Well, I never expected this.
Apparently the French director Bruno Dumont has adapted Charles Péguy’s The Mystery of the Charity of Joan of Arc into a feature film. It was released in France last fall, and has popped up at a few American film festivals. Unless you live in a big city, you will probably have to get the DVD or stream it to see it.
… And he turned it into a musical with a rock score. Wow. From viewing the trailer, I can tell that he is using the names of the characters and I do recognize a few lines of dialog from Péguy’s prose poem/play.
The Village Voice describes the film as “pious,” so it sounds like the director intends a faithful adaptation. They do criticize the method, though acknowledging that Dumont has a “streak of madman genius about him.” So you may very well hate or love the film.
The Mystery of the Charity of Joan of Arc was the first piece in Péguy’s great trilogy of book length poems (followed by The Portal of the Mystery of Hope, and The Mystery of the Holy Innocents), published shortly before World War One.
If you are not familiar with the book, this will not be like other filmed versions of Joan’s life. It will not focus on the later military campaigns or her martyrdom. It is about the origin of Joan’s mission.
Péguy is a very important artist for some Catholic theologians, and Pope Francis has quoted from his works a few times. If you were surprised by the Pope’s alleged comments about Hell a few weeks ago, Péguy may be relevant. The concept of solidarity was very important to Péguy, and he wondered aloud whether solidarity extended to those in Hell. The ultimate fate of those souls who go to Hell was an element in some of Adrienne Von Speyr’s spiritual commentaries, which were edited and published by the Catholic theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar.
I think that Hell exists, and that a soul can go to Hell by refusing God’s mercy at the end of their life and the particular judgment. One of many questions raised by Péguy in The Mystery, and by Adrienne in some of her writings, involves the scope of Christ’s “descent into hell” after his crucifixion. Does Christ’s solidarity extend to those in Hell in any way, and if it does, what are the implications of that? Can the damned change their mind through some extraordinary grace? I suspect that the Italian atheist the Pope spoke to may have been attempting, in a very poor way, to recapture Francis’ speculation on similar questions. I acknowledge such speculation is very controversial, and would appear to conflict with Church tradition as expressed in the Catechism that Christ did not descend to save those who had already damned themselves by refusing God’s mercy. The issue is discussed with much greater detail in Balthasar’s book Dare we hope that all may be saved? and the many responses to it.
I blogged about Péguy’s book last year. I will probably do a movie review after I have seen it.