Joan the Maiden, Part 2: The Prisons

Rivette's two-part film on Joan of Arc is at once visually transcendent and matter-of-fact, a materialist approach to the rigors of fifteenth-century life and the rigors of depicting on screen the strange journey of the Maid of Orleans. Sandrine Bonnaire eschews gesture for an unadorned, deeply honest interpretation of the seventeen-year-old girl who is a soldier and a loner, a leader led by voices, and abandoned by her voices to a hideous death. Part 1, The Battles, depicts the singlemindedness that drove this peasant girl to brave French officials and an ecclesiastic tribunal, and then (in the film's last third) the horrors of war. Various participants in the action serve as witnesses, facing the camera to narrate the events depicted. Significantly, much is not depicted; Rivette, here as elsewhere, is concerned with the moments “between”-history as life, occasionally interrupted by ceremony. In Part 2, The Prisons, Joan is a fanatic seeker of freedom in a world of abusive protocol that claims God's calling. Gender and sexual issues are never not there-indeed, the auto-da-fé is the culmination of her simple refusal, in the end, to wear women's clothing.

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