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Film Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat


The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc
Directed by Luc Besson
Columbia TriStar 11/99 DVD/VHS Feature Film
R - strong graphic battles, a rape, some language

Joan of Arc (1412-1431) was burned at the stake for wearing men's clothing. That is the strange outcome of her meteoric career as a woman warrior who led the French in battle at Orleans against the English. There have been many interpretations of this unusual young woman but this is perhaps the first to see her as a French John Brown — a cause-obsessed fanatic.

Director Luc Besson has fashioned an action-packed movie with visceral battle sequences and a stomach churning scene when young Joan hides behind a door as her sister is raped and murdered by an Englishman in the next room. Joan is a very devout Catholic, who throughout her life seeks a daily confession. Her discovery of a silver sword in a field stirs her soul; her visions of Jesus propel her into action as a "messenger" of God. In Joan's (Milla Jovovich) initial encounter with the Dauphin (John Malkovich), this intense and high-strung woman convinces him that it is her mission to see him crowned King of France.

After this feat is accomplished, King Charles VII's stepmother (Faye Dunaway) convinces him to abandon his champion when she is captured by the Burgundians, sold to the English, and put on trial as a sorceress and heretic. Prodded by her conscience (Dustin Hoffman), Joan questions the authenticity of her voices and the validity of her visions. This is the shadow that every ardent believer must square off against.

The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc is an oddball interpretation of the condemned heretic who was declared a saint by the Catholic Church 500 years after her death. But then, as noted at the outset, nothing about her life or her death was normal. She remains an enigma.


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Reviews and database copyright 1970 2012
by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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