a true story, Luc Besson's `The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc' would be a tale filled with credibility gaps a mile wide. Since it is, however, a recounting of one of the world's most famous stories of military triumph and personal tragedy, the film actually generates the most interest when it concentrates on just those mind-boggling historical incredibilities.

    Joan was, of course, the deeply devout, illiterate peasant girl who, spurred on by what she claimed were visions and voices sent directly by God - assuring her and France of a glorious victory over the advancing forces of the invading English army - managed to convince a desperate monarch to have her lead an army into the field, despite the fact that she brought with her no previous battle experience or even a rudimentary knowledge of the use of weapons in combat. We first see her as a young girl, strangely obsessed with religious piety, attending confession daily, running through the woods in a mad frenzy of ecstasy, encountering strange, inexplicable visions along the way, and, eventually, being driven to an intense hatred of the British by the rape and murder of her beloved older sister. We see the French royalty, so driven to desperation by the seemingly inexorable encroachment of the brutal British onto their native soil, that they lend credence to this child and give in to her demands, sending her out to lead the troops into what turns out to be some truly miraculous routs and victories. But glory is, more often than not, an ineffable entity that is lost as quickly as it is gained – and Joan learns tragically that, once her original goal of restoring the French monarch to his throne is achieved, her services are no longer of value, and she is allowed to be captured by the English, tried by the Catholic Church, and burned at the stake by the English government for the crime of witchcraft.

    Given this fascinating and astonishing series of events, it would be difficult to make a film completely lacking in interest and insight. And, indeed, `The Messenger' is, perhaps, a better film than many of the harsh, almost bitter reviews by many critics would indicate. The first half of the film is a rather conventional telling of the tale. The warrior Joan often comes across as a shrill, petulant adolescent who somehow never convinces us that she is, indeed, someone all these military strategists would follow. But, about midway through the film, the screenwriters, Andrew Birkin and writer/director Besson, begin to apply some psychological depth to the character. After a particularly sanguine encounter with the English, in which hundreds of decapitated and limbless corpses strew the blood-soaked ground, Joan breaks down in despair over the horrifying inhumanity of the sight. From then on, her actions arise from a paradoxical conflict occurring within the very core of her being - between the righteousness of her pious cause, the pacifistic teachings of Christ and her single-minded devotion to her king and country. When she is finally captured and held in prison before and during her trial, she begins to question the veracity of her visions and to ponder whether the motivation for her cause really lay in divine inspiration or an obsession for personal glory and power. We're a long way from the astute psychological insights of Carl Dreyer's classic silent film version of the story, `The Passion of Jeanne d'Arc,' but `The Messenger' does take occasional time out from its action sequences to attempt to explore the question of whether Joan's miracles were the product of divine intervention or of mere happenstance and chance coupled with a determination and passion borne of insanity. Unfortunately, casting Dustin Hoffman as the Voice of Conscience who visits her in her cell and speaks for the side of reason as she descends more and more into seeming madness, renders much of this otherwise fascinating section faintly ludicrous. Every time his overly familiar face and voice arrive on the scene, we are immediately thrust out of the context of the story and find ourselves tempted to giggle out loud – hardly the tone one wants to establish as Joan of Arc marches grimly to the stake. Also, much of what he utters rings false in the context of the film's era; he sounds like he is mouthing psychobabble that would not arrive on the scene for at least another five hundred years.

    In terms of dialogue, historical films have always it seems had to face an inevitable Hobson's Choice: should the writers employ language that reflects the reality of the time, thereby making the characters sound stilted or dated by today's standards, or should the authors resort to the use of more modern vernacular, enhancing the immediacy of the story, perhaps, but also possibly creating an uncomfortable and awkward sense of anachronism that weakens the verisimilitude of the film so painstakingly established by the elaborate set decoration and costume design of the film? The writers of `The Messenger' have, for the most part, taken the latter course, leading to mood-shattering declarations by the characters such as `she's nuts!' and `I'm gonna kill that f------ bitch' along with a barrage of four-letter word expletives with which no contemporary PG-13 or R-rated feature could ever do without.

