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France, 1962 (MIFF 1979, Missed Masterpieces)

Director: Robert Bresson

Robert Bresson's account of the Joan of Arc story, although austere and elliptical as are all his films, remains very close to the written records of the trial held in 1431.

The film begins twenty-five years after Joan's death, with her mother filing a petition in the Notre Dame church, declaring the trial unjust. Then, Bresson presents a series of nine interrogations that Joan went through on trial for witchcraft. Bishop Cauchon and Warwick interview her both in public and in the privacy of her cell.

She is questioned about her alleged involvement in witchcraft and about the voices from God that she claims to hear. Throughout, she is unswerving in her faith: 'I ask only to be sent back to God from whom I came'. Particular emphasis is placed on her virginity, and her decision to wear men's clothing. In her cell. Joan is spied on through a crack in the wall by Cauchon and Warwick. Brother Isambart counsels her. She is tortured in an attempt to elicit a confession from her. The Bishop tries to persuade her to wear women's clothing.

Publicly in the market place, Joan succumbs for a moment to weakness and recants her faith, but soon reverts to her original stand. The court condemns her and orders that she be burned at the stake.

See also...


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For his first film in six years, Robert Bresson has been inspired by a short story by Leo Tolstoy, "The Counterfeit Note". When making a delivery of fuel oil, a young Parisian workman is given a fake ... More »

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