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With: n/a
Written by: n/a
Directed by: Martin Meissonnier
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Language: French, German, English, with English subtitles
Running Time: 94
Date: 18/03/2013

The Real Joan of Arc (2008)

3 Stars (out of 4)

What's at Stake?

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Buy The Real Joan of Arc on DVD

Martin Meissonnier directed this French, made-for-TV documentary, which pokes holes in the Joan of Arc legend. Interviewing various scholars and experts, the film implies that men, rather than God, prepared Joan for the task of leading the French to victory against the English in the 15th century. It paints Joan as more of a figurehead than an actual leader, and argues that she was actually a good deal older than the legend says (which gave her more time to learn how to ride horses, fight and lose her rural dialect). Moreover, it proposes the theory that Joan was not even burned at the stake, and that she resurfaced later and even married. I'm a confessed Joan of Arc fan, especially in the form of the three great films The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), Trial of Joan of Arc (1962) and Joan the Maid (1994), and it's no fun to see her turned into a fraud, though not even this movie and all its research can answer every outstanding question. One of them is: when Joan was in prison, how did she obtain new men's clothes, and how did he put them on over her arm and leg shackles? Besides the scholars, the film makes the mistake of casting actors to re-create certain sequences, and the acting is annoyingly overwrought. On the plus side, we get lots of footage from Cecil B. DeMille's Joan the Woman (1917), which is inferior to Dreyer's later version, but still interesting. Overall, I found The Real Joan of Arc an interesting bit of centuries-old detective work, though not nearly as satisfying as the legend itself. Facets released the U.S. DVD, though it still contains ads and trailers for the original French distributor, Arte.

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