    Those with a queasiness when it comes to movie violence had best be forewarned: the battle scenes, though expertly shot and edited, register high on the bloodletting scale.

    Of the performers, none matches in quality the exquisite photography, art direction or costume design that adorn the film. Milla Jovovich is, at best, adequate as Joan, rarely giving more than a surface interpretation of the complex psychological struggles occurring at the root of her personality. John Malkovich, as the would-be French king, for whose throne Joan lays her life on the line, has his moments, but the part is not really big enough in the context of the film to allow him to create a multifaceted performance. Faye Dunaway brings a cool, subtle intensity to her role as the future king's manipulative mother-in-law.

    `The Messenger' emerges as an ultimately unsatisfying mixture of faults and virtues, yet, because it has such a fascinating story to tell, the film is far more interesting than the brutally hostile reviews that greeted the work's initial release would lead one to believe.
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  • Joan of Arc the legend which was described as saint, warrior, frantic, heretic etc. is brilliantly played by Milla Jovovich. This movie isn't the typical hero stuff you would expect. It has many sides to think of and gives you space to make your own thoughts about the character Joan of Arc. And that is exactly what I liked the most about the movie. You can almost feel what this very young woman must have felt to be on the battlefield at this age, fighting for her vision, faith or whatever it was. Intoxicated by the battles and her mission to fight the war for god, for France.

    Besides from that you will see a lot of battles. Great visuals and good to memorable acting.

    Most people seem to get the movie wrong. They probably wanted a clean hero saga or some documentary movie, I don't know. This movie is something different. Sometimes you have to read between the lines, make your own thoughts. But as I said, that's what I like and that's what I want from a good movie.

    10/10
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  • Warning: Spoilers
    I love epic historical movies, both old and new (although I must admit I lean towards the latter - the more realistic, more visceral ones, like Braveheart or Gladiator). The story of Joan of Arc has been put on the silver screen countless times, and most versions are good. With such a captivating story, you cannot really go wrong.

    In Luc Besson's take, however, it's not Joan's trial that takes centre stage, as in, for example, Carl Theodor Dreyer's classic (The Passion of Joan of Arc, 1928), but Joan, the self-proclaimed godsend, the driven, suffering, obsessed warrior, and the very human core of her actions. The film remains wonderfully ambiguous throughout and leaves it to the audience to decide which of the different interpretations they believe to be true.

    But it is Milla Jovovich's riveting performance that truly makes this movie. She's literally possessed in her role, playing with such fervour, such delirious passion that you cannot but believe and follow her. It is indeed one of the most visceral performances ever in the history of cinema.
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  • Milla Jovovich may have been the only woman who could have portrayed a 'Joan' believable enough for such a film and approach as that taken by Luc Besson, one which stops just short of suggesting some sort of 'shamanic visionary' as opposed to a character labelled everything from 'deranged schizophrenic' to 'lesbian', simply due to attire, while 'hearing voices' (all historical facts). The key ingredient: the eyes. Not since Faye Dunnaway's unforgetable portrayal in "The Eyes of Laura Mars" (1976), who coincidentally co-stars as an excellent Yolande d'Aragon herewith, has someone captivated an audience simply by a look or a glance. Spell-binding, riveting, and as true to the historical record as one can expect for this most noble of French heroines, while adding a plausible childhood, Besson, Jovovich, an excellent supporting cast and the film were all but ignored for the honours they so richly deserved. Rating five stars (of five) and a film I'll never forget!
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  • Some movies would probably try to make a more divine spirit out of Joan but at least Besson examines all possibilities as regards to what inspired her. I think it was as honest a film you could make about Joan. Her quest for revenge combined with tremendous belief in the forces above that ignited her fire. Through Dustin Hoffman the viewer can question her motives and get her response. And what a performance! Milla was simply breathtaking as Joan.
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  • I loved this movie. It's visually stunning and the casting and acting was superb. The story was already layed out (approximately), so Luc Besson concentrated on Jeanne herself, the person and what she was like and why she did what she did.

