Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Reviews of Books and Movies about Saint Joan of Arc

*****THIS PAGE HAS BEEN SUPERSEEDED BY A NEW PAGE OF REVIEWS*****

In the nearly 600 years since Saint Joan of Arc died there have been a great number of books written about her life. There have also been quite a few movies that have tried to portray her. While all of these books and movies claim to be about Saint Joan there are vast differences in the way that her story has been told. It has always intrigued me as to why there are such differences because her life is the best documented of anyone not from modern times. I suspect that the inaccurate portrayals that have been produced are either the result of poor research or the personal agendas of the biographers. Whatever the reason, it means that anyone wanting to learn about Saint Joan of Arc must be discriminating when reading or viewing the books and movies that are available.

In order to try to assist you in finding good books and movies I am going to provide some reviews of the ones I am familiar with. I prefer books and movies that are historically accurate and stay true to who Saint Joan appears to have been based upon her own documented words and actions. Keep in mind that these reviews are only my opinion and I have not read every book or seen every movie. If I do not include a book or movie it either means I have not read or seen it yet or have not had time to write a review yet. I do include some reviews from third parties under OTHER REVIEWS that seem fair and honest but if I was more familiar with the work I would write a review myself so be your own judge as to their accuracy.

BOOKS ABOUT SAINT JOAN OF ARC

JOAN OF ARC: BY HERSELF AND HER WITNESSES by RÉGINE PERNOUD
Saint Joan speaks for herself in this great biography!
This is one of my favorite biographies about Saint Joan of Arc because it relies so heavily upon the actual quotes of Saint Joan and her contemporaries. Instead of writing a traditional narrative, Régine Pernoud cleverly uses Joan's own words or those of the people around her to give us her history. Tracing Joan's life from beginning to end, Pernoud relies on Joan's quotes as much as she can. She does add just enough narrative to keep the biography coherent but by using Joan's own words, we are able to get a sense of what her personality was like. As the title proclaims, this biography is really written by Saint Joan and her witnesses.


JOAN OF ARC: HER STORY by RÉGINE PERNOUD
This biography is a great choice for both new students of Saint Joan of Arc as well those already familiar with her story. Régine Pernoud was considered to be one of the great authorities on medieval history and Joan of Arc. She spent her life researching Joan of Arc and being French she was able to utilize all of the original source materials that still exist. Her writing style is straightforward and honest and, most importantly, made heavy use of historical documentation.

The one problem I have with this biography is that it is a little tough to read in places. I think the problem comes from it being a translation. The old phrase "loses something in translation" comes to mind. That said if you can get though the dry parts you will have a great understanding of Saint Joan's life as well as some idea about the people in which she interacted during her life. If you read this book and Pernoud's other great biography, Joan of Arc: By Herself and Her Witnesses, you should come away knowing most of the known history of Saint Joan of Arc.


JOAN OF ARC by MARK TWAIN
The master storyteller, Mark Twain, used his immense talent to create this fictionalized account of Saint Joan's life. Even though it is fiction, it is still very historically accurate and stays true to the story of Saint Joan of Arc. Because it is fiction, Twain is able to bring out Saint Joan's personality in a way that reminds us that she was a beautiful, vibrant, passionate young woman who sacrificed everything to serve God and save her country

I think the very fact that Twain would even choose to write a biography about Saint Joan is a further testament to her greatness. Twain was personal friends with U.S. Grant and could much more easily have written a biography about him. He also lived at a time when some of the greatest military leaders ever lived like Lee, Jackson, etc., so if all he had been looking for was a famous military leader he could have also chosen one of them. Obviously, he was looking for someone even greater to write about. I think his own words probably explain why he chose Saint Joan when he said that: "She was perhaps the only entirely unselfish person whose name has a place in profane history."

Whether you are a Saint Joan devotee or not I think you will enjoy reading this book. It is well written and easy to read and covers one of the greatest stories in world history. If you already know about the life of Saint Joan, I also think you will end up loving this account because of the way Twain brings her to life. Definitely one of the best of all the biographies written about Saint Joan of Arc and considered by Twain himself to be his greatest work.

