Sylvia Johnson

Joan of Arc Inspires “Montana Mischief”

Films

(Montana Mischief will enter Pre-production in 2015)

Joan of Arc achieved a remarkable achievement in her short life of 19 years. In particular she embodied religious devotion with great bravery and humility, her life helped change the course of French history.

Joan of Arc

“She was greatly committed to the service of God and the Blessed Mary.” (1)

From the age of 12 she began to have mystical visions. In these visions she said she felt the voice of God commanding her to renew the French nation. At her later trial Joan of Arc said she felt these visions were as real seeing another person. The visions were often accompanied by light and the presence of saints such as St Michael and St Catherine.

 

Montana Mischief

Feature Film by Sylvia Johnson

The 15 year old Janelle Montana is the Joan of Arch of the 21rst Century. Her story is set in gang mobster environment in the down to earth neighbourhood of Lewisham, Southeast London.

Synopsis

The action packed story of a young girl who has suffered a great loss and receives an extraordinary calling.  Montana Mischief focuses in how Janelle Montana deals with her loss; it will also reveal the bravery of her character and the loyalty of her teenage friends. Her decisiveness to take over her father’s business marks a new stage in her life and shows how she assumes responsibility, gains strength and builds her character. All these events clash with the celebration of her 15th birthday.

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Montana Mischief versus  Luc Besson’s Joan of Arch

Studying the films of Luc Besson  we see that excess and stylization are the two major hallmarks.  We are aware of this in characterization, decor and genre. The characters are usually larger than life, physically strong and they seem to lack psychological or historical depth, rather like comic-strip characters.  They are spectacular images cut loose from any clear historical context. The decor sometimes overrides narrative.

 What makes Besson’s heroes inspiring is that we all have something in common with them, that is their weaknesses.

When asked about strong female characterizations,  Besson replied that he found women much more interesting to make films about,  because they are not as strong as men, physically. The strategies that women adopt to be strong is what makes them so interesting in movies’ leading roles, said Besson.

 Montana Mischief wants to be created  from building a leader of spectacular pictures with an underlying story. Focusing on decor, genre, impacting images, we attempt to create psychological depth to the characters and a meaningful story from a clear historical background. The main character evolving and developing from visual images. Her character traits are revealed in the ways she chooses to deal with her circumstances. The story line is illustrated in pictures, the dialogue and soundtrack aid in complementing the deceptive story line which purposefully misleads the audience to make different suggestions as to what the “Truth” is.

 

The main character Janelle Montana owes partly inspiration for her existence to the epic character Joan of Arc, an adolescent who dreams and obeys a higher call.  

The life of Joan of Arc reflects the rising of a messiah. The question that has entertained historians is the “How did she happen?”  How did a young girl of sixteen or seventeen convince the Dauphine of France the future Charles VII to give her an army, to lead a battle against the English.  She drove the English out of Orleans and Charles was crowned King.  Subsequently Joan was captured by the Burgundians  sold to the English  tried by the church and executed at Rouen.

She appeared in a time of unrest when a nation needed a savior. Joan was sent from God. Her virginity was a powerful sign of integrity in her society. She has considered to have a pure and devoted heart.  Most importantly Joan of Arc represented a challenge that had to be met.

I chose to build a character that held some sort of similarities with Saint Joan of Arc,  not in the magnitude of her influence but in the reflection of her emotions, her character traits and how she is viewed by others in her society.

I wanted to create a character who was special no so much for her dreams, vision and God sent messages but for her strong personality which was  a direct inheritance from a very respected, feared and exceptional predecessor.  A character who would be free from the stereotypical format for a modern hero.  A character passionate and strong induced by the command of a greater source of power.  Janelle Montana is character that can stand alone as a savior/hero, for she is been given permission to do so by a higher authority. She is trusted because of her inherited character the loved shown to her and the loyalty of all those around her give her strength, yet she is especially vulnerable to ill fate. The how she deals with the overwhelming conflict that arises is a powerful message.

Joan Of Arc

“I was thirteen when I had a Voice from God for my help and guidance. The first time that I heard this Voice, I was very much frightened; it was mid-day, in the summer, in my father’s garden. ”  – Joan of Arc from her trial transcript. (2)

These visions made Joan of Arc even more religiously inclined. She would frequently go to confession and, it is said that, whenever she heard the bells for Mass she would immediately drop her work and run to church.

Initially Joan did not tell others about her visions and inner commandments but in May 1428 the divine messages urged her to seek an audience with Charles de Ponthieu currently an ineffective and relatively weak leader of the French.

At the time of Joan’s childhood, France was seriously divided with a lack of national unity. In 1415 King Henry V of England had invaded France and defeated the French army at Agincourt. This famous victory over the French nobility left the country weak and divided. The main divisions were between the Dauphins and English supporting Burgundians.

Under Charles de Ponthieu the French were without direction and without a real leader. When Joan of Arc came to the court she overwhelmed Charles with her passion and conviction. It is quite remarkable that this 17 year old peasant girl was, as a consequence, given control over an army and allowed to lead them into battle. Within a year Joan of Arc had led the French army to victories at Orleans, Patay and Troyes. Many other towns were also liberated from English control and it allowed a triumphal entry into Dauphin for the coronation of King Charles VII on 17 July 1429.

For her exploits and leadership Joan of Arc and her family were granted noble status. She has also won the hearts of the French soldiers who looked up to Joan as an almost mythical leader. However a year later Joan was captured by the Burgundian forces at Compiegne and sold to the English. Her trial is well documented and provides a revealing insight into her character and destiny.

The trial was a very testing experience for Joan. Initially the trial was held in public, but, her responses were much sharper than her prosecutors expected. She held her own and produced some strong rebuts, which gained her public sympathy. For example, the prosecution tried very hard to get her to blaspheme. She was asked:

Question at Trial: “Do you know if you are in the grace of God?”

“If I am not, may God place me there; if I am, may God so keep me. I should be the saddest in all the world if I knew that I were not in the grace of God. But if I were in a state of sin, do you think the Voice would come to me? ” – Joan of Arc  (2)

Eventually, the trial was continued behind closed doors. It appears Joan was threatened with torture, but, she wasn’t actually tortured. As expected, Joan was found guilty and condemned to death by burning at the stake. Faced with such an overwhelming ordeal Joan broke down and confessed.

However a week later she regained her strength and recanted her confession. She was able to face her ordeal with dignity. It is said that over 10,000 people came to see her execution by burning. Her ashes were scattered in the Seine. One legend tells how her heart remained unaffected by the fire.

26 years later the English were finally driven from Rouen and in a later inquest she was declared to be officially innocent and was officially designated to be a martyr. She was canonized a saint in 1920 and remains the patron saint of France.