Joan of Arc is a discomforting figure. Inspired or mad? Inspired and mad? Just inspired and politically astute but not enough to work around canon lawyers? However one assesses the mystical side of Joan, we are left with a very human, young, but powerful figure whose actions helped to shape an age.
Of the many portrayals that reflect her short life and tragic end, from Shaw to Anouilh, from Bergman to Falconetti, it is the latter who sticks in my mind and who inspired this icon. The powerful film by Carl Theodor Dreyer has been reissued in a restored version based on what appears to be the last surviving print of the film as the director intended it, discovered in a Norwegian mental institution. (I find it hard to imagine showing the film in this setting as it is powerfully disturbing even to a settled mind. Perhaps one of the doctors was interested in studying Joan?) The Criterion version boasts an optional soundtrack composed by Richard Einhorn and sung by Anonymous 4 ("Voices of Light.")
The icon is an effort to capture Joan's vision of a peaceful and idyllic countryside through the flames that consumed her. I am reminded of a line from late in Shaw's play, "Her heart would not burn..."
God give us faithful, mad folk to shake us from the complacency of satisfaction with less than you desire!
Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG