Movie Review: Joan of Arc (Ignatius Press)

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Joan-of-ArcIf you are Catholic, then you are very familiar with the story of St. Joan of Arc. In a nutshell, she was a French girl who had visions that instructed her to support King Charles VII and rid France of the English people. In 1999, there was a three-part TV mini-series bearing her name. Ignatius Press has recently released this movie to DVD and I am going to tell you a little bit about it.

Joan of Arc is approximately three hours long. Leelee Sobieski plays the title role with other big names filling out the cast including Peter O’Toole, Jacqueline Bisset, Shirley MacLaine, and Neil Patrick Harris. The cast alone gave me reason to pause and question why proponents of the New Age moment and also openly “out” actors choose to play in a Catholic/Christian film. Those questions/complaints aside, I must compliment the casting of Ms. Sobieski. This was early in her career, so she had a quiet, yet powerful presence as Joan of Arc. Adding to her demeanor, her stature cast the shadow of a warrior. While she was the definitive star of the film, the other actors and actresses held their own and delivered solid performances.

The story is mostly accurate from a historical standpoint. There are some errors of course, but when does Hollywood ever get the whole story right? The length and pace of the movie drag at times. I understand this was originally a three-part series that needed an hour each night, but you feel like chunks of this film could have been cut and you would not have missed anything. The backdrop of the movie felt like you were actually in Medieval France. There were many memorable moments in this movie, but the ones that stuck with me were not when Joan was in battle or rallying troops. Instead, I remember her early scenes helping to feed the poor and giving hope to a people who had lost all hope.

Overall, I have mixed feelings on this movie. Some of the casting is questionable, but Sobieski shines. Some of the information is inaccurate, but the movie mostly gets it right and stays true to the core spirituality and the heart of the story. Of all the recent movies that Ignatius Press has released to DVD, this one is probably my least favorite, but to be fair, it had very stiff competition. I think I would have liked the film a bit more if it was a foreign film in French with English subtitles, but to each their own. If you are a fan of St. Joan of Arc, then the movie is worth checking out for Leelee Sobieski alone.

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Copyright 2016 Stuart Dunn

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About Author

Stuart Dunn was born and raised in Mobile, AL and received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Master of Business Administration from the University of South Alabama. Stuart primarily does accounting and logistics at the Port of Mobile. He married his wife, Mary Katherine, in 2011 and welcomed their first child into the world in 2013. Stuart reviews all things Catholic including adult books, children’s books, Bible Study series, Catholic Courses, CDs, and DVDs in addition to board games at his blog Stuart’s Study at StuartsStudy.blogspot.com.

1 Comment

  1. Douglas R Shane on

    “The story is mostly accurate from a historical standpoint”? No, it’s not.
    Unfortunately this version of the life of Joan of Arc is fatally flawed by its historical inaccuracy. 

    For starters, Bishop Pierre Cauchon (played by Peter O’Toole) was never an advisor to the Dauphin, later King Charles VII. Cauchon was a Frenchman who was loyal to the Burgundians and their English allies. And though the movie endeavors to present Cauchon’s character in a somewhat sympathetic light, the historical record shows that he tried to trick and trap Joan in order to hand her over to the English for execution. When Joan proved too clever for the Bishop’s machinations, he had her woman’s clothing torn off her body and men’s apparel left in her cell.
    Also, none of Joan’s supporters were known to have come to Rouen in order to rescue her, at any time, let alone at the time of her execution.

    Other historical inconsistencies abound, but the last I will mention is that Joan was burned on May 30, 1431, NOT during a snowfall in winter, as depicted in the film. Actually, the entire film appears to have been shot during the winter months, so we can chalk that up to a tight filming schedule and no allowance for an indoor set. Maybe the producers spent their budget on the acclaimed cast and battle scenes.

    I think it is incomprehensible and unforgivable that the filmmakers would so alter the historical record for whatever reasons. The story of Joan of Arc is one of the best documented in history, so there is no reason to stray so far from the known facts. To really learn about Joan, I recommend Regine Pernoud’s Joan of Arc By Herself and Her Witnesses. This book allows us to hear Joan and those who knew her in their own words. 

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