A viewer's reaction to Joan of Arc may well depend upon which version he or she sees. Originally released at 145 minutes, the film is available in various versions, one of which clocks in at a mere 100 minutes. The original is too long, but the shortest version compromises much of what was effective in the original. The film in all its lengths does suffer from a bit of unnecessary sanctimoniousness. Maxwell Anderson and Andrew Solt's screenplay has many wonderful scenes, but it also includes more than its share of hard-pedaled moralizing, and (especially in its original length), many scenes simply go on too long. That said, the writers did provide Ingrid Bergman with one of her greatest roles, and the unique actress took this vehicle and rode it for all it was worth. Bergman is utterly compelling from first to last, conveying a sense of spiritual goodness that is beautiful and inspiring, without being annoying, unbelievable, or condescending. Her final scene at the stake is especially moving, an agonizing moment that tears at the heart. (Credit director Victor Fleming for capturing Bergman's performance so effectively, as well as for handling the many crowd and battle scenes the script demands.) Bergman's fellow cast members (especially José Ferrer) are all good as well, and it's an exceptionally handsome production -- but she remains the heart and soul of the film.
by Craig Butler review