    I have to admit to putting myself in Jeanne's place, feeling what she must have been feeling along the way. I think without that, it probably would have been a much duller movie, although probably entertaining.

    The battles scenes, of which there were many, were graphic and brutal. Dismemberments, swords and maces swinging, lots of pain and death. The ensuing desolation at the end of a battle were weighty and gave a a horrible look at the conditions of the time.

    My final impressions... Joan of Arc, if the portrayals were accurate was a driven young woman, deeply religious and deeply confused who was probably at least partially insane. If she were alive today, no doubt, she would be treated with common drugs and would lead a normal life. I felt very sorry for her and her situation and for the way that she was treated. I know people would argue that there is no need to feel this way, because she was clear and sure of her purpose. I don't feel that this was ever the case and she was sure only that she was going crazy if she didn't do something.

    Movies don't usually move me this way and I'm really amazed.
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  • THE MESSENGER: THE STORY OF JOAN OF ARC (1999) ***

    Starring: Milla Jovovich, John Malkovich, Faye Dunaway, Dustin Hoffman, and Pascal Greggory Directed & co-writer: Luc Besson Running Time: 141 minutes Rated R (for graphic violence, rape, and for language)

    By Blake French:

    Some classic stories just can't be updated. Example: "William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet" re-released in 1996. However, one of the greatest tragedies ever told, the story of Joan of Arc, has just been proven possible to be relateable even with time as its enemy. Luc Besson has created a fresh-feeling new version of Joan called "The Messenger," a historical epic that, for better or worse, concentrates mostly on visual style and realistic war scenes rather than answering questions we don't already know about the characters in focus here.

    The historical Joan of Arc was a poor young French woman, who believed that there were spiritual signs that ordered her to be a messenger to aid the King of France to victory on the battle field. According to "The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc," Charles VII, married to the bitter Yolande D'Aragon, was very grateful of her assistance at the time, especially when Joan explained that God has sent her to lead French troops to war with the English and be victorious.

    The visions seen (or imagined) by Joan are clearly brought to life here, with more effective qualities than ever before in a Joan of Arc picture. They are filmed with many unusual special effects, bizarre camera tricks, and a beautifully crafted atmosphere of imagery. In use with these elements to the credit of the depicted scenes, they do a good job of expressing the spiritual dream-like moments through Joan with an imaginative feeling of majesty and revealing emotion. The style, camera, and direction all contribute to making these sequences of the best material in the production.

    The film was shot in the Czech Republic, as well as the country of France. Cinematographer Thierry Arbogast captures the courageous historical time period flawlessly in these locations. The battle scenes may get little off track at times; some sequences are meant more for brutality purposes rather than a strong, focused narrative story.

    The actors interpret their characters with a precise energetic edge. Milla Jovovich has the ability to be a believable Joan of Arc, but does push the limit on convincing us. Some of the film's efforts are straining toward the idea that Joan was somewhat mentally retarded-and Jovovich does a great job presenting that. Other familiar faces found in "The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc" include John Malkovich as King Charles VII, and Faye Dunaway as his spouse, Yolande D'Aragon. Also the legendary Dustin Hoffman inhabits a brief but appropriate role as the Grand Inquisitor, and Pascal Greggory is The Duke of Alençon.

    There are scenes in this movie that make the audience stare at the screen in awe, but also scenes that make us ask ourselves questions. Although much of the production is spent on developing Joan's character and motives, the film still doesn't manage to answer some questions being asked by viewers pondering minds. We never learn if the visions Joan experienced were a calling from God, or just a figment of her intellectual imagination. Was Joan really crazy, or only near eccentric? Were the physical objects that Joan felt were signs from a higher spirit actually what she thought they were? An ulterior source could have been Lucifer deceiving the trusting Joan. Or did the French actually triumph in battles because of the spiritual strength accorded by Joan, or was luck the element present? And I personally would have like a little more explanation of the Grand Inquisitor character.

