A Look at “The Passion of Joan of Arc” Part 2/8


Laudetur Iesus Christus!

Saturday of the Fourth Week of Easter

Today was a lazy day and it would have been lazier had I decided to sleep in instead of going to Mass. For the longest time, I did not go to morning Mass on Saturdays unless I had a funeral. After I “retired” from helping with funerals, I just kinda stopped then something within asked, “Why did you ever stop to begin with?” Since I had no logical or decent explanation, I have been working to get back into the habit of going on Saturday morning, even if it means getting up earlier so I can walk and enjoy the peacefulness of my one mile stroll to church in time to pray my Office and make a meditation before Mass.

After I got back from Mass, I resolved to be productive. On a scale of 1 to 10, I give myself like a 5 or a 6. I did three loads of laundry (I do my mother’s and mine), folded, and stowed away. I had some ironing to do, which in itself can be entertaining because I have to follow a certain ritual of laying the clothing out a certain way and I have to use my spray bottle (those little things on irons never cut it for me), and then I have to iron it in a specific order. When I would starch my uniform (and my sister’s), our pleats were so so crisp and perfect (and don’t even get me started on the saddle shoes … the best way to whiten white shoes? Make a loose paste with whitening toothpaste and some really hot water, work on the surface with a used toothbrush, let dry, then rinse off with hot water and bluff with a soft dry rag). As I was waiting for loads of laundry to finish, I putzed on Aloysius and played some Game Boy games on my newly rescued Game Boy Advance (still don’t have all my games back … *sigh*). Oh! And I watched one of my favorite films just this evening, Camille with Greta Garbo and Robert Taylor. It’s based on a book by the same name by Alexandre Dumas, fils (there were two, a father and a son).

But anywho, let’s get to part two of “The Passion of Joan of Arc.” Here is the libretto, we’re on page 3 (The Interrogation). The first part of our series is just below this post so if you would like to refer back, just scroll down or click here.

Here is the video for part two:

We’re kinda in between parts when it comes to the music, we left off with

Oh! What an honor for the feminine sex! This entire realm, once lost by [wretched men],
restored and save by a woman again.”
-Ditie de Jehanne d’Arc by Christine de Pizan 1429 (considered one of the earliest known feminist writers)

And now we are hearing at the very beginning,

From my girlhood to the present time,
in a wondrous fashion I have felt in
myself the power and mystery of secret
and wonderful visions …
(Hildegard von Bingen, mystic poet, and composer from the early 12th century)

Obviously, this quote from Hildegard (the libretto I have has her a saint but I am not sure if she is or not … yet) is alluding, in this context, to Joan’s own visions of Saints Margaret, Catherine, and Michael who told her of her mission to save France from the English who were oppressing her homeland. As a side note, Hildegard wrote some very nice chant (I have some on my iPod), which if you are into that kind of thing, you might want to check out. If not, try it anyway.

Now, looking to what is happening on screen, her interrogation is continuing with the judges asking her about her visions. As usual, where they are trying to corner her with their specificity, she confounds them with her simplicity. I like when they ask her if Saint Michael had long hair and she asks, “Why would he have to cut it?” especially if angels are theologically purely spiritual beings and thus lack the substance that is required to have hair, a body and all the trappings thereof.

Then we hear, Homasse! repeated over and over again. The medieval slur calling certain women masculine. This also overlaps with the question of why she wears men’s clothes, which remember was considered blasphemy and indecent for a woman to do in the day (now some are just androgynous). There were some explanations that she wore the men’s clothes in prison to protect her from rape. I read somewhere that she may have changed into women’s clothes once but immediately reverted back when there was an attempted assault on her by a soldier or guard (never mind that she should have been kept with other women in a place like a convent not in a military jail with men). In the film, Joan says that once the mission the Lord has given her is completed, she will resume wearing women’s clothes but until then, she shall remain in men’s clothes.

Now we are seeing the whispers between the judges, they are probably whispering questions to ask Joan to try to corner her and to see just how much of a heretic she is, though, as you will see, there are some who believe she is innocent and that the whole trial is a horror because the intentions of some are clear: to have her found guilty and to be burned as a heretic. As you can see by the facial expressions, they are almost using her as their own personal amusement and to fluff their egos are her simplicity while they are learned men of the Church.

Then the question about what recompense she expects from God for doing what He has asked her to do. You see for a brief moment one person’s reaction of surprise because that is a very delicate question theologically, err to far one way or the other and they would have her as a heretic.

As we see Joan’s reaction to the question, we hear this:

A little girl […]
Upon whom arms and armor weigh lightly; […]
Before her all foes take off at a run,
Of them none remains, not even a one.
(Ditie, Christine de Pizan)

This may be referring to how sure she is of her mission from God and how she will be successful because it is His will, no matter what may seem to get in her way. It may also refer to the fact that through all her struggles, she comes out victorious while her opposition ultimately end up defeated comepletely.

