The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc
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The year is 1429. France is in political and religious turmoil as members of the royal family battle for rule. But one peasant girl from a remote village gave her country the miracle it was looking for. Milla Jovovich (The Fifth Element, Dazed and Confused) is Joan of Arc, a young woman who would inspire and lead her countrymen until her execution at the age of nineteen. Raised in a religious family, Joan witnessed her sister's rape and death at the hands of an invading army. Years later, as the same war raged on, Joan stood before her king with a message she claimed came from God: give her an army, and in God's name she would reclaim his diminished kingdom. But was the message real, or thedelusion of a girl whose life had been shattered? This startling epic drama by Luc Besson (The Fifth Element) explores the life of Joan of Arc, her amazing victories, relationship with God, and tragic death. Co-starring John Malkovich and Academy Award(r) winners Dustin Hoffman and Faye Dunaway, THE
1999 may be remembered as the year of Joan of Arc: NBC created a miniseries in her honor, Carl Dreyer's long-lost The Passion of Joan of Arc was discovered in a mental hospital, and Facets re-released Jacques Rivette's Joan the Maid. Luc Besson rounds out the corpus with his stylistic and vaguely heretical grand-scale feature, The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc.
Besson (La Femme Nikita, The Fifth Element) challenges established notions about the Maid of Orleans as he creates a decidedly more human heroine than have previous biopics. The story line is the same--a young, illiterate peasant girl convinces the dauphin of France to give her an army, and she leads them to victory in Orleans, only to be burned at the stake for heresy--but Milla Jovovich, in the title role, is a woman possessed. Her influences are less than heavenly; as a child she witnesses the murder of her sister by the English, a death caused by the sister's giving her hiding place to young Joan, which causes an intense desire for revenge. Yes, God still speaks to Joan, but even this is undermined, as Dustin Hoffman, playing The Conscience, questions her motives.
Cinematically, The Messenger is stunning, with fantastical sequences of Joan in communication with higher powers. Yet the graphic violence (scenes include random decapitation and a dog gnawing on a body); the uneven accents, which make it difficult to tell who is fighting on which side; and the rewriting of lore may make this version of Joan of Arc appeal only to Besson fans. Jovovich is convincing, and while at times the film may drag (at times you wish they'd hurry up and burn her), it is a remarkable and insightful retelling of a well-known piece of history. --Jenny Brown
- Extended International Version with an Additional 10 Minutes of Footage
- HBO First Look Featurette: The Messenger: The Search for the Real Joan of Arc
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2:30 minutes was added to the scene where the Dauphin chooses who will be the impostor. This is a good addition because it introduces the characters that will be Joan's captains in the following battles.
A single line, where Joan tells the Dauphin her message. I didn't like this because the Dauphin never told anyone what Joan said to him to make him believe in her. The American version left this a mystery too.
7 minutes (a whole chapter, 3 scenes) was added right after the private audience where various officials examine and interview Joan. I liked this because historically this is what happened, although I don't agree about how it was done, a bit ridiculous, and it could have been cut in half.
A few lines here and there that I don't remember, particularly during the battle scenes that made the battles seem a little bit less intense. For example, "Do something!" "What do you want me to do?" "I don't care, just do something!" which are lines I don't remember, but I could be wrong. None-the-less some parts of the battles seemed less intense to me from what I remember.
I may be mistaken, but there seemed to be some deleted scenes too. The trial seemed shorter in the International version, which makes sense considering Americans love of the TV trial a la O.J. Simpson; they would have made it longer. I also think the lines where Joan screams out "Jesus!" were deleted which I didn't care for because it was reported that she did scream out his name. The final burning scene seemed rather abrupt. I could have sworn they had a scene where they brought her out, tied her down, and read the charges before burning her. I'd definitely buy this DVD if you like the movie. It would have been nice to get both versions of the film on this DVD much like they did for the Abyss. If you are interested in learning more about her, "Joan of Arc: Her Story" by Regine Pernoud is an excellent book as well.
I wasn't sure whether to buy this movie or not, but after watching it--taking a chance it might be good--I was (thoroughly and pleasantly) surprised. Certainly, this rendition of Joan's story isn't your usual, bubbly, gushy, lathered on glop of over acted piety, that inevitably leaves the viewer feeling sandblasted, empty, and wondering why the pope himself doesn't hear voices too? Perhaps his eyes aren't as dreamy as Leelee Sobieski's. The Messenger is a hard--gritty--rendition of the French peasant girls rise to glory and her premature death by execution. And while its Joan (Milla Jovovich) doesn't have a soft tear stained face that could melt every Burgundian heart in the room at her hearing, Jovovich's insane expressions convincingly convey the pain, internal struggles, and feverishly pitiable attempts of a simple farm girl as she stumbles to weed out the reality of what she sees from the imagined. I easily found myself laughing with Joan's captains as the spunky French girl, with a fuse as short as the bob haircut she sports, charges recklessly into battle, like a whirlwind. While the musical score isn't anything to go scouring youtube for in the hopes of downloading, it doesn't fall completely flat (just into the background),The Messenger's cinematography is excellent, with diverse camera angles, shot that make every scene feel extremely real, and acting to bring down the chapel; not to mention a stunningly vivid burning at the stake finally that leaves us feeling as seared as Joan. I would definitely recommend this film, even though it is not considered as historically accurate as 1928 French film, it's an all together less staged take on the story of Joan of Arc.
Other objections are to beheadings and dogs gnawing at the slain. Fascinating -- we want our saints saintly and wars antiseptic. If that's what you want, don't watch this movie. Admittedly, the war scenes are not historically accurate. They are far too mild to reveal the nature of death in the Hundred Years War. But here the objection was not with the historical accuracy. For viewers less comfortable with ambiguity and blood, perhaps an G-rated version is more appropriate. But Joan lived in X-rated times.
The Messenger is a very good movie, much more controlled and sustained than The Fifth Element or La Femme Nikita.