1429. While the war between France and England (the Hundred Years War) appeared settled in 1420, in England's favour, the death of King Henry V of England reignites it. England occupies large areas of France and appears set to take the whole of it. Into this moment of crisis rides legendary Joan of Arc, a teenage girl who claims to be lead by divine visions.Written by
When Joan meets Dauphin Charles for the first time she holds her arms around him shifting from just above his waist to around his hips. See more »
1420. Henry V, King of England, and Charles VI, King of France, sign the Treaty of Troyes. The treaty states that the kingdom of France will belong to England upon the king's death. But the two kings die a few months apart. Henry VI is the new king of England and of France, but he is only a few months old. Charles VII, the Dauphin of France, has no intention to abandon his kingdom to a child nor even to his tutor, the Duke of Bedford. A bloody war begins and the English, along with...
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The European release was 10 minutes longer than the US theatrical version, which omits, among others, the scene where Joan's virginity is tested before the court of King Charles VII. The longer version has been released in the USA on DVD. See more »
I found Luc Besson's take on the story of Joan of Arc thoroughly compelling. Like all of Besson's films, The Messenger is highly stylized, nicely cast, and visually powerful. The film is also forgivably anachronistic in terms of language while developing a strong period feel through sets and costume.
Joan was, of course, the deeply religious teenage girl who lead Prince Charles' army to improbable victory over the invading English at Orleans and helped re-consolidate French sovereignty. Joan considered herself God's appointed messenger, and France apparently saw her as an avenging angel. Today, she is commonly regarded as a schizophrenic. She was canonized in the 1950s, 500 years after her death. Regardless of whether God or insanity was the source of her strength, power, will and incredible courage - there is little ambiguity about her role in the salvation of France nor the fate that awaited her afterward.
In general, the acting is quite good. Jovovich's much-maligned performance is actually very good and exactly appropriate for what Besson was trying to do with the film. Comparing Joan of Arc to her other Messianic role as Leelu in the Fifth Element is, frankly, ridiculous. I believe that the problems people find in Jovovich's performance are problems those same people bring to the film. Malkovich and Dunaway are phenomenal. Tcheky Karyo and Vincent Cassell provide excellent support.
Besson strays from what we think we know about the details of Joan's story, but only to present the truth of the big-picture more accurately. His film steadfastly refuses to answer the questions many people will bring to it:
* Was Joan schizophrenic? * Was she a catholic messiah or divinely inspired prophet?
Why is Besson so careful about accurately presenting the ambiguity of the story? I think he wanted to make a moving film, but not a film which would unsubtly challenge its audience's beliefs. If you do not believe, you will tend to explain Dustin Hoffman's character as a manifestation of Joan's psychological problems. If you do believe, you may want to think of him as Satan, am angel, perhaps both. Thus, Besson, who is a deeply spiritual person, makes a powerful statement about faith through his metanarrative while maintaining an appropriately unevangelical position. He took similar paths in his more uplifting films The Fifth Element and Angel-A.
Highly recommended for Besson and Jovovich fans. Not a biography - avoid this if you must have the "plain" facts! Mildly recommended as a piece of historical fiction.
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