Following the story of Joan Of Arc in greater detail than most, from her battle in Orleans, through her trail and subsequent execution.
Anyone who demands more of their historical epics than birthday cake castles and a script neck-deep in Americanisms can sit back and make themselves comfortable. Actually, very comfortable considering this ram-rod straight version of Joan of Arc comes in at a grey-hair inducing four hours.
The plot, surprisingly, skirts around Jeanne/Joan's (Bonnaire) trial for heresy at the hands of the dastardly English, preferring to focus on her bid to follow the divine contact that she believes guides her decision to lead the king's armies to victory over the English and their allies, the rebel French. In the film's increasingly desperate second half, attention is concentrated on Jeanne's imprisonment and its psychological effect. Rather than the impeccable martyr saint of medieval-lore, Bonnaire's Jeanne is a reassuringly fallible heroine. Among her pious prayers, we witness her begging God to rescue her, and collapsing in fits of hysteria.
From oft-used material, Rivette has crafted an original, prowling and restless film with an outstanding central performance from Bonnaire. Unabashed by time constraints, he proceeds at his own pace, lingering over a scene long after other directors would have barked "cut", to show the fine detail of the period. Through its simple camera-work and cold, bare landscapes, the film takes on a stark quality. Thoughts of aching rears should be cast aside, for this is a well crafted and hugely successfully attempt to give the 15th Century heroine a vivid retelling.
With it's languid pace and barely existent editing, it'll require the patience of a Saint, but stick around and you'll be rewarded.