    "The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc" is a serious dramatic tragedy, and it takes itself as that all of the time. Luc Besson has constructed a movie that is ambitious and inspiring, with no room for the compromising or modest. I recommend the picture weather you're a new comer or a veteran to the Joan of Arc mythology. Even if you already know the story of Joan of Arc like the back of your hand, this telling might just surprise you.

    Brought to you by Columbia Pictures.
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  • If you are wondering about Luc Besson's vaguely heretical "The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc", try to imagine a cross between "Excalibur" and "Heaven's Gate". It looks great but the basic story gets lost in the histrionics and excess.

    There really was a very religious young girl who was considered a savior to France during The Hundred Years War. Although things may have eventually sorted themselves out the same way without her. Three years after her birth, the new tactics of the English archers were responsible for arguably the most one-sided battle in military history at Agincourt. The result was credited to Henry V's piety and he got a great passage in Shakespeare. The French aristocracy was almost wiped out by the battle and the English became solidly entrenched in France. Fourteen years later a new generation of French nobility was beginning to assert itself and it was the English and their French allies who were having leadership problems.

    Both countries were Catholic at the time and both claimed that God was on their side, a bit like the football player who thanks God for the victory over another team that apparently God did not favor.

    Although there are records of both of Joan's trials (her Condemnation Trial and her Rehabilitation Trial) both proceedings had their own political agenda and should be taken with a grain of salt. Besson's film seems to follow the generally accepted version of the story but takes obvious liberties with Joan's mental condition and visions. There is no way to prove or disprove any of this so it is probably as plausible as any other speculation.

    What hurts "The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc" is that Besson's best scenes are at the very beginning and set too high a standard for the remainder of the film. Jane Valentine is wonderful as the young Joan and Besson shows that his directing skills with young actors was not confined to Natalie Portman's performance in "Leon". This early stuff features some of the most interesting scene juxtaposition that you are likely to see in any film. IMHO it gets off to a better start than any film in cinema history. And the sequence where the young Joan is standing on a hill watching as the English burn her village is as visually stunning as anything ever filmed.

    But once Milla Jovovich's grown-up Joan takes over most viewers will find it difficult to stay focused on the story. It's not miscasting, Jovovich is noted for aggressive and daring performances (see "The Dummy") rather than subtlety and nuance, making her a good fit for the take Besson wanted on Joan's personality. The problem is that while a viewer could identify with the young Joan, the older Joan is just repellent. Her story should be inspirational and tragic. Instead it is a bunch of comic book battle scenes and comical melodrama.

    But it is worth watching for the production design and the beginning sequences.

    Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
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  • The only reason I'm spending the time to post a comment here is to warn you not to waste two and half hours of your life on this film, like I did.

    Even though I had heard mixed reviews, I went into the theatre with a very positive attitude about this film, since I've enjoyed Besson's past films, as well as the work of many of this cast.

    Looking back, I should have followed my gut instinct and left about a minute and a half into the film: pretty much any time a filmmaker uses a Gothic typeface in titles and expository text and then adds something ridiculous like blood running over a map, you can bet your life that the rest of the film will show the same stupidity, lack of taste, and disrespect for the intelligence of the viewer. The murder/rape (in that order) a few minutes later confirmed my first impression, but for some reason I stayed.

    Maybe I stayed because I teach classes on film and watch a lot of movies, and I am more than willing to give ANY film a fair shot (and sometimes two or three). I wanted this film to succeed. But it falls down on so many levels that I felt my own calling from God, as it were, to wage a small battle against it.

    The reviews published by the San Francisco papers, NY Times and Chicago Sun-Times (Ebert) give a pretty good summary of what's wrong with this film, even though I think their "two stars" ratings are quite generous.

    To summarize my own thoughts on the film, I feel that the script doesn't know what story it's trying to tell, and Besson and Jovovich seem to have no sense at all for the complexities of Joan's story, as it has come down to us.

