“The Joan of Arc Affair”, on France 2: when the fable gives way to politics

There is no doubt that the trial brought against Joan of Arc, captured by the people of the Duke of Burgundy in front of Compiègne in 1430 and handed over to the English who intended to have her condemned by an ecclesiastical tribunal for witchcraft, is eminently political

“The Joan of Arc Affair”, on France 2: when the fable gives way to politics

There is no doubt that the trial brought against Joan of Arc, captured by the people of the Duke of Burgundy in front of Compiègne in 1430 and handed over to the English who intended to have her condemned by an ecclesiastical tribunal for witchcraft, is eminently political. For Lancaster King Henry VI, it was a matter of establishing that the legitimacy of Valois Charles VII was tainted by this heretical support.

Nearly twenty years after the Maid's death at the stake in Rouen, on May 30, 1431, the "very Christian king" could not owe his coronation to a young woman condemned by a Church tribunal. It is therefore imperative that the verdict of 1431 be corrected and only an inquisitorial investigation can annul the infamous sentence. To achieve this, it is necessary to review the documents in the file, collect the testimonies of survivors, point out the falsifications and establish another truth more in line with the interests of the king.

The “Joan of Arc affair” was still a state affair in 1455 when the inquisitor, the Dominican Jean Bréhal, set out to review the file. Choosing this unique moment to evoke, in this spectacular animated film, the figure of Jeanne is tremendously effective.

Real stakes of the epic

If the file is well known since the publication of the Trials of Joan of Arc, by Georges and Andrée Duby (Gallimard, 1973), Antoine de Meaux and Sarry Long, giving the Bréhal investigation the driving role of the evocation , skillfully play on two tables, the art of investigation falling within the knowledge of the policeman as well as that of the historian.

Step by step the Dominican progresses, scrupulous and circumspect. The inquisitor's imaginary sidekick, the young cleric Pierre Fournier, whose passion and thirst for justice allow everyone to appreciate the pitfalls that threaten the project, draws his vitality from the formidable interpretation of Laurent Stocker, inhabited by a mission which he feels is less transparent than it seems.

Throughout the evocation, the figure of the heroine and the real issues of her epic become clearer. The witnesses, obscure and all the more precious as they have less reason to reconstruct their memory, refine a lesson where the fable fades in the face of politics. Advised by Valérie Toureille, whose biography of the Maid (Jeanne d'Arc, Perrin, 2020) already borrowed from the detective's approach, the authors have a fascinating respect for objects and weapons, clothing and fabrics, which legitimizes a evocation where only the music, with cinematographic impulses, renounces telling the era.

We do not play on the miraculous, on divine inspiration, except in the voice of the Maid, apart from the vision of the deer during the battle of Patay, spectacular but optional. Among the silhouettes, we will not regret the absence of Gilles de Rais, a companion whose darkness would have obscured the subject, but rather the paleness of that of Yolande of Aragon, so present with the Dauphin in 1429.

At the end of a year of investigation, made possible when the Borgia Pope Calixtus III, immediately elected, gave in to the request of Charles VII, now indisputable winner of his English rival, the cause was heard and Joan's mother saw the proclamation of the nullity of the charges brought against his daughter at the very place of her torture. A politically perfect sentence, masterfully delivered here.