JEANNE D’ARC SAINT-HEROINE OF THE CINEMA
Joan of Arc was not canonized until 1920 – but from 1898 she became a figure of the silver screen, just like the theatre, poetry and literature before. Méliès’ 1900 film, presented here, is the third of these films and only ten minutes long. According to Hervé Dumont in his work Jeanne d’Arc, de l’Histoire à l’écran, Joan of Arc has inspired over a hundred cinema and television films, not counting the video games.
Joan of Arc was born around 1412 in Domrémy in the Duchy of Bar (in the East of the Kingdom of France) and died, as we all know, burnt at the stake in Rouen in 1431. Some historians including Roger Caratini assert that there is very little truth in the saga of Joan of Arc, that she did not fight with the army and that the English had nothing to do with her death. Caratini also adds that in art, the truth has very little importance. That is not entirely so. It is not surprising that Joan of Arc’s life, either real or imaginary, inspired so many films: a young woman who was virile, a virgin and yet a warrior, a saint who could be crude, a rebel and yet subdued, mystical and realistic, a mixture of self-sacrifice and idealism, active and pensive, she embodies the cinema heroine par excellence. Every director has made her his, for good or for bad. Five films are presented here. The most recent in our retrospective is that of Luc Besson who has a certain flair for the spectacular. The oldest is The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) by the great Danish filmmaker Carl Theodore Dreyer who shows Joan, played by Renée Falconetti, as a woman martyred by religious zeal. In 1962 Robert Bresson based his film on the minutes of the trial, depicting the mystery of this young woman’s unfathomable faith. The Trial of Joan of Arc “is injustice parading as justice, plain reason fighting against inspiration, Illumination” declared the filmmaker. A few years earlier in the United States, in 1957, Otto Preminger had filmed for the first time the young Jean Seberg, discovered during a giant casting of 18,000 candidates, and who played Joan in the cinema adaptation of George-Bernard Shaw’s play, Saint Joan; probably the least religious of all the films in our selection but far from the least sublime, according to critic Jacques Lourcelles, who called it an “intimate and secret film, a bedside film”. In 1970, in the unknown Nachalo, Soviet director Gleb Panfilov tells the story of a young worker and amateur actress, accustomed to playing witches, who is offered the part of Joan of Arc by a film director. The young woman is transformed by this opportunity, inspiringly played by Inna Churikova. An incredible and unmissable film. Others, including one by Jacques Rivette with Sandrine Bonnaire, deserved to be part of our selection but it being six hours long made it impossible to programme. Joan of Arc, a saint for the faithful, a mythical heroine for us all, has inspired magnificent films, and we owe her our thanks.
- Olivier Broche
THE MESSENGER: THE STORY OF JOAN OF ARC de Luc BESSON (1999) - France
THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC de Carl Theodor DREYER (1928) - France
THE TRIAL OF JOAN OF ARC de Robert BRESSON (1962) - France
JOAN OF ARC de Georges MELIÈS (1900) - France (court métrage)
SAINT JOAN de Otto PREMINGER (1957) - Etats Unis/Grande Bretagne
THE BEGINNING de Gleb PANFILOV (1970) - URSS