    The acting is as overwrought and void of subtlety as any I've seen in a long time. The only highlights are a couple of performances from supporting characters (who unfortunately are shackled by the poor screenplay) and Dustin Hoffman's appearance toward the end of the film (way too little, way too late to save the film). I felt particularly saddened by the clownish performance John Malkovich gives, although I can't help but think/hope that he was forced to do it by Besson. (I wondered while watching the scene where Joan tells Charles about her revelations whether Malkovich was mocking Jovovich . . . and the whole production for that matter.)

    Everything else you see in the film (art direction, costume design, soundtrack, special effects, even the look of every single supporting and bit player, etc. etc.) is as cliche and unimaginative as the screenplay and acting. It feels as if Besson and Co. sat down and said, "What is the absolutely most stereotypical image that the average moviegoer who knows nothing about 15th-century France or Joan of Arc or who has never thought about spiritual things in a meaningful way will expect when he or she sits down to watch this film?" And then, having done little thinking themselves, they filmed it.
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  • Besson's version of the story of Joan of Arc offended me on many levels. The opening sequences of the movie feature the gruesome murder and rape (in that order) of Joan's sister. This was completely unnecessary and untrue. While it is fact that Joan's town was raided several times and on one occasion burned by the English; Joan of Arc had 2 brothers, but no sisters. This alone was enough to ruin the movie for me, since Besson proceeds to build a case that all of Joan's actions and her descent into insanity were caused by the horrific death of her sister.

    Besson also inexplicably created a sinister tormentor for Joan, played by Dustine Hoffman. Hoffman's character who continually played the devil's advocate to a clearly insane Joan, was just plain annoying, confusing, and yet another fabrication. Besson's Joan was never seen having the visions of St. Margaret, St. Catherine, and St. Michael which the real Joan of Arc was reported to have. Instead she saw a twisted and almost demonic Christ figure and the strange Dustin Hoffman character. For Besson to portray a saint and a French national hero in such a manner was purely offensive and in poor taste. Had Besson actually bothered to base his story on historical fact I may have felt differently. If you see this movie, regard it only as a work of fiction, for it bears little in common with the real Joan of Arc other than her name and that she freed Orleans.
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  • qball_8228 October 2002
    This movie is just painful. I got halfway through and I had to stop watching. The dialogue is pure schmalz, as is half the imagery. The opening montage of the girl running through the flowers made me want to gag.

    But the lowest note of this movie? The laughable (and cringe-worthy..) acting by Milla Jovovich. She rages through this movie like a mad woman possessed, she tends to scream and glare at the camera a lot. To be brutally honest, she's more suited to roles where she doesn't have to speak much and just has to look pretty, like in "The Fifth Element".

    If you want a fulfilling movie experience about Joan of Arc, I highly recommend the TV-movie version starring Leelee Sobieski.
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  • This movie ranks as one of the most disappointing films of all time.

    Jovovich's acting was terrible. I grew to dislike her more every minute. The character she portrays is more psychotic than heroic. She comes across as someone who would suffer a nervous breakdown over a trip to the grocery store, not someone who could inspire an army.

    The script was laughable. I don't understand why they didn't try to use more period language. I cringed at some of the lines ("Everything will be fine.")

    Why stars like Dunaway and Hoffman would appear in this film is beyond me.
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  • I saw a comment that said that if Joan of Arc could see this movie, she would turn in her grave (if she had some). I must fully agree with it. Although I am no Joan's biographer, the facts that I know from her life were so deformed here that I wonder why Frenchmen didn't burn the director on a stockpile instead of her. By the way, I must laugh, when I remember the concealment around the filming of Besson's Joan in northern Moravia. No man including Martians could get there. Why did they actually hide there? Perhaps they wanted to keep back from people, what a trash they are just shooting.

