THE MESSENGER: THE STORY OF JOAN OF ARC
Production Design & Battle Scenes
Just as some dialogue used in the film came directly from records from the period, realism was the overarching design aesthetic for THE MESSENGER. "You're obliged to it," says Besson. "Joan was real. It would be very different if you told an imaginary story.
"First, we went to Orleans to get some measurements of the Loire, to get a sense of what it looks like," says Besson. "In addition, a few of my assistants went scouting for locations everywhere in France and Europe."
The set design team worked for months, poring over designs, drawings and books.
"We undertook enormous research in the library, and we worked principally with the museum of Joan of Arc in Orleans," says production designer Hugues Tissandier. "They provided us with an expert who followed all of our research and validated all of our choices."
Most sets were recreated with astonishing accuracy. "I had the real measurements of the Tourelles [the two towers built on the bridge that spanned the Loire river in Orleans, site of the major battle], the number of ladders, the number of people who died. I recreated the exact same fortress," says Besson. "We made an army with the exact same number of people, just to have the sense of what it was like. They charged in this long, huge, heavy scream. You had the feeling that you were in the
15th century." Only one or two shots in the film used computer graphics.
Designers achieved similar authenticity with props and set dressing. A mix of real items from the age were used along with reproductions created by artisans from various regions of France according to documents furnished by experts and historians.
J ovovich's sword also weighed the same as Joan's real sword, which has a place of its own in the mythology of the time. Instead of accepting the sword the king offered her, Joan begged that a search might be made for an ancient sword buried, as
her voices told her, behind the altar in the chapel of St. Catherine de Fierbois. It was found in the very spot her voices indicated.
The heart of THE MESSENGER lies in its battle scenes, a testament to the volatile political climate of the time.
Tcheky Karyo, who plays Dunois, puts it this way: "It's the 15th century, it's almost the end of the Middle Ages, and it's a period where people want to get away from the weight of the English who are, at this time, really imperialist and wild. It's like a family fight, and the French and English are from the same family."
Chief stunt coordinator Phillipe Guegan and 200 others took care of instructing the cast during the filming of this 'family fight.' "It was pretty tough," he says, "because we had very little time to prepare the actors.
"When we started to train, it was kind of obvious what we could do and what we couldn't do," says Besson. "The most difficult was the actors getting used to the armor, and using the weapons and the armor on the horse. It was tremendous. You're exhausted. It took them almost a month to start to feel comfortable on the horse."
"I know that Luc wanted a very strong and violent fight, and also very compact—no space between guys," says Guegan. "That means that it was pretty dangerous for everybody to be all together, very tight like this, with all this motion. The space between the people in Braveheart was not as tight as we've done. We had 400 people in one courtyard."
Of the no-holds-barred style of combat characteristic of the time, Besson says, "There's nothing technical. You go for it, and you fight very strongly, and you try to
kill the guy that's in front of you. It's real. That's how it happens, that's how animal we were.
"At that time, if you wanted to kill someone, you had to be at less than three feet. There are no bullets. You can se
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