A Look at “The Passion of Joan of Arc” Part 3/8

A.M.D.G.
J.M.J.
A.T.C.

Laudetur Iesus Christus!

Friday of the Fifth Week of Easter

Okay, so I was supposed to post this last night. The funny thing is that I was up until about 1:30 and did not do it. I was in that kind of a tired state where you are so tired that you can’t sleep … kinda at cross purposes but what can ya do?

Anywho, here is the libretto for the film. We are just starting on page five with “The Jailers.” At this point in the film, Joan is in her cell while some of her persecutors are forging a letter alleged to be from Charles VII in order to get her to confess to her “crimes.”

Here is today’s portion of the film

After we see about a second of the letter being “signed,” we immediately cut to Joan in her cell when her jailers some in to mock her. They twist her arm to get her to let go of her ring.

As this is going on and through this whole scene, we hear:

When it comes to women, men, hold your tongue!
When it comes to women, men, hold your tongue!

A woman’s heart is just not able
To chart a course that’s firm or stable.

Now she’s wild, now she’s demure;
Now wants peace, then starts a war;

The schemes she quickly engineers
Can drown a countryside in tears

Who loves and trusts mad womankind
Damns soul and body, wastes his time.

Now that I’ve told you of womankind,
Let’s flee and leave them far behind!
Now that I’ve told you of womankind,
Let’s flee and leave them far behind!

When it comes to women, men, hold your tongue!

Now that I’ve told you of womankind,
Let’s flee and leave them far behind!
(“The Vices of Women” a 13th century misogynist poem)

This selection, I believe, reminds us that during that time, women were seen as the lesser of the two sexes. They had no rights. They had no individual freedoms outside what was granted to them by their male superiors. Only the most aristocratic women had any semblance of independence and even then, it was limited in one way or another. This also illustrates the stereotype that women are dictated by their emotions and can manipulate things to go in their favor. I confess, I have not necessarily fallen into the stereotype myself but rather use it for banter. While there is some degree of misogyny today, it’s not nearly as ingrained as it once was.

As they are teasing her, one of the judges comes in and see what is going on. He observes for a moment and then gets them out of the cell where Joan has begun to cry again because of their tormenting her. He walks up to her and gives her her ring back which the guards had stolen from her.

He looks at her and then over his shoulder where through her cell door, there is a scribe coming up the steps. He looks at her again and then moves thus blocking the shadow of a cross that had been cast by her window. He then tells her that “[he] has great pity for [her].” She looks up at him gratefully as she puts her ring back on.

Then the judge looks behind him and there in the doorway is the malign head judge. We get a close-up of him looking through a window. There is almost a symbolism to its focusing on his facial expression which is contorted with anger or some other malicious feeling.

Aware of their scheme to trick Joan with the forged letter, he asks her if she knows her King’s signature, to which she says she does. He tells her that he has a letter from the King for her. He hands her the letter and she looks at it puzzled.

She can’t read.

He takes the letter back and reads it to her. As he reads the letter, we see her reaction, her expression lightens as she listens to what she thinks are the words of her King promising to save her with a mighty army. The judge is also watching her to see if she is “taking the bait,” which she obviously is.

After he finishes reading the letter, the rest of the judges come into her cell. After they get situated, they begin to question her again with Theology. Then they ask her to recite the Lord’s prayer, which she does.

She recites it, something a witch would not do, the music begins the introduction to the Lord’s Prayer selection done with strings. We see the judges watching her as she recites it and the scribe making a notation of the fact that she did, in fact, recite the Lord’s Prayer.

After she has done so, she looks over at the judge who got her ring back and he nods his head subtly in approval. She will begin to look to him to help her navigate the complex questions that are coming that are meant to trip her up. The questioning continues and when she answers the question about whether God promised that she will be released from prison with “a great victory” (alluding to the “letter” from Charles) the two judges look at each other knowingly. They are both pleased that she “fell for” their trick of a letter. Now she shall be more open to talking since she thinks that she will be rescued soon by her King.

It’s at about this time that the chorus begins to sing the Lord’s Pray, being the lover of Latin that I am, I shall put here in Latin (you all know the English):

Pater noster, qui es in cælis,
Sanctificetur Nomen Tuum.
Adveniat regnum Tuum.
Fiat voluntas Tua,
Sicut in cælo
Et in terra
(Matthew 6:9-10)

Then she is asked if she has been promised to go to Heaven. She looks at the judge who nods his head so she says “yes.” If you can lipread, you can see how she says “oui” (French form of ‘yes’) as she nods her head. I have to say that one advantage to silent films is that you can learn to lipread because as you have probably noticed, some of the dialogue is not in the intertitles. Had the dialogue been in English, I could probably do it but French is not one of my languages sadly.

