Luc Besson's "The Messenger": How NOT To Make A Film Based on a Historical Personage

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Written on 8:19 PM by Jack B.

Back in August, The Mad Monarchist had a review of a truly terrible film, Luc Besson's 1999 purported biography, The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc. It's well worth reading (and if you haven't seen the film and may one day be considering it, please do so - it'll save you 2+ hours of your life).





As someone who loves Joan of Arc and believes, much like that legendary cynic Mark Twain, that she was "by far the most extraordinary person the human race has ever produced" I find the film nauseating and disrespectful and don't want to waste time explaining it. But it is a foremost example of what NOT to do if you are planning on making a film on a historical person.
When you have to begin your movie about one of the most chronicled people in pre-modern history (we know more about Joan through her trials and re-trials than virtually any other person in medieval history) with a gigantic lie - that of her sister (who DID exist and was NOT murdered) being murdered and raped all because the filmmakers could not imagine Joan actually being motivated by anything so "silly" as patriotism or religious sentiment then you know the movie is not worth it. And it doesn't help when you pretend your main characters is Joan of Arc when it's really someone you made up - the thing about Joan was (and this struck people at the time) is that all the while she said God had sent her she was very normal, plain-spoken, even keeled, she was even very witty, smart and sharp (read some of her testimony and see what I mean). Milla Jovovich portrayed her a screwed-up manic religious fanatic - not the kind of person that could have scared the English or inspired the French.


Filmmaker/writer Ron Maxwell wrote an in-depth takedown of "The Messenger" when it first came out that points out virtually everything wrong with the film.  And Virginia Frohlick's Saint Joan of Arc Center website has the lowdown on the "real" Jehanne la Pucelle (Joan the Maid).

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8 Comments

  1. Celtic Traveler |

    I KNOW!!!
    I completely agree with everything. Joan is one of my heroes, but the movie portrayed everything wrong.

     
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  4. John @ teamsportbanners |

    I prefer reading to watching film. But I don't have time. The films often don't give enough feeling of the characters.

     
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