Then she answers the question with “The salvation of my soul.”

The judge loses it because he has been shut down by this ignorant peasant girl who does not even know her own age for sure. Of course, he is going to see it as blasphemy because God would never speak through this creature. Also, keep in mind that these were biased judges in many cases who were allied with the English so there was an additional issue there besides the theology, which they used as a ploy for her charges and ultimate execution.

After one judge yells at her, spits on her, and all that, another judge rises and stands up for her saying that all of this is “disgraceful” and that he regards her as a saint. Of course, this does not go over well with the others who stand up and stare at him maliciously as he approaches Joan and falls at her feet as the others look on. After an exchange, it seems like this judge is sent away because he would work against what they have set out to do. The guards take notice of what is going on and talk among themselves as well. The soldiers do not like her not just because of what she has done to them militarily (all those victories against them) but also because there are many people in the city who regard her as a saint and if anything were to happen to her, they would most probably riot against their control. We notice that some of the judges notice the in-talking between the guards and then we see a group of them armed (just the tops of their spears) heading outside.

BTW, sometimes, I just listen to the music and read the libretto, with my issues, it can be hard to decipher what is being said even with a libretto (how can you find the text, if you can’t understand it audibly?). But do follow along if it so appeals to you, the texts really are beautifully set.

Over the course of the rest of this part, there is one text to which I wish to call your attention:

A woman shall not wear
the clothes of a man
Nor a man
the clothes of a woman.
For abominable
in the eyes of God
are those who do so.
(Deuteronomy 22:5)

Obviously this fits because of the issue the judges take with her clothes. This is their biblical justification for condemning her because of the manner of how she dresses. This is also why we hear “Homasse!” a few times. It’s hard to believe that this was once a terrible sin. If they saw women today walking around in slacks and men’s shirts they would be burning witches left and right and that’s not even touching the modesty issue with a ten mile pole!

An older judge with the cane knows something is up and he does not approve of it. Unfortunately, he is shut down by the head judge who tells him to basically “sit down and shut up” and asserts that HE is the one who will say what is right and what is not.

The questioning continues and at one point, she is asked something and she states that it has nothing to do with the trial. She is told that it is not her place to dictate what is pertinent and what is not. Again, they are asserting their authority to work to their advantage. He goes so far as to have a vote taken with the majority of them saying that it is pertinent. One judge does not raise his hand until he is given the eye to follow the rest of them. Having gotten the result he wanted, he asked the question again.

He asks that perhaps her reward would be her release from prison. She says “yes.” He asks her when that would be and just goes biblical on them saying that she does not know the day nor the hour (citing the Lord btw). This angers him because again, she has turned his question back on him and it upsets him. Then it seems he calls either a recess of sorts or her ends the trial for the day. Joan is led away back to her holding cell and the judges are seen conversing amongst themselves.

Then the head judge is seen speaking with the officer in charge (who has a vendetta for Joan as we shall and have seen) about how to get her to confess and how she has been crafty and how they will have to outdo her in clever-ness to get what they want.

Having come up with something, the head judge calls for a letter with the signature of the King of France, Charles VI (I think). If they can’t get her legitimately, they are going to play a bit dirty and deceptive. There is a shot of Joan crying and then it cuts back to the judge dictating a letter under the guise of Charles.

In between the scenes of the forged letter, we see Joan crying, she is obviously fearful, who would not be? She looks down and sees that her prison bar windows have cast the shadow of a cross on the floor and she is comforted, her expression changes. If one pays attention, it even seems to become more distinct as time passes, symbolic of the fact that God is with her and shall never leave her alone. You will also note that she is making a crown out of straw (probably from her bed), this will pay into the story later on.

So ends part two. Sorry if the notes seem kinda haphazard. ’tis a bit late and I still have to pray I Vespers and Compline (I add more Latin for Sunday prayers, it’s fun!). Please do give me your feedback. What do you think of the film? What say you of the music?

Until next time, have a wonderful evening and a blessed Sunday!


About Ms. Allie

I am a Catholic young woman who works as a Theology teacher at a Catholic high school in the Archdiocese of the Detroit. In Spring of 2015, I graduated with an MA in Theology with a concentration in Systematic Theology. My MA thesis was titled: "Mary as Woman of the Eucharist in the Theology of Pope Saint John Paul II." I also hold a BA in Theology (with a dabbling in Philosophy) and is a member of Theta Alpha Kappa (θΑΚ), the National Theology/Religious Studies Honor Society. Prayers are appreciated.
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