By Matthieu Chan Tsin
The Once and Future Classroom, Vol.7:1 (2009)
Introduction: When Luc Besson and Sony released The Messenger in 1999, movie reviewers were quick to judge the director’s version of Joan of Arc’s story as historically inaccurate. However, the same critics oftentimes identified the bloody representations of medieval warfare found in The Messenger as some of the film’s strongest historical assets. In his article Beyond Historical Accuracy: A Postmodern View of Movies and Medievalism, A. Keith Kelly commented on the reception academics usually reserve for commercial movies. He noted that “the treatment of medieval or medieval-inspired films by academic medievalists is often apathetic in nature, or explicitly contemptuous”. A. Keith Kelly also added that “this sort of hypercritical approach to medieval movies is inadequate, however, because of the basic premise upon which it is based that medieval movies should be accurate portrayals of history and are judged accordingly”. As educators, we must sometimes remember that modern students are more likely to have seen the movie version of a medieval work than to have read the original. This fact does not necessarily mean that medieval movies should be introduced into the classroom as an attempt, a trick, to reach a “public” born into an audio and video age. Although “not all medieval movies have as their goals historical accuracy”, we are free to identify, as movie-critics did for other purposes, which parts of a movie can be used to illustrate how things once were; and which parts pose a problem with historical accuracy and could be used to introduce constructive dialogue. This article will study how Luc Besson’s The Messenger depicts the men who fought alongside Joan of Arc: the knights of the later stages of the Hundred Years War. This study of the knights of The Messenger will focus on knighthood, close-combat, and military technologies to identify material from the movie which could be used to teach who the knights of the late Middle Ages were, and how they fought. This article will also introduce contemporary sources, chronicles and romances, which will help further illustrate the depiction of the French knights found in The Messenger.