French screenwriter and director Jacques Rivette's fifteenth feature film which was written by his frequent collaborators Christine Laurent and Pascale Bonitzer, is the second and final part of his two films about Joan of Arc which was proceeded by "Joan the Maid, part I: The Battles" (1994). It tells the story about Jeanne d'Arc, a young military leader who led the French army in the the Hundred Years' War (1337-1453) between the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of France. After leaving the battles at the Siege of La-Charité in La-Charité-sur-Loiré in November and December 1429, she went on to Compiégne in the North of France in April 1430 in order to defend her city against an English and Burgundian siege. On the 23rd of May during the Siege of Compiégne she was captured by the Burgundians and taken prisoner of war.
With this character-driven and dialog-driven period drama, Jacques Rivette and his collaborators has created a detailed, distanced and naturalistic portrayal of the uneducated farm girl, born in Domrémy in Eastern France, who fought as a soldier for her native country, was put on trial by the pro-English Bishop of Beauvais Pierre Cauchon, accused of heresy and who became a Roman Catholic saint and a national heroine of France. Focusing on the significant and gripping trial which took place in Rouen, France and lasted from the 26st of March to the 24th of May in 1431, Jacques Rivette draws a pervasive study of character which focuses more on the social and political aspects of the protagonist than the religious.
This biographical and historical French production where Jacques Rivette makes a witty cameo, creates multiple perspectives, has an efficient narrative structure, some riveting dialog scenes, some humorous moments and a rhythmic score by Jordi Savall. Subtly and distinctly directed by one of the masters of cinema, this brilliantly paced and lyrical chamber piece where the poignant use of light and sound emphasizes the inner struggle of the main character, has a nuanced and understated acting performance by French actress Sandrine Bonnaire and some fine supporting acting performances by French actors Jean-Louis Richard, André Marcon and Marcel Bozonnet. The prominent cinematography by William Lubtchansky, the notable costume design by Christine Laurent and the ardent production design by the director's frequent collaborator Emmanuel de Chauvigny, makes this a visually exquisite film. A compassionate and exceptionally moving interpretation of an historical figure's destiny which gained a nomination for Best Actress Sandrine Bonnaire at the César Awards in 1995.
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