Joan of Arc (1948)

This film was something of a passion project for Ingrid Bergman. She’d been trying to get it made for years. It shows – she’s clearly invested in the story of Joan of Arc, and she does her best to deliver a worthy performance. Unfortunately, even if Renée Jeanne Falconetti’s vastly superior performance in Carl Dreyer’s vastly superior film didn’t exist, this film (and Bergman’s performance within it) would still come up short, as a dull, muted, languid affair. Bergman certainly tried, and maybe even director Victor Fleming did too (though the film is so much lesser than some of his other works, so who knows), but to my mind, they didn’t succeed in making something particularly worthwhile.

The film is painfully devoid of spirituality, majesty, or any of the bizarre and otherworldly aspects of Joan of Arc’s story. It’s such a straight, Hollywood-esque adaptation, so focused on the linear mechanics of a plot rather than the striking but abstract spiritual aspects of Joan of Arc’s actual story.

Not helping matters is Bergman herself – while she’s a legend of sorts in her own right, her age and manner is so far removed from the real Joan of Arc that so many aspects of what happened fail to land.

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What does work pretty well are the battle scenes, which are rather well-staged, and even striking at times. I particularly liked the lighting after the first battle, with Joan examining the bodies at twilight. That looked gorgeous.

The film certainly reached high, but landed amongst mediocrity. I give it two banners, and a holy sword.

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