Of course, having said ‘yes’ to being promised heaven, the judges will run with that saying that she now believes that she is certain that she will be saved. She looks at her “ally” who thinks about the question for a moment and then nods his head again.

Aware of what’s going on and how the judges are trying to corner her, the Franciscan Jean Massieu (played by Antonin Artaud, one of the first surrealists in cinema … some really … surreal … strange things) alerts her that she best mind how she answers because the question is a trap.

Of course, he get reprimanded for trying to defend her and is told to know his place (you kinda get an idea from what’s going on with the action and the expressions).

As this scene unfolds, we hear this:

My daughter, sweet to me; my
daughter, my beloved, my temple; my
daughter, my beloved, love me, since
you have been much loved by me,
much more than you love me.
And after I have laid myself in you,
now lay yourself in me.

This is my creature.
(Blessed Angela of Foligno, 13th century mystic and penitent)

Then they follow that train of logic, that if she is certain of her salvation, then she must have no need for the Church. She now begins to feel cornered again and thinks about how to answer aware that one false word and they will have her on heresy.

As she ponders what to say, we have close-ups of judges edging closer to see how she will answer, almost preparing to pounce on her the second something not quite right or up to their standards is said.

Then the Lord’s prayer is sung again.

I love this part coming up …

She is asked if she is in the state of grace (no sin on her soul mortal or venial).

Then there is this creepy close-up of the questioning judge and his crazy devil horn hair … thing staring at her waiting for her response.

Wait for it …

She looks to her “ally” who looks away. Pah. Now she knows she is really alone and has to REALLY mind her words.

Wait for it …

Two judges pull back almost scared of what she is going to say …

Wait for it …

Then the music continues (setting it up well):

And I felt an ineffable divine sweetness.

‘And after I have laid myself in you,
now lay yourself in me.
‘This is my creature.’
(Blessed Angela of Foligno)

Then, she says …

If I am, may God keep me there.
If I am not, may God grant it to me!

Theological ZING! I srsly love that part. She got them good! And the shot afterward panning to see their reactions makes it all the better. They were hoping to get her but she got them. This illiterate French peasant just pwnd a room full of highly-educated theologians. It has to be the work of God! Even the simplest mind can grasp the most profound truth (better than the more intellectual sometimes).

The head judge says something to her to which she addresses him as “Father.” His expression softens into almost a quarter-smile. She then asks him if she can attend Mass (yeah, a witch would be asking for that *facepalm*).

His expression hardens again and he obviously rejects her request as observed in the facial expressions of him and Joan (who is now very upset) and the music’s tone has changed yet again.

Then her “ally” whispers something into the judge’s ear which he obviously thinks will work by his reaction and his change in attitude toward her.

He then says, “Joan, if we permit you to attend Mass, will you stop wearing men’s clothes?”

And then the section ends. We close here to see how she will answer. Will she doff the men’s clothes (something her voices told her to do) in order to assist at Mass? Or will she stick to what her voices told her and keep wearing the men’s clothes and thus not be able to attend Mass? Of course, with the latter, the judges will have a field day condemning her and saying that … you’ll see.

I really love this film and I think the music written for it is absolutely perfect for it since it really helps the viewer come to understand and experience what Joan is experiencing. When she is sad, the music is sad. When her spirits are lifted, the music takes on that mood. I think it adds a dimension to the film that would be lacking had it been kept without musical accompaniment which was the original intention of the director.

When I was in college, I was lucky enough to know someone who scored a few tickets to see the film with live musical and choral accompaniment. Dang my ADD was bad that evening, since I had already seen the film (everyone knows how it ends after all), I was enthralled just watching the orchestra play. My favorite section was the string section. There are a couple parts in this film (haven’t gotten to them yet) that I was just absorbed watching the very fast and nimble playing done by the violinists, etc. It was quite interesting to watch.

Well, I hope that sates you for a bit. I shall probably do part 4 tomorrow or Sunday. I keep losing track of the day. The Festival is next week. A week from today, I will be at SJA, in the school “chilling out, maxing, and relaxing all cool” while putzing on Aloysius, making Rosaries, catching up on reading/cross-stitch, or sleeping. I might even be out in the tent or going for one of those glorious walks I take sometimes during the Festival.

Please, do pray for good weather next weekend, it’s my parish’s biggest fundraiser. If you’re in the metro-Detroit area next weekend, drop by and have some fun and support a good cause! We have Italian dinner on Friday, Mexican on Saturday, and POLISH FROM HAMTRAMCK ON SUNDAY!!! We also have an entertainment tent with bands and music and beer. We have a Vegas room. We have lots of rides (kids and adults). We have games. We have food. We have BINGO (one of my FAVORITE-est parts)! And of course, you have beautiful, charming, witty, never caustic, always pleasant and graceful ME! I get to answer phones all weekend! YAY!!!

Have a nice weekend, everyone!
-Allie

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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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