Week 15: Wednesday, February 1, 2017
Joan of Arc

From Wikipedia: “Saint Joan of Arc (French: Jeanne d’Arc; ca. 1412 – 30 May 1431) is a national heroine of France and a Catholic saint. A peasant girl born in eastern France, she led the French army to several important victories during the Hundred Years’ War, claiming divine guidance, and was indirectly responsible for the coronation of Charles VII. She was captured by the Burgundians, sold to the English, tried by an ecclesiastical court, and burned at the stake when she was nineteen years old. Twenty-four years later, on the initiative of Charles VII, who could not afford being seen as having been brought to power with the aid of a condemned heretic, Pope Callixtus III reviewed the decision of the ecclesiastical court, found her innocent, and declared her a martyr. She was beatified in 1909 and canonized in 1920. She is, along with St. Denis, St. Martin of Tours, St. Louis IX, and St. Theresa of Lisieux, one of the patron saints of France.

DVD in class:

“Joan of Arc” 1999
This is an excellent new production starring Leelee Sobieski, Neil Patrick Harris, and Peter O’Toole.

Amazon.com essential video A strong cast, impressive production values, and astute direction distinguish this generally successful dramatization of the tumultuous life of the 15th-century French heroine whose military victories were eclipsed by her martyrdom. At the heart of the story is the conflict between the teenager’s simple but fierce faith and the more complex political and theological issues that influence her downfall, a theme fleshed out through the portrayals of the young warrior’s liege, the Dauphin (later King) Charles, and the Bishop Cauchon. The feature follows Joan D’Arc’s odyssey from peasant obscurity to notoriety as the “Maid of Orleans,” spiritual fulcrum for the beleaguered French forces struggling to halt English invaders. As played by Leelee Sobieski (Eyes Wide Shut), her evolution from naive farm girl to seasoned soldier is convincing, as is her gradual awakening to the underlying agendas of church and state. Most critically, Sobieski radiates the young girl’s fervent spiritual devotion. Framing Sobieski’s focal performance are two equally fine turns from Neil Patrick Harris, who erases his legacy as TV’s Doogie Howser, M.D. with a neatly shaded, steely Charles, and Peter O’Toole, who balances his signature reserve and present physical frailty to make Cauchon a moral compass for the story. Having opposed Joan as a threat to orthodoxy, the Bishop recognizes her purity too late; O’Toole turns this moment into a dreadful epiphany that resonates through the story’s inevitable, fiery denouement. Fine supporting performances from Peter Strauss, Shirley MacLaine, and Maximillian Schell, plus evocative medieval locations in the Czech Republic, further buttress the story. French-Canadian director Christian Duguay handles the large-scale battle sequences with fluid blocking and smart camera work. –Sam Sutherland