Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.
USA, 1948. Walter Wanger Productions. Screenplay by Maxwell Anderson, Andrew Solt, based on the play Joan Of Lorraine by Maxwell Anderson. Cinematography by Winton C. Hoch, William V. Skall, Joseph A. Valentine. Produced by Walter Wanger. Music by Hugo Friedhofer. Production Design by Richard Day. Costume Design by Dorothy Jeakins, Barbara Karinska. Film Editing by Frank Sullivan. Academy Awards 1948.
Dry, clunky adaptation of Maxwell Anderson’s play, one of many films on the subject of the Maid Of Orleans that has failed to win audiences over (Preminger’s version based on the Shaw play is another example; perhaps Dreyer’s Passion of Joan Of Arc ruined it for everyone?) Ingrid Bergman gives an unconvincing performance as the young peasant girl who heard the voices of God and his saints tell her to lead an army against France’s British enemies and put the Dauphin (a debuting Jose Ferrer) on the throne. She accomplishes this, but a break with the Dauphin, now king of France, sees her continuing to lead the French army against his wishes and gets her arrested as a political prisoner. From there the film plods through her famous trial, eventually leading to her being burned at the stake as a heretic, but the bloodless direction by Victor Fleming never really lets anything happen emotionally. Bergman is working hard to sell the character, but pairing up her natural acting style with Anderson’s theatrical dialogue (which doesn’t adapt comfortably to the big screen) is a terrible combination that leaves her looking desperate. Visually it is spectacularly achieved, with fantastic cinematography and rich production and costume design, but the experience of watching it is very wearing.