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Roger Van Hool
John van de Rest directs his wife Josine van Dalsum as Saint Joan in this television production of George Bernard Shaw's play. As such it can clearly be divided into a series of scenes, each concerning a new set of characters that come into contact with a young girl called Jeanne, aka Jean D'Arc. And since Shaw was a devout pacifist, there are no battles and, according to him, no villains in the piece. Just a lot of discussions about the nature of religion, the church, faith, war, royalty and the nature of man. It's not exactly light entertainment but it must have been a pleasure for all the actors involved to really put their teeth into Shaw's dialog. Also, since none of the characters apart from Jeanne appear all the way through, they managed to get some interesting casting done, including a cameo by Rutger Hauer, who was just on the verge of becoming an international movie star at the time.
Scene one (of six) opens on Robert de Baudricourt (Will van Selst) and his head servant (Leen Jongewaard). Having already refused to speak to Jeanne (Josine) once, none of De Baudricourt's chickens will lay anymore nor his cows share their milk. It turns out Jeanne wants his permission to go to the Dauphin. She claims to talk to holy Mary and Catharine every day in prayer and has received the divine mission to drive the English from France. As soon as Robert gives Jeanne his permission to leave, the chickens start laying buckets full. The second scene consists of a discussion between the archbishop and the Dauphin (a completely over the top Lex van Delden). On hearing of Jeanne's imminent arrival, the young ruler decides to switch places with Bluebeard (Erik Plloyer) to see if the so called 'Angel in armor' can tell the difference. Naturally she immediately does just that in the next scene. Arriving with a man's haircut, Jeanne is able to pick out the real dauphin from amongst the revelry of his court. The two have a long discussion at the end of which she crowns him king and he bestows leadership of his entire army onto her. Her plan is to go to Orléans and fight the English and drive them away from France.
The shortest sequence of the play concerns Jeanne, in full armor at the scene of a battle, conversing with Dunois, the so-called 'Bastard of Orléan (Rutger Hauer). From her words he deduces she she must be in love with war. She reminds him that in an earlier scene, the bishop told her she was in love with God. Once again she only has to wish for the wind to change and it happens, thereby changing the tide of war. However, between this scene and the next, Jeanne is betrayed and captured off screen. This sixth scene is a 30 minute discussion between the bishop Caushon (Coen Flink), the grand inquisitor and the church that manages to touch on several aspects of religion that hadn't even gotten acknowledged at the time. Eventually it leads to Jeanne's trial and of course we all know how her life came to an end.
I was amazed to find that final discussion religious go on for such a long time. They really don't broadcast them like that anymore. This version does not include Shaw's epilogue that is set 25 years later and sees Jeanne and other characters appearing in the Dauphin's dreams. It's a shame, for without it, the play just ends with Jeanne being led away from her trial while the Bishop and the grand inquisitor have another (thankfully short) discussion. Josine and her husband would be more successful a few years later when they collaborated on a television production on the life of Mata Hari.
6 out of 10
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