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A reconstruction of the trial of Joan of Arc (based entirely on the transcripts of the real-life trial), concerning Joan's imprisonment, interrogation and final execution at the hands of the English, filmed in a spare, low-key fashion. Written by
Michael Brooke <email@example.com>
Although the story takes place in 1431, Jeanne's hairstyle is strictly a popular mode of the early 1960s. This is not a "goof" but an intention on the director's part to help young people identify with the character. See more »
Here's what I saw: a confused teenager (it may be misleading to call a nineteen-year-old woman a teenager, and who knows what being nineteen meant in the Middle Ages) trying hard to cut a fine figure, and succeeding better than most - which is to say, not very well. Bresson lets us know she IS inspired, she DOES court supernatural influence, probably God's, but somehow this doesn't change anything. It's clear Joan is as clueless as everyone else of her era. Sweet, but clueless.
This film is only just over an hour long, and although the trial meanders - no-one really knows what he or she is doing - there's no sense of padding. It's a swift, clean, beautiful fable. I'm not sure it has a point: if it does, it lies in the short sharp shock we get at the end. All that legalistic fuffing around and then something decisive and fantastic happens. Very few films can suddenly introduce fantasy at the end and get away with it: this is one; "A Canterbury Tale" (1944) is another. Although Bresson's film is less ambitious, and succeeds partly because it gives itself little opportunity to set a foot wrong, it's still quite a feat.
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