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30 March 2000 Edition

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Cinema: France's Braveheart

A recent article said that the new Joan of Arc movie would do for France what Braveheart did for Scotland. It certainly has that effect. There seems to be something about historic stories of rebellion against English colonisation that attracts the big movie directors. First there was the tale of William Wallace in Braveheart, then the story of Michael Collins, and now this epic of the French messenger of God, Joan of Arc.

Joan (Milla Jovovich), given a message by God for the would-be king of France (Charles, the Dauphin), sets out to make sure he becomes king. The Dauphin, played by John Malkovich, puts his trust and the fate of his army in the hands of this peasant girl.

The army engages in battle with the English at Orleans, but ignoring Joan's signal, the French quickly retreat, with a defeatist attitude. Joan, however, manages to persuade her army to follow her back to the front line. Somehow, after just been beaten back, the Frenchmen follow her to victory. When they capture the English fort, the men realise that there is truth in Joan's preachings. From here on, she is seen as a symbol of hope by her fellow countrymen, but as a ``whore'' and a ``witch'' by the enemy.

As the story unfolds, Joan battles not only with the English but also with her conscience: was she fighting the war for God's wishes or for more selfish reasons? Despite her own questioning, she inspires the army to go on fighting.

The cinematography in this movie is exceptional; the bloody battle scenes are a must for anyone with the stomach to handle them. However, if decapitation is not your `cup of tea', then be ready to cover your eyes at any moment during such scenes because they does not make for easy viewing.

As the French heroine, Milla Jovovich shows extreme passion for her role, and when she seen on her horse in the midst of a bloody battle, she does seem like a woman possessed.

One gripe. Director Luc Besson might have asked Jovovich to change her American accent for the part, along with John Malkovich.

If you're looking for another anthemic speech like Willy Wallace's ``They'll never take our freedom'' or Michael Collins' ``If I go, who'll take my place?'' then you will be disappointed, but don't let that deprive you of another fascinating historical adaptation splashed all over the big screen.


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