A Look at “The Passion of Joan of Arc” Part 4/8


Laudetur Iesus Christus!

So much for today being productive. The most productive thing I probably did today was go to Mass and do the dishes. After I wrote this afternoon, I decided to take a power nap. A power NAP. Not a power sleep. I was sleeping for about three and a half hours. One second it’s like four o’clock and then I wake up and it’s quarter to seven or so! I was going to go help my parentals with pre-sales. They probably came in my room, saw me asleep and decided not to stir me. Kinda wish they had. I haven’t napped like that since college when I would take these loooong cat naps (College is a glorified and MUCH more expensive Kindergarten didn’tchakno’?).

Anywho, I tried playing some video games but to no avail, I got to a certain point but kept dying. Instead of getting the hot Sicilian all vexed, I put it down and decided to continue on with the whole “Passion of Joan of Arc” thing. Besides, this section has one of my favorite music tracks on it. It was a thrill to watch it played live.

Here is the libretto. We’re at the bottom of page 6 for those following therein.

Here’s the clip. We left off yesterday with Joan asking to attend Mass. The judge tells her she can if she changes into women’s clothes.

Antonin Artaud’s character of Jean Massieu plays a role in this scene and subsequent scenes (this is probably the most normal he ever looked … Google him if you don’t believe me, he had some issues) with Joan. He acts as her advocate in many ways, defending her against the cruelty of the jailers and the manipulation of the judges who are ready to pounce and make her trip up.

This is also another time when I wish I could lip read French. She is probably telling Jean how she wants to go to Mass but she has promised to wear the men’s clothes until her mission is complete. Imagine the conflict going on in her mind and heart: Change into women’s clothes (and thus disobey her voices) and be able to attend Mass or remain in men’s clothes and be forbidden to hear Mass (and thus be considered a heretic because she would rather wear “shameless” men’s clothes than receive the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament). Caught between a rock and a hard place much?

The music continues:

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)

Soon, the judge enters the discussion where he verbalizes the very debate that is going on in her mind. The hardness of his expression increases as he tells her how her choice to wear men’s clothes is “abominable to God.” Back then it was pretty much blasphemy (or something close to it) for a woman to wear men’s clothes and vice versa.

Jean, Joan, the judge, and one of Jean’s companions are clearly debating what she should do. The poor girl is stuck in the middle. Jean and his brother are trying to help her in the face of the judge whose intentions he does not hide, he obviously has it out for Joan.

The judge then says she is “no daughter of God” for wanting to wear the men’s clothes since no good daughter of His would disobey His command that cross-dressing is sinful. He even goes so far as to call her “Satan’s creature” (don’t worry, she gets them later on for that one … really good too).

This, of course, hurts Joan because all she is trying to do is remain faithful to the mission God gave her but they are making it hard with all their high Theology talk of being a “creature of Satan” and the like.

One of the other judges, seeing that they are getting nowhere, orders one of the men to prepare the torture chamber (every house should have one). They close things up in the room and move to the torture chamber.

While they are getting things set for her trial to move to the torture chamber, the jailers return. As you watch this, look for parallels to the mocking of Christ, it’s pretty obvious.

The chorus repeats what it had sung before but with new lyrics:

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

On the outside she’s religious,
On the inside keen and venomous;

She will not tolerate complaint,
She’s lady justice and a saint.

Woman fosters strife and wars,
And exiles men from ruined shores;

Castles she burns, cities defeats
Destroys the towers and the keeps.

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!
(“The Vices of Women,” late 13th century misogynist poem)

Some parallels can be seen here to Joan, she did win some pretty epic battles for French cities that had been taken over by the English and the Burgundians (English-loving French) but definitely not in the negative light this this poem portrays.

Joan, obviously exhausted and upset, just sits and cries while the jailers scheme how to mock her.

First, they take a piece of straw from her bed and poke her with it behind the ear. At first she kinda ignores it but when he goes to do it again, she touches her ear and looks at him.

Now the parallels begin.

On her bed is that crown she had been weaving out of probably the straw that filled her bed. They pick it up with one of their swords and play around with it. Then they put it on her head much like how Christ was crowned with thorns. They obviously find it funny and proceed to mock her some more.

Then, wanting to add to their fun at her expense, they take an arrow and put it in her hand like the soldiers have Christ a reed for a scepter.

They sit down to survey their work. One of the jailers say, “She really looks like a daughter of God, eh?” (Did not know that one of the jailers was from the UP)

Jean Massieu re-enters the scene when he approaches Joan’s cell and sees what is going on between her and the jailers. He is obviously angry and tells them to go and leave her alone.

He sits down next to her, takes the crown off her head, takes the arrow away, and wipes the tears off her face.

Then we cut to the torture chamber and one of my favorite musical parts of the film. This is my second favorite part musically of the film. The my top favorite is at the end. It was interesting to watch it being played live.

Immediately, the chorus sings here and throughout the scene:

O glorious wounds …
(Marguerite d’Oingt, early 14th century visionary and poet)

And I longed to see at least that little bit
of Christ’s flesh that nails had fixed
to the wood.
(Blessed Angela of Folingo)

Glorious wounds …

He showed [her] his heart, perforated
like the openings in a small
lantern … From His very heart issued
forth rays of the sun–no–brighter
than the sun’s rays …
(Na Prous Boneta, 14th century French heretic who was burned at the stake)

It is not fair to wish to taste only of
my honey, and not the gall. If you wish
to be perfectly united with me,
contemplate deeply the mockery,
insults, whippings, death and torments
that I endured for you.
(Blessed Margarita, disciple of St. Umilita, 14th century)

Glorious wounds …

The judges file in and then a seat is brought on which Joan will sit while being questioned.

When she is told to “regard [her] judges,” she looks at them with fear in her eyes as the camera pans across the panel of judges as they stare at her. Then she is asked if she thinks that they are wiser than she. Obviously to put her in her place and to assert their superiority over her peasant self.

But then she zings them …

But God is even wiser!

She is then reprimanded for saying that as if she were being prideful rather than telling the truth. God is much wiser than they … he is Wisdom.

Then the questioning begins with one of the judges saying that they know that her visions do not come from God but from the Devil.

Having seen Joan’s reaction, another asks her if she knows the difference between a good angel and an evil angel.

The first judge then states that she has knelt before Satan, not Saint Michael. Remember, Satan was Lucifer (light-bearer) before he was hurled into Hell by Saint Michael.

He then goes on to ask how she has not realized that it has been the Devil who has “turned [her] head,” “tricked [her],” and “abandoned [her].”

What they are trying to do here is get her fired up about her visions and to defend them in such a way that they can further try to corner her and get her to slip as they hope she does. They would not be talking all Hellfire and brimstone if they did not want her to defend her visions so passionately. You can see by her expression, that she is getting excited by what is being said to her, not because what they are saying is true but because SHE knows the truth and these learned men are to blinded by their pride and ambition to realize it.

Another judge says that he thinks that “she is ready to abjure” or to renounce or retract what she had stated before (namely her visions and what her voices have told her).

A scribe approaches her with a piece of parchment with what must be an abjuration on it for her to sign and thus be the chance for her to free herself from these judges and all this questioning.

Jean Massieu leans in to see what is going on. The scribe holds the quill and gestures for her to take it. Finally, he puts it in her hand as the judges all call out to her to sign it and abjure all the things she had said and believed before.

Being unable to retract what she stated to be true (because it is true), she puts the quill down and shows that she will not sign it (never mind that she can’t write). Jean Massieu seems relieved that she did not sign it, obviously, he believes her.

Then one of the judges yells at her and tells her that

The Church opens [her] arms to [her] but if you reject [her], the Church will abandon [her] and [she] will be alone … alone!

To which she replies,

Yes, alone, alone with God!

After she says this, the judge looks to the side and then the camera pans over a chain with a hook on then end. Jean is setting up a table and there are shots of other methods of torture such as the funnels used to force water or other liquids into a person and a rack with spikes which rip the skin of the living body of a person (nice).

As Joan walks by them and sees them, she is obviously frightened by them. Who wouldn’t be? She is conflicted, she wants to stand by what God has told her but she also fears for her life (a basic human drive for survival). Then we see some saws, obviously for dismemberment and other pleasant things like that.

Then the mother of the torture chamber, a wheel with spikes that is turned by a hand crank. You’ll see later that the person being “tortured” more like “dismembered” and “eviscerated” would also be pressed between that wheel of death and a bed of doom with spikes. Who the heck comes up with this stuff?!?!

The judges are obviously trying to get a confession out of her by scaring it out of her. How very Christian.

As she watches the wheel of death spin, the judges again try to compel her to sign the abjuration by yelling at her. They are probably telling her what will be done to her if she does not and how if she does not comply, there shall be a more horrible fate for her at the stake.

As the chorus continues (I love this track), they continue yelling at her to sign it and she watches the spiked wheel spin and spin. We see for a moment the bed of spiked doom.

Then in an act of pure courage and faith, she says to her angry judges,

Even if you part my soul from my body, I will confess nothing. And if I do confess, later I will say that it was forced from me!

Then she turns to the wheel again and it’s spinning faster and faster. Her fear becomes more and more apparent on her face and soon she is paralyzed by it as indicated by her dropping the quill and her muscles tensing up.

Then she faints under the extreme stress and grazes the head judges robe to which he reacts with disgust.

Then the part ends.

Now things are starting to get interesting. Joan is fearful and yet she sticks to her guns. She knows that what she experienced and heard came from God. She knows that she must remain faithful to Him and what His messengers told her. But then she also has the very human drive for self-preservation which is abundantly clear when she is taken into the torture chamber and shown all of the instruments of doom that could be used on her if she does not sign the abjuration as the judges want her to do. You can see the conflict and fear on her face. There is also that moment when she officially and courageously puts her foot down and says that though they can separate her soul from her body, she will not abjure and even if she did, she will later say that it was forced upon her. That took courage. Especially in the face of what she was seeing and being threatened with.

Joan of Arc is a wonderful model for us today as we face all of this persecution from the world. All of this untruth and evil being proclaimed as truth and good. Gay “marriage.” Abortion. Contraception. The many attacks on religious liberty (not just that of Catholics but of any person of faith who holds fast to their beliefs about the inviolability of life, etc.). We are a people being persecuted. We are being called to be martyrs. Not necessarily red martyrs who shed their blood for Truth but also white martyrs who suffer while still living. May we ask Saint Joan to give us the courage to stand up for what we know is the Truth. May we ask her to help us to endure any and all persecution with courage and trust that God will lead us through to victory (’cause He will). May we model our faith and trust in God after that of good Saint Joan, who though her life was in danger, stood up for what she believed to be the truth (’cause it was) no matter what the cost may be: our “friends,” our family, our livelihood, and even our lives.

I have to be up a bit early tomorrow to help with presales at all the Masses. This late-afternoon power nap is going to mess up my sleep cycle tonight. Imma pray Vespers and Compline, maybe that will help me sleep. Thank the Lord I went to Mass today at least.

Oh, and tomorrow is Mother’s Day! May God bless and Mary, the greatest Mother of all, keep all mothers (biological, adoptive, spiritual, etc.) under the mantle of her loving protection. May her example guide all mothers to her Divine Son.

Have a wonderful 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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