11 Jan 2023
Joan of Arc (1928 & 1948)
Featuring Dr Laura O'Brien
How do we remember the people of the past? And what does it mean to enact that remembering through the medium of film? Joan of Arc (b. 1412-d. 1431) has been depicted on film more than most historical figures. The broad outlines of her life certainly provide the basis for good drama, as she went from peasant girl to successful military leader to heretic, burned at the stake, all in under 5 years. A complicated figure in her own time, Joan's story became all the more enthralling when she was eventually given sainthood by the very Church that martyred her. Still, the various ways she has been remembered on screen may be almost as interesting as The Maid herself, for what it can tell us about ourselves and about the act of commemoration in popular culture.
la Pucelle -
The Maiden. This is the name Joan (or, Jeanne) used to refer to herself. After her death, she eventually became known as la Pucelle d'Orleans (the Maid of Orleans).
Hundred Years War (1337-1453) -
A conflict between the monarchs of England and France over feudal rights in Gascony that escalated into a fight for the French crown. Lasting 116 years (with intermittent fighting), the French eventually won and gained control of all of France except Calais.
An officer of the Inquisition, a court set up by the Catholic Church, originally in the 13th century, to determine whether individuals were heretics.
Someone who advances a theological position contrary to established orthodoxy on a matter which could affect the salvation of themselves or any affected 3rd party.
Many thanks to Dr Laura O'Brien for her time and expertise.
Laura is Assistant Professor in Modern European History at Northumbria University, Newcastle. She is a cultural historian of France and Europe, and her work is particularly focused on visual culture and performance, including how history is adapted and depicted via cinema and theatre. Her research interests also include the cultural history of religion in France, print culture, and the history of Paris. You can find Laura on Twitter @lrbobrien.
Thanks also to Laura for suggesting the most interesting film-pairing we've heard thus far: a box of Larmes de Jeanne d'arc (Tears of Joan of Arc). These chocolate sweets, in the shape of a tear-drop, are made in Rouen, by Jean-Marie Auzou Chocolatier.
Larissa J. Taylor, The Virgin Warrior: The Life and Death of Joan of Arc (Yale University Press, 2010). This is an accessible but thorough recent scholarly biography of Joan.
Helen Castor, Joan of Arc: A History (Faber and Faber, 2014). Another very accessible biography, perhaps a bit more geared to an informed general readership than Taylor.
You're Dead to Me: Joan of Arc (2021), Host Greg Jenner is joined by comedian Catherine Bohart and historian Dr Helen Castor.
Marina Warner, Joan of Arc: The Image of Female Heroism (new edition; Oxford University Press, 2016). A useful ‘two for one’! The first half of the book is more biographically focused, seeking to understand Joan in her context but also as a warrior figure akin to older representations of the Amazon and other female warriors. The second half is about Joan’s afterlives in culture, faith, and politics.
Robin Blaetz, Visions of the Maid: Joan of Arc in American Film and Culture (University of Virginia Press, 2001).
Robin Blaetz, ‘Joan of Arc and the Cinema’ in D. Goy-Blanquet (ed.), Joan of Arc: A Saint for All Reasons (Routledge, 2003). The title is self-explanatory!
‘Chapter 6: Movies and the Maid’ in John Aberth, A Knight at the Movies: Medieval History on Film (Routledge, 1993).
For more on how The Passion of Joan of Arc inspired Pier Pasolini's, Il Vangelo secondo Matteo: Naomi Greene, Pier Paolo Pasolini: Cinema as Heresy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), pp. 18-19, 46-47.
NYTimes review of Joan of Arc (1948): "Ingrid Bergman Plays Title Role in 'Joan of Arc' at Victoria" by Bosley Crowther.