Joan of Arc's story has all the components needed for compelling cinema: enormous battle scenes, the spectacle of court and coronation, pastoral interludes, and a strong female character who can be heroic, feminist, tormented, or psychotic, as the scriptwriter and director see fit. As a result, the celluloid interpretations of her character are as varied as those in any other medium, and there has been a steady audience throughout the twentieth century for Joan on screen. Joan the Woman was Cecil B. DeMille's first historical film, and the first movie about Joan filmed as a spectacle. It was based on Schiller's Jungfrau but adheres more closely to historical fact; Joan is burned at the stake, for example. DeMille was inspired by events in Europe, and the film promoted the growing feeling that America should enter the war, coming to the aid of France and civilization.

La Merveilleuse Vie de Jeanne d'Arc is a late silent film which was little known for decades. An enormous success when it was released, it emphasized Joan's role as a military leader. The film was strongly influenced by France's recent struggles; the subtitles stress patriotic themes, and the director had the cooperation of the government in the filming. French troops appeared as extras, which permitted the battle scenes, shot with the walls of Carcassone as a backdrop, to achieve epic proportions. The coronation scenes were filmed in Reims Cathedral, newly restored after its bombing in the First World War.

 

Victor Fleming's Joan of Arc was filmed with all the splendor the director could muster - beautiful sets, spectacular costumes, a famous star - and cost five million dollars. Ingrid Bergman had starred in the stage production of Anderson's play, Joan of Lorraine, and vigorously pursued the possibility in playing Joan on film for years. The surprisingly narrow range of expressions displayed in the advertising is characteristic of the film; critics routinely describe Bergman's performance as "wooden."

 

Joan continues to fascinate film makers, movie goers, and television audiences. She has appeared in comedies (Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, 1989), science fiction and horror stories (Forever Knight episode: "For I Have Sinned", 1995; Witchblade, 2000), and more or less historical recountings of her story (History Makers: Joan of Arc, 1996; Jeanne la Pucelle: The Battles/The Prisons, 1997; Joan of Arc, 1999). The lushest of the recent films is The Messenger, which combines spectacular and bloody battle scenes with a prolonged self-examination of Joan's psychological status during her captivity. The film was praised for cinematography and acting, but many critics found it inconsistent and self-indulgent.