The heroine of France, the Catholic saint and the young girl who led armies to battle. Joan of Arc has been a popular figure, immortalized through literature and plays, as well as being the plot line for many a film.
Bruno Dumont’s take on the tale is different – following on from the rock musical Jeannette, l’enfance de Jeanne d’Arc (2017), based on a play by Charles Péguy. In this psychological drama, Dumont cleverly uses mise-en-scene, music and dialogue to create an interesting artistic take. His use of framing cultivates the sense of a play, especially in the opening battle scenes where Joan (Lise Leplat Prudhomme) stands in the dunes and different characters enter and leave whilst the shot remains almost the same.
Sound is used effectively throughout the film; harrowing drums emulating heartbeats as they head to battle and impromptu songs to add to the storyline and represent the voices that tell Joan which decisions to make. Near the beginning of the film there’s a long song where the camera focuses on Joan and, to begin with at least, I was frustrated with its placement (I admit, I did turn it off and then come back to the film at a later stage). But in hindsight – and after watching it again – I realised how it had cleverly been placed there to add to the plot and add symbolism.
Joan of Arc is a film for anyone interested in art house cinematography, as well as those who enjoy Hitchcock and classic French cinema. As an ex media student it also has some really spectacular shots, such as the previously mentioned battle scene, which shows the impeccably clever pattern formations the cavalry go through. It’s a fantastic film and, though it may be a little slow to get going, it’s a beautiful work of art.
Joan of Arc is available on digital platforms from 19 June 2020