6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Worth watching but flawed
, 27 Mar. 2012
This review is from: Jeanne La Pucelle - Part 1: The Battles [DVD] (DVD)
This review is for Parts 1 and 2, it makes no sense to review them separately. When reviewing such a film, with strong religous content, I think the reviewer should disclose his/her beliefs. Mine are that all religion is misguided. This is important because I confess that from this viewpoint it is difficult for me to have much empathy with or sympathy for Jeanne. As she is portrayed she is headstrong and obstinate - which she must have been to follow her "voices" and achieve what she apparently did; but crucially she is also shown as very poor at communicating her experiences of her voices. Throughout the film we are never witness to her hearing anything, just her assertions that her voices have told her to take a particular course. I am not suggesting that Rivette should have resorted to ghostly, other worldly vocals from the saints; that would have been trite and invited scorn or amusement; but he and Bonnaire fail in the absence of these to show us why Jeanne believed that she heard voices and should follow them, and even more importantly why anyone believed her. The scenes where she convinces Charles that her voices indicate that he should follow a certain course of action lack any conviction because they don't show how or why HE was convinced.
The staging of the films is interesting, with many of the scenes linked by narrative from people who were with Jeanne. This provides an unusual personal touch. The indoor scenes involving interaction between a few characters work well on the whole and much better than the outdoor scenes, particularly those involving battle in which a few dozen try to be several hundred. In some instances even this is not attempted - we are simply told by one of the narrators that a battle took place and what the outcome was. This might be a director seeking to deal with battles without the use of hundreds of extras and if so I applaud his alternatives to the Hollywood blockbuster approach; but too often it looks instead like the need to shoot (or avoid shoting) battle scenes on an inadequate budget. For this reason Part 2 works better than Part 1, since it mainly deals with Jeanne's capture, betrayal, trial (which I thought was rather skipped over), and death at the stake. The latter is very moving.
The two films will of course mean much more to a French person or someone fairly well versed in the history of that time. The politics are involved and at times a little confusing but this need not deter anyone from watching the films, the general drift is clear.
At the end of Part 2 I was left feeling indignant that the ignorance and religous arrogance of the times resulted in the cruel treatment and death of a young woman who was either inspired, misguided or schizophrenic. It is beyond my understanding why the Roman Catholic church, in those times when miracles were accepted as truth, found it impossible to treat Jeanne as anything other than an impostor and/or heretic. Was it yet another example of this church expediently taking the political path? There was little to indicate that the church was bowing to the wishes of the English as I had been led to believe was the case, so was it just the church closing its door and its mercy to an outsider who threatened its monoploy on the mysteries of faith? The fil would have been better had it explored the church's motivations more deeply.
To summarise, worth investing the time to watch, but it's no masterpiece. For a film with that focuses on Jeanne's trial and execution, of course watch Dreyer's much better "Passion of Joan of Arc"
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