It was audacious for Bruno Dumont to make an electro-rock musical about the young Joan of Arc. Dumont’s previous films like “Humanity” and “Camille Claudel 1915” had a raw physicality. His recent “Slack Bay” was a comedy dealing with cannibalism.
In “Jeannette, the Childhood of Joan of Arc”, beginning in 1425 during the Hundred Years’ War, the 8-year-old shepherdess Jeannette (Lise Leplat Prudhomme) has become distressed by the British domination of France. Jeanne Voisin portrays the teenaged Joan. Dumont has included cinematic effects like levitating characters. While the film captures Joan’s increasing determination to free her country from English control, the musical numbers are inconsequential and repetitious, making the film seem drawn out.
Bruno Dumont discussed his film at Rendez-Vous with French Cinema. He based “Jeannette”, the first part of a planned trilogy on the poetic work of Charles Péguy on Joan. As with his previous efforts, Dumont used mainly non-professionals.
Dumont said he wanted to explore the “mystery of the vocation of Joan of Arc…how an ordinary shepherdess put the King of France on the throne” and chases the English out of France. He felt that “Music might enlighten us” and that with “musical ecstasy” the “body takes over”, adding “mysticism”. Dumont said he was influenced by American and French musical films.
The director said that “Only cinema can approach the mystery of Joan…I film what you don’t understand…things mysterious to see into the heart of the individual, into the depth of the soul.”
The songs and dialog were from Péguy with melodies composed by actresses themselves. Dumont recorded the songs a cappella with direct sound. The heavy metal musical score composed by Igorr (Gautier Serre) was added later. Dumont said he always uses direct sound for happenstance. He believes that the sound of sheep puts reality into the film.
Dumont said his period film needs to be believable and needs “modernity to touch you.” He feels the electronic music adds this contemporary aspect.