MOVIES ABOUT SAINT JOAN OF ARC

JOAN OF ARC: CHILD OF WAR SOLDIER OF GOD
This is a well-done documentary that gives a good overview of the life of Saint Joan of Arc. If you do not know much about the life of Saint Joan this is a good place to start and will teach you the highlights of her life. Even if you already know her story, you will still probably enjoy it as I did. I especially liked the French accents and the way they refer to her as she was called in her native tongue: Jehanne. They also did a good job in choosing an actress that fits the historical descriptions of Saint Joan. Most importantly, unlike so many modern books and films, this one does not try to explain her life apart from God and her supernatural Voices. There are some minor historical mistakes like what caused her capture (it was a drawbridge raised not gates closed), but overall a good docudrama that most will enjoy.


THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC
The Passion of Joan of Arc is a great old silent film about the trial and execution of Saint Joan of Arc. Made in 1928 by Carl Dryer the film is considered one of the greatest films ever made. The centerpiece is the superb performance by the lead actress Renee Falconetti. The title "Passion" perfectly describes her performance as she totally immerses herself in the role of Joan. The historical accuracy is very good but some poetic license is used which can be forgiven when the resulting production stays so true to the story as this one does. The original does contain French subtitles so you will need to either read French or be very familiar with the story to understand everything. You can get a version that has English subtitles from Amazon. The Amazon version also contains a recent musical soundtrack by Richard Einhorn titled Voices of Light that is very good. On Richard Einhorn's website you can read a good review he wrote about The Passion of Joan of Arc as well as his desctiption of how and why he created his musical composition. Click Here to Read Richard Einhorn's review
You can find the original version of The Passion of Joan of Arc online several places where you can watch it for free such as the site below:
Watch The Passion of Joan of Arc


THE MESSENGER
I do not recommend anyone watch The Messenger until they have a compete understanding of the real history of Saint Joan of Arc and by then most people will be like me and not be able to watch this movie. I tried to watch it again to write this review but I could not make it through to the end. Simple put, the Joan portrayed in the The Messenger bares little resemblance to the Joan I have come to know and love from studying her real history and from reading the actual words that she spoke. I could write a long review detailing all the historical problems but instead I will provide links to several excellent reviews the first by Ron Maxwell, a movie producer renowned for his historically accurate movies like Gettysburg and God's and Generals:
Read Ron Maxwell's review of The Messenger

The second is at Christian Spotlight on Entertainment and includs many comments by viewers of this movie:
Read Review with numerous Viewer Comments

Here is another good review by Beth Armitage of Popmatters.com explaining why the movie fails cinematically:
Read Beth Armitage's review of The Messenger


OTHER REVIEWS
The following reviews are written by others. While they seem pretty fair and honest, as I said at the top of this page, if I was more familiar with the book or movie I would write a review myself so be your own judge as to their accuracy.

SAINT JOAN OF ARC by VITA SACKVILLE-WEST
Read Review Here This review by Lisa Marie Garcia is posted at Virginia Frohlick's wonderful site The Saint Joan of Arc Center. I know Virginia's devotion to telling the true story about Saint Joan so I know she would not have posted this review if it were not accurate. This review is negative but is pretty polite in it's criticism compared to some other feedback I have heard about this book.


JOAN OF ARC: A MILITARY LEADER by KELLY DEVRIES
Read Review Here This review by Irene Beaudry is posted at the SCHILLER INSTITUTE, a site dedicated to Friedrich Schiller the 18th-century German poet and playwright, "whose works have inspired republican opposition to oligarchic tyranny worldwide." Considering that the aim of this site, resistance to tyranny, is what Saint Joan's life symbolizes I have a certain confidence that this review is accurate. I am also impressed by the length and detail of this review.


THE TRIAL OF JOAN OF ARC by DANIEL HOBBINS
Read Review Here Very detailed review by Larissa Juliet Taylor, a professor of history at Colby College, who is writing her own biography of Joan of Arc to be published in 2008.


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