Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Messenger: The Story Of Joan Of Arc (1999) Film Review
The Messenger: The Story Of Joan Of Arc
Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray
An illiterate teenage peasant girl, leading the soldiers of France in the late 1420s against the might of the victorious English army, is difficult to accept as anything but folklore. She dressed as a boy, listened to voices and claimed to be the messenger of God. The fact that she wasn't locked away only goes to show how desperate things must have been, with half the country in enemy hands.
Luc Besson (Leon, The Fifth Element) tackles the Maid of Orleans with too much money and no restraint. Her girlish visions become kooky dream sequences, involving an Omen youth in a linen nightshirt and a hippy Jesus sitting on a stone throne in some gloomy wood. Slow-mo wolves lollop by.
When her village is sacked by repulsive Anglo Saxons, she has to witness her sister being raped and killed by a man with rotting teeth. She grows up, hating the Brits. Milla Jovovich has the looks of Cindy Crawford - big blonde hair, big red lips, big white teeth. Joan as supermodel? Later, she cuts her hair and it changes colour. Perhaps the reliability of dye in those days was a bit dodgy.
The film is scuppered by Besson's self-indulgence. Jovovich's inability to act her way out of a Prada bag and lines such as, "Looks like the Froggy whore has come to visit", from a red-headed Scot (what's he doing in the English army?), do not help. The final insult is the appearance of Dustin Hoffman in Joan's cell, behaving as if he's wandered off the set of Rain Man 2. His character is called The Conscience - 'nuff said.
The only reason for not rushing demented from the cinema is the relative pleasure of watching John Malkovich camp it up as a weak, indecisive Dauphin. Since no one is really acting - his efforts are much appreciated. Faye Dunaway, as his mum, does well, too. She is forced to wear one of those high hats that makes her look like the queen in Antz.
The battle scenes have been hired from Braveheart. The English use the F-word the whole time to show how ill-mannered they are. When Joan's virginity is questioned at court and she is examined by a woman who would have prospered as a concentration camp guard, you pray for a power cut. When Joan dances through a field of rape and the two armies converse in the same language, you wonder if anyone cares. The only thing of quality is the poster. Its artistic imagination outstrips anything in the movie. Don't be fooled.Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001