By Mónica Delgado
I will start with a phrase that is often repeated in this season of Cannes: “this film should’ve been in the official competition”. And it’s that, Bruno Dumont’s Jeanne not only makes an incredible diptych with his last Jeannette, l’enfance de Jeanne d’Arc , but, despite its minimalism and the theatrical diction that unites them, in this new film there’s a more political intention, less mystic, the one of the child Joan of Arc, confronted against the church and the factual powers in XV century France.
The resources used by Dumont remain the same, although in this second part, he breaks from the country scenarios to enter a beautiful church in Rouen, where trials against heresy are lived, trials in charge of the religious elite of the times (and that’s when the best films of the movie arrive, with the performance of Jeanne defending herself, an endearing Lise Leplat Prudhomme). This brings up an analogy of faith among the companions of Jeanne in the field and the battles, and the perturbed elite which shelters in the columns of an unconventional church.
The first part presents Jeanne in the preparations for the campaigns and battles, in the middle of the conflict between France and England, in the context of the Hundred Year’s War, and where we find out, she’s already know as a miracle girl because of “the voices” that arise inside of here. Here Jeanne presents herself in relation with god, and willing to direct a strategic defense in the battlefield. And for that, Dumont chooses a few scarce shots, to place the characters in the fields like a scenario, characters that organize the battles and give clues of which period this episode of Jeanne’s life is.
If maybe the film is less musical than the last one, the first part does establishes some songs and spatial compositions to communicate her relation with the divine (aerial shots, which watch Jeanne from the sky). And then Dumont, with his characteristic sense of humor, offers a choreography of symmetries (also watched from above) including a dancing horse, to give a metaphorical idea of the battle strategies employed by this historical leader.
In the second part, played inside the church, the historical characters of the trial appears, bishops, canonical archbishops like Jean d’Estivet or Niclas Loyseleur, as well as emissaries of Paris University, just to be ridiculed in their power to accuse Jeanne of heresy. In these moments, Dumont focuses the drama or the humor in the diction of these caricatures of power. And Jeanne remains unscathed before the accusations.
In this film by Dumont, lie even more reminiscences of Bresson’s Procès de Jeanne d’Arc (1962), but it’s undeniable that the French filmmaker poses an even more risky minimalism, without the choice of showing the mass defending Jeanne, or accusing her of heresy, concentrating the tale in the accusations and in the subtle choreographic touch of the characters entering and exiting
The gaze of God, as someone who sees it all, is a fundamental axis in the film (the cameras who look down at the character from the skies, and Dumont appropriates this in a brilliant yet simple way, to conciliate with this delivered and strong Jeanne in this trial of injustice, which turns her in an inspiring piece of constant struggle.
Un Certain Regard
Director: Bruno Dumont
Cinematographer: David Chambille
Cast: Lise Leplat Prudhomme
Production company: 3P Productions
France, 134 mins, 2019