    Besson and his exwife allegedly undertook a deep investigation (only Gods know, where) and this French-Ukrainian collaboration resulted in a title, where Joan of Arc is "demythicized" and depicted as a furious psychotic, who runs through the screen with a staring look and even beats her soldiers with a fist (yes, here it is really possible). Poor villagers at the trial in Rouen probably lied and Besson with Jovovich revealed a big historical fraud. One thing that I can't understand is why there are so many people that can call this unbelievable garbage "a moving masterpiece". Maybe there is a lot of ignorants, who know nothing about the historical reality and maybe they have only a foggy idea about the position of France, but despite that I can't believe that somebody could think that French soldiers could follow a lunatic like this.

    I am very sorry for director Marshall, who also planned a movie about Joan, but he was probably forced to put off its realization because of this silly emanation that was quicker. The Joan with Leelee Sobieski was certainly better, but Leelee simply lacks enough charisma (Although otherwise she is a very pretty and sympathetic girl, of course.)

    Maybe Besson will soon make a similar biographical movie about Mother Theresa, where he will definitively demythicize her as a deviant monster abusing little Indian children. I am looking forward to positive comments on this exciting masterpiece.
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  • The concept of the story of the Maid of Lorraine was prime material for a epic of "Ten Commandments" proportion. Unfortunately it opened on the heels of a TV mini-series which may have stolen some of its thunder. The cinematography was excellent and the battle scenes were as gory as those in Saving Private Ryan - probably very much as they actually were. Most of the supporting actors were excellent. The "poetic license" that was taken with the real story took away from the intent of the movie. The "mystical scenes" where Joan was hearing voices or getting spiritual revelations were more like Natural Born Killers meet the Dark Ages. Oliver Stone must have been consulted on these. The historical inaccuracies were abundant, such at the disgusting rape of Joan's sister, which she, in actuality, did not have. We know little of the appearance of the relevations she had, but I am sure they were nothing like depicted - which evidently had some hidden meaning that the average movie goer will never be able to figure out.

    The movie was destroyed by the Mila Jovovich as Joan. Most of the scences with her resembled footage from the Blair Witch Project more than a portrayal of St. Joan of Arc. She has little acting ability and her overdone performance absolutely ruined the movie. I do not feel that someone as strong as Joan and as religiously committed would have continually been on the verge of hysteria almost to the point of having a seizure.

    I still do not know what compelled me to sit through the whole movie. I have not seen anything this bad since the early 1980's remake of 1984.

    Had the movie paid more attention to historical data, de-emphasized those "speculated" vision scenes, and used a legitimate actress - like Leelee Sobieski in the TV mini-series - this movie would have been a great success.

    This movie portrayed Joan as a confused, hysterical, psychotic. The real Joan would have never been able to accomplish what she did, even to the point of being martyred with such spiritual and confident serenity if she was actually like the movie Joan.

    Use your bonus rental at your favorite video store rather than pay good money to see this bit of glitzy trash.
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  • Warning: Spoilers
    The scenes of combat are visceral and exciting but I'd have to say that this movie is genius if for no other reason than the fact that the incredible degree of ambiguity in the film remains completely and utterly unresolved up until the very end. It would qualify as an example of Tzvetan Todorov's FANTASTIC, where the reader (here the viewer) hesitates upon deciding if the events and phenomena witnessed in the work may be explained realistically or if they are due to the influence of magic and the supernatural, except that in this film there is a tripartite locus for the fantastic hesitation: either Jean is mad, a complete schizo who hallucinates all of her "holy" encounters, or she has indeed been chosen by Christ as a hero and a martyr for France (in which case Christ comes off looking not so nice to Jean a la book of Job), or a third possibility, the supernatural is indeed present, but in the form of the devil, who has beguiled Jean working exploiting her megalomania to make her his agent of unholy carnage upon the earth (the sheer goriness of some of the battle seem to support this satanic hypothesis). The balance and ambiguity between these three possibilities is never sacrificed and the viewer is allowed to decide for themselves: an excellent and unique film!
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  • This piece of trash is totally without merit. There are many inaccuracies about The Maid. I have extensive knowledge of her life, and this movie must be about someone else. On the DVD, Milla Jovovich has the gall to say that the producers uncovered so much information about The Maid, that I am prompted to ask: "Then, why didn't your husband use it?" (She was married to Luc Besson during filming.)

