Review by Sean Boelman
A follow-up to his divisive story about the French heroine’s childhood, Bruno Dumont’s Joan of Arc isn’t a musical unlike its predecessor, but it still takes a very unorthodox approach to this well-known story. While Dumont’s vision of history may not be agreeable, it’s certainly idiosyncratic and one to be heard.
The film follows the eponymous French heroine as she leads the French army against the King of England believing that she is God’s chosen one, only to be put on trial for heresy. It’s a tragic story that nearly everyone knows, and it has been committed to film more than once before, but Dumont really doubles down on the existential elements of the character’s arc.
There’s an obvious connection to be had to the story if one already has familiarity with the historical events. Dumont’s movie is somewhat reliant on viewers appreciating Joan of Arc’s plight and sympathizing with her struggle, although the middle portion of the film will have a lot of impact regardless.
Lise Leplat Prudhomme reprises her role (she played the younger version of Joan of Arc in Dumont’s Jeannette), and she does a great job. The amount of emotion she brings to the character, particularly during the climactic trial, will draw viewers into the character even if they are unconvinced to that point.
The pacing of the film is certainly very unorthodox. Dumont jumps through time, showing the audience only the most impactful elements of her life rather than providing a completely comprehensive biography. Even at over two hours and fifteen minutes long, there’s a lot that Dumont omitted, and yet, it feels like he communicates his message.
Above everything else, the movie is about standing up for what one believes. This is a message that is universal and just as resonant now as it was in the 1400s. There’s a reason why Joan of Arc’s story has become such an iconic and important part of history, and Dumont manages to highlight that perfectly.
On a technical level, the film is absolutely beautiful. While it isn’t a full-out musical like its predecessor, the sound design and soundtrack play a large role in the style. The cinematography and production design are also excellent, giving the movie a very sleek but still periodized feel.
Bruno Dumont’s Joan of Arc isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is a highly unique period piece. It’s an undeniably unusual yet effective telling of a story that pretty much everyone knows.
Joan of Arc is now streaming in partnership with indie theaters. A list of participating locations can be found here.