This Robert Bresson film is reportedly taken from the transcripts from the Joan of Arc's trial. And it's a well-done film that suffers from one major flaw -- I saw Karl Dreyer's version of Joan's story PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC first. Florence Carrez portrays Joan with stoic determination. She knows she's right and no one will change her mind. Because of this portrayal, the scene where Joan signs the confession riings a bit false. On the other hand, Renee Maria Falconetti's portrayal is of a terrified 19-year-old girl, being held in prison for her beliefs that seem so right and true to her, and totally unable to comprehend how and why she is being portrayed as evil, when everything she does is for God and her country. Her performance is heartbreaking. Carrez' in-your-face attitude is probably more historically accurate -- Joan WAS a warrior after all -- but I like Falconetti better. And I just like Dreyer better as a director than Bresson. Bresson's direction is spare and minimalist, and it leaves me a bit cold. Dreyer's work never fails to move me, especially in the way he gets such real emotion out of his actors. I'll admit to being brought to tears by more than one of his films.
Bresson claims that he made his Joan more of a modern 1960's woman so younger people would identify with her, He gave her a somewhat modern hairstyle and wardrobe. Once again, I prefer Dreyer's Joan, who was even stripped of her hair for the role. One good thing about seeing both films is that I now have a bigger picture of what Joan went through during her trial. Dreyer also used the original transcripts, and the dialogue reflects that, matching word for word in several places. But in many cases they concentrated on different sections of the transcriptions, so seeing Bresson's film filled in the gaps from the Dreyer film.