    Joan's sister was neither raped nor murdered by any raiders.

    There is no history of Joan breaking into a church and drinking wine.

    Joan was close to her parents, and left them, sadly, when she went to Vaucoleurs (sic).

    Joan never killed anyone, nor tried to.

    "The Conscience" is a creation of Luc Besson; no evidence that such a personality ever talked with Joan.

    If you want to know more of the truth about Joan, read the book by Regine Pernoud, or even the movie "Jeanne la Pucelle", starring Sandrine Bonnaire, is adequate.
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  • labelaluna14 November 1999
    The story of Joan is a good one on its own. To take the legend and twist it not only to unglorify Joan to a raving lunatic, but also to unglorify God is just a waste of time and money. The special effects were so laughable. A man's head was cut off with blood spurting out and all I could do was laugh. The visuals reminded me of the likes of the bad drug trip scene in Easy Rider. Haven't special effects been updated since then? Lastly, isn't it time we did away with useless rape scenes? It would be enough to have family members killed off and a village burned to make a leading character angry enough to want revenge. Seems to me that Besson has some personal issues to seek counseling for.
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  • How can one say that this is an honest and open-minded approach to Joan of Arc's character? The reason for her "revenge" is not historically accurate. Joan is portrayed as a raving maniac who eventually makes the viewer wonder why she would ever be canonized a saint. This movie is in short a huge time waster. The Ingrid Bergman version is the movie to see if one wishes get a more realistic glimpse of Joan's true character.
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  • From what I had heard prior to renting this movie, I figured that I would be in for a decent, though liberally violent interpretation of Jeanne d'Arc with historical accuracy that would outweigh most, if not all, of its negative aspects. But what can I say, other than that people don't recognize garbage no matter how far down their throats it is shoved?

    For this movie to receive any praise at all is ludicrous in itself. Certainly, it could be an interesting prospect to examine the life of a supposedly-schizophrenic national figure with more negative connotations than positive, but how far is it necessary to go to portray Besson's notion that Jeanne d'Arc may not have been as holy as she has been said to be? How necessary is it to continually emphasize total pharisaism as opposed to mere pride? How necessary is it to portray Jeanne's visions as downright satanic, and dispense of the saints which had supposedly spoken to her? And how necessary is it to portray her as a raving psychopath?

    If one is going to argue for historical accuracy, then perhaps they should keep something in mind: simply because somebody engages in a battle which in actuality took place, it does not make for accuracy; the same goes for an individual performing a certain action, or any other occurring event. In fact, this movie appears to guise itself under "historical accuracy," while it fails to explain any of the events that are taking place at the time. Yes, we know that France is divided and that the English are attempting to take over, but are we ever introduced to any of the political intricacies or other matters that Jeanne partook in other than those on the battle field? Anybody with an ounce of intelligence would know that Jeanne d'Arc's story is not one of war.

    In addition, there is lewd and tasteless humor interspersed throughout the entirety of this movie. Obviously, it was not enough to view the life of Jeanne d'Arc through the eyes of a cynic, but through the eyes of a perverse, teenage-minded director as well. If you're looking for a modern film on Joan of Arc, do yourself a favor and take a look at the TV movie starring Leelee Sobieski. Despite the fact that it is not historically accurate, it is far more intellectual and entertaining than "The Messenger" will ever be.
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  • One of the few times I generally was embarrassed to actually be in a theater. The story of Joan of Arc generally appealed to me but the direction this movie took did not and this mainly due to the fact the storytelling itself is flawed. Milla Jovovich's character "Joan" describes the screenplay of the film to a letter, dazed and confused throughout. It interesting though how the story also tries to balance itself by introducing new ideas on what is and is not divine and even this element was clumsily and randomly introduce as plot elements, from Faye Dunaway's character fumbling with the vile of "blood" to Joan herself seeing "visions" Dustin Hoffman's performance was fair but totally unnecessary the film could have limped on without him. Joan rationalizing with herself would have been much more believable then this. As far as the cinematography goes it's quite nice, brilliant in fact along with the score. I was really was expecting much more from this film and Besson which usually makes excellent work, unfortunately this is a dud.
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  • This is, perhaps, the worst telling of the life of the Joan of Arc to ever be placed on celluloid.

