Monday, 7 April 2008

Department of Time Travel: Visiting Joan of Arc's France

As part of the preparations for the trip we’re going to take to France in May, we rented The Messenger, a film about Joan of Arc on Saturday. It was shelved with the French films at the local art video store, and so we were a bit surprised to discover that it was in English with John Malkovich and Dustin Hoffman in prominent roles. A lot of blood too, and rather light on the historical context, but 130 minutes which passed quickly.

And of course we started poking around to find out just what the real story was. I went riffling through the Shakespeare to discover what I suspected: that Henry V takes place slightly before Joan’s amazing rallying of the French forces. Two of my most memorable movie experiences have been seeing two versions of that play, one directed by Kenneth Branagh (1989) and the other by Laurence Olivier (1944.) Both are masterfully done, and both show how the time in which a play is produced or a movie is made influences how the story is told.

A story like Joan's with its various interpretations underlines the point that what you see depends up on where you sit. That is a lesson which bears remembering at all times, not just when trying to figure out what happened in the century before the Age of Exploration began.

This week I've got find a book or two that will help fill in the gaps in our knowledge of the period. One thing I think we’ll not do, though, is go looking for the video game Jeanne d'Arc. According to one review, the game uses historical characters and then gives them magical powers. Wasn’t that what Joan thought she was doing anyway?


Martin Langeland said...

My two favorites of the Jeanne d'Arc story ane Carl Dreyer's magnificent silent film, now with an original score by Ole Schmidt, The Passion of Jeanne d'Arc (1927) This concentrates on the trial with meditative camera work and cutting that lingers -- a totally other time continuum then that of Hollywood that brought us to the seund byte and who knows how much less?
If you have the time Mark Twain biography of the Maid of Orlean's is great fun as he promises to tell her story with complete truthfulness and entangles us all in the delights of his romance.

Mary Soderstrom said...

Will have to look for both the film, and the Mark Twain.



Anonymous said...

The Twain biography is available online: The Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc