1900s, Drama, Historical, Silent Era

Joan of Arc by Melies.

Jeanne Calvière as Joan of Arc. Calvière, a stablewoman at the Cirque d’Hiver, was hired for this film and remained among Méliès’s core troupe of actors for several years afterward.

Georges Méliès in seven roles: Jeanne’s father; Jeanne’s uncle; Robert de Baudricourt; a beggar at the Orléans procession; a soldier at the Siege of Compiègne; one of Joan’s jailers; and the wood carrier at the execution.

Jeanne d’Alcy in three roles: Jeanne’s mother; a lady at Vaucouleurs; and a lady at Orléans.

The film was made in the spring of 1900. It was the first of Méliès’s films to surpass 200 meters in length, and the second (after his Cinderella the previous year) to use changes of scene, with twelve sets employed and that number of scenes, ortableaux, advertised. (Cinderella was advertised as having twenty tableaux, but they were filmed on only six sets; this division of long scenes into smaller segments for advertising purposes would become Méliès’s standard practice. Joan of Arc, by contrast, was advertised with twelve scenes, one per set.) The artist Charles Claudel, who also repainted the interior of the Théâtre Robert-Houdin in 1901 following Méliès’s designs, was the set painter for the film. The cameraman was Leclerc, who also worked for Méliès as the pianist at the Théâtre Robert-Houdin.

Méliès’s scenario for the film strongly emphasizes Joan’s status as a national hero of France and a martyr for the French people; the first scene, in which Joan enters leading a flock of sheep, foreshadows her eventual leading of the French army. The final scene, with its triumphal entry of Joan into heaven and her meeting God, suggests Joan’s suitability for Catholic sainthood. (Joan of Arc was beatified by the Church in 1909 and canonized in 1920.)

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