In 1430, young Joan of Arc, prisoner of a lord from northern France, is sold to the British. Philippe Ramos, who presented his particular adaptation of “Moby Dick”, Capitaine Achab, in this same section in 2008, does a brilliant portrayal of the mythical figure Joan of Arc, whose life has been taken to the silver screen on diverse and glorious occasions. Ramos shows his heroine between the four walls that enclose her, on a marine convoy or near the stake where her life will come to an end. Great names in French cinema like Mathieu Amalric or Jean-François Stévenin round off this marvelous piece.Woman, captive and saint If we set out to rewrite the history of cinema based on its Joans of Arc, we might find that Méliès’ tablaux vivants give way to Dreyer’s passionate mysticism, that Victor Fleming’s Hollywood epic contradicts Robert Bresson’s undressing or that the theatricality drama of Rossellini’s Joan of Arc finds its counterpoint in the great fresco that Jacques Rivette dedicated to the saint in the early nineties. All of these examples, to which we can add Otto Preminger with a young Jean Seberg, are simply an indication to us that Joan is a part of cinematic heritage and that she’s become a key motif for many authors. What sense and what perspective could a new Joan of Arc have today? This question simply highlights a serious problem of perspective, which leads one to wonder how to be faithful to a disconcerting legacy and be innovative at the same time. The curious thing about Philippe Ramos’ Jeanne Captive is that it makes some of these questions its own.The old legacy is present in the fact that Ramos decides to focus on Joan of Arc’s final moments, the passion and the process that moved Dreyer and Bresson, while not forgetting the economy of means with which Rivette resolved some of his monumental movie’s battles. Ramos films rigorously, with economy of means and with a clear desire to make the described atmospheres believable. Once perspective has been ascribed within movie modernity, Ramos decides to go after a perspective that is his own, and he does it based on three essential motifs: femininity, nationalism and the construction of the myth.As for the question of femininity, Philippe Ramos starts off from the idea that Joan is a female body taken prisoner in a world of men. The young virgin is shown naked and her body causes desire in foreign eyes. How to survive in the middle of this masculine universe becomes one of the essential questions.The other great theme throughout the Joan of Arc mythology is the national question. The maiden is considered to be a key myth in the formation of the French nation, as she led her people to their liberation. Ramos reviews this question by placing Joan in front of the British, working on her condition as a foreigner before the dominating soldiers and showing the invaders’ cruelty.The last question has to do with the myth, but also with saintliness. One of the key questions that everyone expects in movies about Joan of Arc is knowing how the whole question of the stake will be solved, how the filmmaker will carry out the sacrifice that has consolidated her myth. Philippe Ramos considered the same question three years ago when he shot Capitaine Achab, a kind of apocryphal biography of Captain Achab where he used Melville as a starting point but looked for other points of view and perspectives. In his Joan of Arc, Ramos decides to change the points of view, look for other perspectives in order to show us how new prophecies are generated revolving around her story.ÀNGEL QUINTANA
Drôme, 1966. Film lover and self-taught director. In 1995 he made his first short film, Vers le silence, which was followed by the medium-length movie L’Arche de Noé (99). He debuted in feature with Adieu Pays (02). Capitaine Achab (Sitges’08) was an award winner in Locarno.
Edition: 2011 Section: Seven Chances Original language: