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Joan of Arc's treatment in A&E's Biography, like that of the others in the "Legendary Women" series, is true to the formula that works so well: lush photography of medieval and later historical images, intelligent and provocative interviews with leading scholars, and just a touch of dramatization to enliven the film and make it accessible to both the adult history buff and the junior high school student.
Jeanne d'Arc, known in English as Joan, lived just before the dawn of the Renaissance in France. England and France had been engaged in the Hundred Years War--a war the English were slowly winning. Crown Prince Charles, whose father had abdicated the throne in favor of the British monarch, was living a secluded life at Chinon in the Loire Valley, far away from the travails of occupied Paris. Visited one day by the peasant girl Joan--who was being guided by angelic voices toward the restoration of France--Charles was somehow convinced to let the 19-year-old girl in men's clothing lead an army in his name. Much to everyone's surprise, the girl won dozens of battles and soon made it possible for Charles to be crowned king of France at Reims. Later caught by the English, Joan was held as a prisoner suspected of witchcraft for a year before she was finally put to death at the stake.
Joan's legend lived on, much as the angels' voices told her it would, but she was not beatified by the Roman Catholic Church until 1920. This thoroughly researched, well-written, and visually exciting historical Biography documents not only her life per se, but also includes input from various scholars and writers about the nature of Joan's supernatural experience, from Freudian to Christian analysis. --Erik J. Macki
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