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The Silence of Joan (a.k.a. Jeanne Captive)

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Links to our threads on Carl Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), Victor Fleming's Joan of Arc (1948), Otto Preminger's Saint Joan (1957) and Robert Bresson's The Trial of Joan of Arc (1962).

Leslie Felperin @ Variety:

Arguably cinema's favorite femme saint, Joan of Arc gets a few biopics to suit every generation. Gallic multihyphenate Philippe Ramos' "The Silence of Joan" offers a very 21st-century Jeanne d'Arc: a manic-depressive victim of history whose story is only one strand in a crisscrossing skein, shot on handheld HD cameras, that's big on mystery and ellipses. Ramos' cerebral interpretation has good moments but remains fundamentally underwhelming, and will have to crusade hard to make it offshore.

Eschewing all the story highlights that made Luc Besson's so-bad-it's-camp "The Messenger" at least a spectacle, "Silence" picks up at the very end of the visionary's history, just before she's about to be ransomed to the English. Via prayer monologues, it's revealed that the voices that have guided Jeanne (Clemence Poesy) have deserted her, leaving her bereft and suicidal. A healer (Thierry Fremont) tries to help her, prompting flashbacks about his life. And so it goes, with yet further digression to explore the lives of several other people Jeanne encounters on her way to the pyre, including a crazed preacher played by Mathieu Amalric. Underlit interiors undermine Ramos' good lensing work elsewhere.

Jordan Mintzer @ Hollywood Reporter:

CANNES -- Following Captain Ahab, his contemplative prequel to Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, French filmmaker Philippe Ramos sets his sights on another icon of Western culture in The Silence of Joan (Jeanne Captive). But this rather ponderous take on Gaul’s saintly teenage rebel suffers from shoddy production values and tedious storytelling, while Clemence Poesy’s leading turn fails to bring the legend to light. . . .

“Without my voices, I’m nothing,” Joan claims, but the same could be said of the film, which struggles to find an angle that’s captivating enough to sustain interest in a story that most viewers know by heart. After a troop of cartoonish Englishman take her into custody, Ramos shows how Joan’s mystical powers manifest themselves to a captain (Liam Cunningham) and then to a monk (Jean-Francois Stevenin), but such miracles are too little, too late to give the movie the spiritual epiphanies it aims for. . . .

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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