Young Joan of Arc, the Heavy Metal Freak

Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc
"Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc" | © KimStim

A new film about Joan of Arc—directed by French agent provocateur Bruno Dumont—takes the metal from Joan’s armor and puts it into her ears.

Loved by over 40s

Ageing from eight to 19 in Bruno Dumont’s Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc, the future Maid of Orléans demonstrates her passion for agonizing about God, damnation, and redemption while consistently freaking out to death metal. Untempted by New Wave, grunge, or boy band pop, and certainly not by church music, she is a headbanger par excellence. Some of her foot dancing has a road drill quality—like a punk pogo that never gets off the ground. Or it could be a bad Irish jig.

Jeanne (Lise Leplat Prudhomme) and her friend Hauviette (Lucille Gauthier) in Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc

Based on Charles Péguy’s play The Mystery of the Charity of Joan of Arc (1910) and set firmly in the early 15th century, Dumont’s movie was scored by the French musician Igorrr. His sound contains elements of folk and flamenco, while the songs spontaneously sung by Lise Leplat Prudhomme (the child Jeannette/Jeanne) and Jeanne Voisin (Jeanne as a teenager) have a pastoral lilt befitting the heroine’s early life as a shepherdess in the upper Meuse Valley. These tunes’ climaxing in blasts of metal denotes Jeanne’s moments of religious ecstasy.

Undercuts the myth

Jeannette is Dumont’s tenth feature (if his 2014 miniseries P’tit Quinquin is included) and one of his more brashly experimental. A grand guignol comedy with young actors that announced a shift from his bleak, explicit early work, Quinquin was followed by the equally grisly, Pythonesque Slack Bay (2017). The absence of sex and violence from Jeannette suggests the 60-year-old enfant terrible is continuing to mellow, though the film’s undercutting of Joan of Arc’s sanctifying mythology resonates with the anti-dogma thrust of Dumont’s The Life of Jesus (1997), Hadewijch (2009), and Hors Satan (2011).

Teenage Jeanne (Jeanne Voisin) in Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc

Visually and thematically, Jeannette is especially reminiscent of Dumont’s Camille Claudel 1915 (2013). Not only do the films share a rural spareness—the rocky hills surrounding Claudel’s Avignon asylum are echoed in the sandy places where Jeanne sings and dances—but their heroines can only grasp at salvation, whether through faith in art or God.

Divine or delusional

Claudel (Juliette Binoche), a mostly rational woman who was cruelly institutionalized by her family and abandoned by society, is succored no more by her nun caretakers than by her mentally ill fellow inmates (some of whom were played by people with Down’s Syndrome). Jeanne is outwardly rational, too, though it is hard to tell whether she is sane or insane given that children are less skeptical than adults when it comes to believing in gods and legendary figures. Her “divine” call to arms as a teenager can be taken at face value or as a delusional set of impulses—even if she truly inspired the French army to lift the siege of Orléans (the depiction of which is beyond Dumont’s remit).

Jeanne’s vision of the saints Catherine, Margaret, and Michael, which closes the first half of the film, is literally and fetchingly rendered, with Dumont’s customary deadpan, but could be the projection of a schizophrenic. (She sees the saints in 1425, when she is eight in the film; historical record has her at 13 that year.) The singing is blissful in places—less so than some of the angular dance moves—but its beauty is entirely secular. Dumont is the acme of a religious atheist in contemporary cinema.
Because it removes the mysticism from Joan of Arc’s momentous history, Jeannette will never be as venerated as Carl-Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), as popular as Victor Fleming’s Joan of Arc (1948), or as argued about as Otto Preminger’s Saint Joan (1957). It might prove one of Dumont’s lesser films, despite its fierce soundtrack and the wonderful in-your-face performances by Prudhomme, Voisin, and Lucille Gauthier as Hauviette, eight-year-old Jeannette’s spunky BFF. But lesser Dumont is still rewarding.

Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc is playing at the Quad Cinema, 34 West 13th Street, New York, NY 10011. Tel: (347) 566-5949

culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.