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|Biography - Joan of Arc Virgin Warrior |
A&E DVD Archives
Actors: Joan of Arc, Biography
Joan of Arc's treatment in A&E's Biography, like that of the others in the "Legendary Women" series, is true to the formula that works so well: lush photography of medieval and later historical images, intelligent and prov... more »
Formulaic "A&E Biography"; not as good as earlier version &
R.L. Holly | Austin, TX USA | 06/23/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I was disappointed when I viewed this disc. I'd been expecting a nice DVD copy of the A&E Biography episode on Joan of Arc aired in the mid-1990s (my TV taping is from 1994 and is fading rapidly). That was a British-produced film that A&E obviously bought the rights to, slapped their usual intro over, and broadcast under their "Biography" aegis. It was better assembled, more wide-ranging in its scope, more honest, and vastly more engrossing than this tedious new program (copyright 1997). "Virgin Warrior" falls into the usual contemporary American documentary formula of being static and lifeless and more than a little dishonest. It relies heavily on panning over medieval (or later) illustrations -- often having little to do with this period or the events described by the narrator -- a few cheap and poorly photographed reenactors, the usual academic talking heads in full pontificating mode (although to her credit Dr. Bonnie Wheeler does come across as informed and enthusiastic), and a lot of generic travelogue footage taken of entirely different locations than what is ostensibly being discussed! I have been to many of the places in France associated with Joan's career and I can tell when what I'm being shown is the genuine location and when it's not, and in this program, we are very rarely shown the actual sites Joan visited.
There are numerous errors of fact in the narrative as well, plus some puzzling mispronunciation of French names and places. But the main sin of this documentary, in my view, is the crime of taking one of the most lively women in history and making her story dull as dishwater. I don't think the viewer will gain much of a picture of this remarkable French saint from this program, and I recommend seeking out the earlier Biography film (if it is available anywhere), a different documentary altogether, or even watching some of the better and more truthful movies made about the Maid of Orleans: Ingrid Bergman's newly restored "Joan of Arc" and Sandrine Bonnaire's "Jeanne la Pucelle" are the most valuable in this respect, and even Leelee Sobieski's "Joan of Arc" (full length version) has its moments."
A well-made documentary on the remarkable Lady of Orleans
Daniel Jolley | Shelby, North Carolina USA | 06/26/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As far as I'm concerned, Joan of Arc is the most fascinating woman to ever live - or I should say young lady, since - in a travesty of justice and a striking show of cowardice on the part of the man she basically crowned the king of a newly restored France two years earlier - she was burned at the stake as a heretic at the age of 19. Twenty-four years later, her conviction was overturned by the Church, then in 1920 she was officially canonized; for centuries now, she has been looked upon as a national hero among the French people and a source of inspiration to innumerable admirers. Ironically, the farce of her trial provides us with much historical documentation we would not otherwise have, and the manner in which she handled herself during her days of captivity served only to reinforce and perpetuate the fascination and admiration she continues to draw worldwide. As usual, A&E Biography produced an impressive documentary of the young girl's remarkable life, telling her story against a backdrop of mediaeval works of art and alongside the insightful observations of several Joan of Arc scholars. The true source of her visions and extraordinary abilities will never be known, nor will the debate of those issues ever end. Heretic or martyr? Witch or wise beyond her years? Sent by God or by Satan? These questions and others like them will keep Joan of Arc in the public heart and mind for as long as men and women exist on this planet.Joan of Arc's story is almost impossible to believe. Keep in mind that France was facing an ultimate defeat at the hands of the English as The Hundred Years' War drew to a close. Joan grew up in northern France, in one of only a few villages still faithful to the French king (it should come as no surprise, since we are talking about France here, that large numbers of the population of northern France were collaborating with the enemy at this time). Here was Joan of Arc, a teenaged female peasant, illiterate and ignorant of military strategy, leaving home at the age of 17 in response to angelic voices she had first heard four years earlier, traveling across two hundred miles of enemy territory to reach the Dauphin, and within two years saving her nation from complete military defeat and restoring the crown price of France to the throne. This was the early 15th century, mind you - women, especially young girls, would never dream of cutting their hair, dressing in man's clothing and armor, and riding off to war with an army of men, and no one really cared what a peasant thought in the first place. Somehow, though, Joan of Arc convinced the future king to give her an army, and she led her troops in battle dressed in the full armor of a king's soldier. She claimed her authority came from God Himself, that He communicated with her in mysterious voices and instructed her to do all these impossible things - and she delivered what she promised. Can you imagine what the English troops based in the fortress of Orleans thought when they received an ultimatum from this seventeen-year-old girl to withdraw their forces? Many of them did not live to regret their dismissal of her demands. Having fulfilled her promises to save the nation and restore the French monarchy, Joan's young life quickly took a series of dramatically tragic turns. Certain elements of the king's court stirred up trouble for her out of jealousy, she herself became more demanding and forceful, and eventually her military campaigns began to meet with disaster rather than glorious victory over the odds. Many began to surmise that she had fallen out of favor with the Deity - or if luck and determination rather than heavenly assistance had led to her early successes. Attempts to retake Paris by force, a move the king was always reluctant to follow, were failures, and on the third such mission Joan of Arc was captured. The video gives the impression she was captured by the English, but actually she was captured by Burgundian collaborators and then sold to their English allies. She languished in prison for more than a year, defended herself nobly and admirably at her "trial," and faced the most awful of deaths with courage and unnatural calm. She did, after a solid year of imprisonment and torture, sign a confession to the effect that her voices never came from God and that she was, in essence, a heretic, but she soon recanted these claims. There is no written record of what took place during the three days between her "confession" and her disavowal of that confession and swift execution. Almost surely, as the video suggests, she was raped during that time, a horrible enough event in its own right, but sickeningly appalling for someone who had dedicated her mind and body to the work of God and drew sustenance from her cherished virginity. The video offers up a number of strong arguments for the truth of Joan of Arc's amazing claims, but it is also careful to allow for a number of other interpretations, including the kind of psychobabble some academics delight in employing today. This is a highly favorable yet very well-balanced look at a life of captivating mystery and vast historical significance."