Contact me at because I'm always up for a natter about anything. Well, mostly.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Classic Film Review: Saint Joan (1957)

Based on a play by George Bernard Shaw and adapted by Graham Greene, Saint Joan tells the story of Joan of Arc from her first approach to the French army up until her death. Starring Jean Seberg as the title character, the cast also includes Richard Widmark as The Dauphin, Charles VII, Richard Todd as Dunois, the Bastard of Orleans, Anton Walbrook as Cauchon, the Bishop of Beauvais and John Gielgud as the Earl of Warwick.

I've discovered that a common criticism of Saint Joan is that it is a static film, too reliant on the stage productions to turn itself into an adequate film. I partially agree with this because of one vital point - we don't see Joan in action, we only see her stirring people to action and the aftermath of this action. For me, that diluted the power of the character somewhat. This was mitigated in part by the tremendous scenes between Joan and The Dauphin as she stirs him to stand up for himself and his people.

However, the film is not designed to be completely realistic. It is more an analysis of politics and motivation than a step-by-step account of Joan's life and death. This is evidenced by the fact that the story begins with an elderly Charles VII is visited by Joan's ghost in his dream. That chamber gets quite crowded by the end of the film.

Jean Seberg was picked from 18,000 hopefuls to star in this, her first film role. With that in mind, her performance is very impressive. There are a few moments when she strays into melodrama but, for the most part, her performance is in keeping with the character. The rest of the cast are excellent too, particularly Richard Widmark and John Gielgud.

If you take this film as a piece of art and not as a dramatic representation of Joan's life, it works. Don't expect battles but do expect subtle touches and intricate dialogue.

No comments: