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Film / Joan of Arc

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Joan of Arc is a 1900 film by Georges Méliès.

It is the story of the Maid of Orleans, French heroine of The Hundred Years War. In ten minutes the film manages to hit the high points of Joan of Arc's life, including:

  • Joan having visions of St. Margaret and St. Catherine, and then the Archangel Michael, which inspire her to take up the cause of France against the English invaders.
  • Her encounter with Robert de Baudricourt, captain of Vaucouleurs, who gets her an audience with would-be French King Charles VII.
  • A triumphal procession following Joan's liberation of Reims, itself followed by Charles's coronation.
  • Joan's capture by the Burgundians at Compiègne, her trial, her execution, and her ascent into Heaven.

This ten-minute film was, believe it or not, unusually long for films of the day, and featured elaborate costumes and sets that were more typical of stage shows than experimental early cinema. It was something of a step forward for Méliès, who before this had mostly made "trick" films in which he used the camera to show seemingly impossible stunts and magic tricks.

Joan Of Arc contains examples of:

  • Archangel Michael: Gives Joan a job.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: The last scene shows Joan's soul ascending into heaven, where she's greeted by a crowd of angels.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: Charles VII being crowned king of France at Reims, a pretty impressive ceremony which involved bishops, trumpeters, and an anointing with oil.
  • Biopic: Possibly the first one ever made.
  • Burn the Witch!: Joan's fate, after being convicted of heresy.
  • Creator Cameo: Georges Méliès plays seven different roles in the production, from Joan's father to a wood-carrier at her execution.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: Inverted. This is not a black-and-white film. Méliès and his crew hand-colored the whole movie frame-by-frame. Even with only a ten-minute run time, that's more than 200 meters of film.
  • Died Happily Ever After: At the very end of the movie, Joan appears in Heaven.
  • Dissolve: Used for scene transitions. Probably invented by Georges Méliès for movies like this one.
  • Historical Beauty Update: Joan looks cute and feminine in this adaptation. In real life, she looked more masculine.
  • In Medias Res: You can't waste time in a ten-minute movie, which is why Méliès opens the film with Joan immediately having her visions.
  • Lady of War: Joan, a slip of a girl, in armor on a horse leading men in battle.
  • Mission from God: Visions from angels lead Joan to fight against the English.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: The film shows a victory parade after the highlight of Joan's career, the liberation of Orleans—which is not shown. Presumably there was no way Méliès, who was working on a tiny stage, could reproduce a great battle.
  • Public Execution: Joan is executed in front of a crowd.
  • The Siege: The siege of Compeigne. Joan is captured when Burgundian soldiers jump out of the gate, yank her off her horse, and pull her inside the walls.
  • Storming the Castle: Attempted by Joan's men, who are shown mounting the walls with ladders while the Burgundians pour down debris from atop the walls. Apparently the attempt failed, as the film cuts to Joan in a cell, still imprisoned.
  • Virgin in a White Dress: Significantly, innocent Joan is dressed in a pure white gown for both her trial and her execution. Doubles as a White Shirt of Death, since she dies in that dress.