    What makes this such a bad film?

    For starters, Milla Jovovich's portrayal of the Joan of Arc herself is much more if a caricature than anything else, and a purely annoying caricature at that. She plays the role with a completely one-dimensional fanatical gusto that is sometimes comical, but is more often grating.

    Second is the direction and the screenplay. The first few minutes start off looking like something that would not be out of place in "The Sound of Music". Then the graphic violence comes in, and then there is the very out-of-place moments of comic relief, and so on and so on. This film jumps between these three categories and more so unevenly that it feels as if it has no direction at all.

    And the comic relief mentioned above? I found the scene (near the beginning) where a woman is killed and THEN raped to be disgusting enough, but the way that it was played for laughs was tasteless beyond words. I'm no prude (I actually did find some redeeming values in "Salo", actually), but that scene was just plain sick.

    All in all, this was one of the rare moments when I was watching a movie that I actually started to find myself growing increasingly impatient to see the conclusion. I actually started to want to see Joan of Arc being burned at the stake, because that would mark the end of the movie, and my suffering through this terrible piece of cinema would finally be finished.

    If you must see a Joan of Arc movie, see Carl Dreyer's silent masterpiece "The Passion of the Joan of Arc", and accept no substitute. But avoid this version at all costs.
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  • I know next to nothing about the Joan of Arc story, but I've liked Luc Besson's work, and the trailer was terrific, so I was looking forward to this movie, even after the bad reviews. As might be expected from a Besson film, it looked incredible. The battle scenes were all well-handled, and as the warrior Joan, Jovovich was quite convincing. The rest of the movie was something else again.

    It seems to me Besson and his co-writer, Andrew Birkin, were trying to do what Kenneth Branagh did in his version of HAMLET; look at the lead character not as an icon, but as a normal human being, and try to explain their actions and behavior in that context. Admittedly, since I am unfamiliar with this story, I am more receptive to this approach than those who hold Joan as an icon, but I would have been more than willing to watch a movie which handled this material well. Unfortunately, once Besson established which way he wanted to go, he seemed unsure of how to get there. Most of the drama is handled on a third-grade level(especially her trial), and we never really get into what made Joan tick. Though the scenes with Dustin Hoffman were involving, especially since he was so good, they too fell short in explaining Joan. And Jovovich can't quite access those depths yet.

    The rest of the cast is okay. Malkovich and Faye Dunaway are playing types, but they play them well enough. Tchecky Kayro(I know I'm not spelling that right) and Vincent Cassel lend a sense of gravity to their roles as soldiers. But all in all, this is a movie whose reach was beyond its grasp.
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  • Warning: Spoilers
    Great style given by Besson. Rather than depicting Joan as just one dimensional historical figure this film tried to show the person behind this heroine, sometimes looking deranged, fanatical and even crazy.

    While some of the events of the movie were made up to look more like Hollywood propaganda this film DOES SUCCEED in peeling away the mythology and mystique to show the human face behind this legendary icon.

    Although the events occurred in the onset of the movie are simply not factual, from the moment she was captured and the cross referencing that took place during the trial are closely based on the actual trial of Joan.

    Her convictions and faith were questioned through torturing but she had held them all the way through. The subtle portrayal of God himself was conspicuous. Joan was manipulated and ultimately burned at the stake, that is God let these things happened to her after she fulfilled his mission. One would think that God should have rewarded her for defeating the English, but rather he let her die at the hands of them.

    But still Joan of Arc carries the message of God with her even after centuries has passed. One does not know his true intentions even those that have been chosen by God.
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