You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Besson story ‘Arc’ inflames scribe

Maxwell calls pic 'ultimate ego trip'

HOLLYWOOD — Critics often dump on historical films for fudging the truth, but Luc Besson’s latest version of the Joan of Arc story takes the cake.

So says screenwriter-director Ronald Maxwell (“Gettysburg”), who has been readying his own Joan of Arc script for the past five years, and believes that Besson has made a mockery of history.

Maxwell’s critique is just one of a number of negative reviews of “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc,” which opened Nov. 12 and grossed $8.3 million domestically in its first week.Filmmakers, Maxwell argues in a letter to Variety, should tell their tales with less fiddling of the facts and more attention to the spirit of the age they are recreating. Besson, he says, errs on both counts.

The problem, he says, is that too often today’s filmmakers put their own egos ahead of historical accuracy: Their poetic license thus easily turns into a license to kill the truth.

In this case, Maxwell suggests, Besson’s ego may have gotten in the way of his ability to envision the ego-less Joan: “The pic is the ultimate ego trip, the polar opposite of the historical Joan, who surrendered her own ego to what she herself saw as a higher calling.”

One glaring goof in “The Messenger,” as Maxwell sees it, is that the pic ignores Joan’s belief that she was visited by saints, as detailed in her actual 1429 trial testimony.

Besson’s version, he says, portrays Joan simply as “a fictitious marionette” who is “transfixed by thrashing winds, rushing clouds and a wolf pack on the hunt” rather than as a pious young girl who believes she has been singled out by God.

Just as irresponsible, Maxwell says, is to center “The Messenger” around a graphic rape scene when there is no evidence in the historical record that this ever happened.

Not able to enter into the spirit of the Middle Ages, the filmmakers were desperate to find some sort of traumatic explanation for her actions, Maxwell believes.

To back up his claim, Maxwell points out that no other writer who has tackled the Joan of Arc story (he lists 32) has ever incorporated a rape scene into their interpretations.

Defending the film, a Sony exec says, “It’s not a documentary, but to our knowledge there was a significant amount of research done on the historical accuracy of this movie.”

In the Battle of Orleans sequence, Besson used the exact number of actors as soldiers listed in historical records, and “many lines in the movie were taken from the trial transcripts,” says the exec.

And of course there’s a reason why the fierce femme’s life is always labeled “the story” of Joan of Arc: No one arguably has ever nailed down the truth about her.

Still, “the cinematic hocus-pocus of ‘The Messenger’ adds to the clutter and confusion which has over the centuries accumulated to the Joan story like barnacles,” Maxwell writes.

And yet, Maxwell argues, “the known facts, or even the events conjectured by the best historians, are infinitely more interesting and dramatic than any of the lame inventions of this film.”

Maybe Maxwell will eventually succeed in conveying those facts more persuasively than he thinks Besson did.

More Film

  • Gone With the Wind Screening

    Film News Roundup: 'Gone With the Wind' Sets Event Cinema Record

    In today’s film news roundup, “Gone with the Wind” sets a new record, “Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles” is acquired, and Tracy Oliver signs with Topic Studios. EVENT CINEMA RECORD The 80th anniversary release of “Gone with the Wind” has grossed $2.23 million in six nationwide screenings On four dates — a record as the [...]

  • Made in Abyss - Journey’s Dawn

    Film Review: ‘Made in Abyss: Journey’s Dawn’

    It’s a Herculean effort to take a multi-volume manga like author Akihito Tsukushi’s “Made in Abyss,” adapt it into a popular anime television series, and then compress the show into a coherent feature (technically, two movies), but the folks at Sentai Filmworks have done just that. Part one, “Made in Abyss: Journey’s Dawn,” will screen [...]

  • HAF: 'Assassination,' 'Apprenticeship' Named Project Market

    HAF: 'Assassination,' 'Apprenticeship' Named Project Market Winners

    Eighteen prizes were presented on Wednesday afternoon at the closing ceremony of the Hong Kong Asia Film Financing Forum. The project market sits alongside FilMart as part of the Entertainment Expo in Hong Kong. “Wong Tai Sin Assassination” to be directed by Wong Hoi and produced by Derek Kwok Tsz-kin, was named the winner of [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    Writers Guild Makes Concession on Film Financing in Agent Talks

    The Writers Guild of America has made a concession in film financing in its negotiations with Hollywood talent agents — the second in six weeks of talks. WGA West executive director David Young said Wednesday that it had made a “significant move” toward reaching a deal with the Association of Talent Agents for a revamped [...]

  • Noah Centineo He-Man

    Noah Centineo to Play He-Man in 'Masters of the Universe' Reboot

    From a boy (who’s loved) to He-Man. Noah Centineo is in talks to take on the superhero in Sony Pictures and Mattel Films’ “Masters of the Universe.” Brothers Adam and Aaron Nee are directing the reboot. Mattel Films is partnering with Sony on the movie, which is based on Mattel’s beloved toy line that spawned [...]

  • Disney Fox Takeover Placeholder

    Disney, Fox Employees Grapple With Day One Transition on Two Hollywood Lots

    What kind of a boss will Disney be? That’s a question facing employees at 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight, National Geographic Partners, FX Networks, and other assorted parts of Rupert Murdoch’s former media empire. Wednesday was their first full day as staffers of the Walt Disney Co. and the initial moves have done little to [...]

  • Derek Tsang Hong Kong actor Derek

    'Better Days' Director Derek Tsang Lands in World Cinema Spotlight

    Hong Kong actor-director Derek Kwok-cheung Tsang has recently found himself in the spotlight of the world of cinema, but for the wrong reason. Tsang will be joining a Hong Kong filmmakers panel at FilMart on Thursday with Sunny Chan (“Man on the Dragon”) and Pang Ho-cheung (“Love in a Puff”). The 39-year-old filmmaker was expecting [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content