THE MESSENGER: THE STORY OF JOAN OF ARC
Catherine Leterrier already knew the Middle Ages well, having done costumes for two films that took place during that period: The Visitors and The Corridors of Time.
Almost 3,000 complete costumes were created for the film, including 100 costumes for the main roles, 500 pieces of jewelry, 1,700 military helmets, 100 bonnets/headdresses, 500 hairstyles of the citizens and villagers, 45 miters for the
coronation, 900 pairs of gloves, 150 ecclesiastical hats and 2,000 pairs of shoes and boots.
Leterrier had definite ideas about Joan's appearance. "I wanted her look to combine historical truth with the strength of other Luc Besson heroines, like Nikita and Leeloo from The Fifth Element." Leterrier used authentic documents to style Joan's costumes without simplifying them.
"I did a lot of research, notably in Orleans, at the Joan of Arc Center, where you can consult more than 16,000 works on the subject," she says. "I researched raw materials of the age: linen, hemp, leather, metal."
The evolution of Joan's costumes parallels her personal growth. "In her youth, in the country, Joan is dressed simply, like a peasant: long hair, bonnet, dresses in natural fabrics like linen arid hemp, used, hand-me-down aprons. I used natural colors like ecru, beige, gray, faded brown," explains Leterrier.
"Later, when Joan leaves to see the King at the Court, she is in costume to travel on horse: dark, sober cape, leather hood, boots, worn knickers, long hair tied back hurriedly, in a ponytail."
For battle, Joan cuts her hair since long hair was too strong a sexual provocation for the army men. She wears a chemise, a padded undergarment, a coat of chainmail and a set of armor that evolves from battle to battle. At the siege of Compiegne, when she is taken prisoner, Leterrier chose a studded, laced leather tunic, inspired by military brigandines. As a prisoner, Joan's clothing is appropriately dirty, used and torn.
The costumes of the other characters and extras reflected Leterrier's meticulous research. "The peasants are very poor, dressed in handmade garments in natural colors like beige, grey and brown because coloring fabric was very expensive in the
15th century. The women have their hair hidden, which was the 'decent' style of the time. There were no summer or winter garments, just layering according to the seasons.
The nobles, on the other hand, loved to display their wealth in their clothing. Says Leterrier: "The fabrics were thick and silky. They adored embroidery and jewelry. The colors were dense—the most intense colors were, in that time, the most costly."
All of the fabric was specially made for the film. Leterrier made large, multidimensional designs on the fabrics with certain icons of the 15th century, like stylized animal or arabesque themes.
Charles VII, played by John Malkovich, wears long robes in shades of blue, embroidered with gold and silver. At the coronation, his armor and his crown are gilded with gold leaf, and his blue velour cape is embroidered with hundreds of fleur de lis.
The military costumes were a challenge for the costume team. So the audience could easily comprehend the action, Leterrier dressed the French in shades of blue, the English in red and the Burgundians in brown and gold. The nobles were in complete metal armor or in brigandines (clothing made of leather or cloth, reinforced with metal studs) and chainmail.
"For this film," notes Leterrier, "I worked enormously on things reflecting wear and tear, with stains of sweat, dirt, blood and dust."
Wearing metal all day was new to most of the actors. Jovovich's armor weighed just under 10 kilos (about 20 lbs.), and
Tcheky Karyo was outfitted with over 40 lbs. of armor, weapons and mail.
"This stuff was heavy and freez
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