As a child, Joan has a violent and supernatural vision. She returns home to find her village burning. Her sister Catherine tries to protect her by hiding her from the attacking English forces, part of a longstanding rivalry with France. Joan, while hiding, witnesses the brutal murder and rape of her sister. Afterward, Joan is taken in by distant relatives.
Unlike the play Joan of Lorraine, which is a drama that shows how the story of Joan affects a group of actors who are performing it, the film is a straightforward recounting of the life of the French heroine. It begins with an obviously painted shot of the inside of a basilica with a shaft of light, possibly descending from heaven, shining down from the ceiling, and a solemn off-screen voice pronouncing the canonization of the Maid of Orleans. Then, the opening page of what appears to be a church manuscript recounting Joan's life in Latin is shown on the screen, while some uncredited voiceover narration by actor Shepperd Strudwick sets up the tale. The actual story of Joan then begins, from the time she becomes convinced that she has been divinely called to save France to her being burnt at the stake at the hands of the English and the Burgundians.
A British officer (Bosworth) in World War I has a dream of the life of Joan of Arc (Farrar). The officer pulls a sword out of the wall of the trench he is in, the sword used to belong to Joan of Arc. Removing the sword conjures up the ghost of Joan, leading to her telling her story. The setting then changes to France where the story of Joan of Arc is told, of her leading the French troops to victory and her subsequent burning at the stake. The story ends back in the trench with the officer deciding to go on a suicide mission, using Joan's story and sword as inspiration
In 1456, Charles VII (Richard Widmark), experiences dreams in which he is visited by Joan of Arc (Jean Seberg), the former commander of his army, burned at the stake as a heretic twenty-five years earlier. In the dream he tells Joan that her case was retried and her sentence annulled. He recalls how she entered his life as a simple, seventeen-year-old peasant girl; how she heard the voices of Saints Catherine and Margaret telling her that she would lead the French army against the English at the siege of Orléans and be responsible for having the Dauphin crowned king at Rheims cathedral. When Joan arrives at the Dauphin's palace at Chinon she discovers that he is a childish weakling with no interest in fighting. After being tested by the members of the court, who conclude that she is mad, Joan imbues the Dauphin with her belief and fervor and he gives her command of the army.
Jeanne is incarcerated. She can only leave her prison cell when the court demands her appearance for further interrogation. The judges show no empathy and it becomes increasingly obvious that they are about to sentence her to death but Jeanne remains nonchalant.
In the village of Domrémy, the young Joan is visited by Saint Michael, Saint Catherine, and Saint Margaret, who exhort her to fight for her country. Her father Jacques d'Arc, mother Isabelle Romée, and uncle beg her to stay at home, but she leaves them and travels to Vaucouleurs, where she meets with the governor, Captain Robert de Baudricourt. The dissipated Baudricourt initially scorns Joan's ideals, but her zeal eventually wins him over, and he gives her authority to lead French soldiers. Joan and her army lead a triumphal procession into Orléans, followed by a large crowd. Then, in Reims Cathedral, Charles VII is crowned King of France.
After having led numerous military battles against the English during the Hundred Years' War, Joan of Arc is captured near Compiegne and eventually brought to Rouen, Normandy to stand trial for heresy by French clergymen loyal to the English.
La France pendant la guerre de Cent Ans. Les Français risquent de perdre la guerre depuis 92 ans contre l'Angleterre et des ennemis intérieurs. Seule la ville d'Orléans résiste bien encore ; c'est ici que se trouve le roi de France Charles VII. Pour discuter de conditions de paix acceptables, le roi envoie son émissaire Maillezais dans le camp ennemi, chez John Talbot et son allié Philippe III de Bourgogne. Mais Talbot refuse le compromis ; il préfère se préparer à la bataille finale. Son mépris est tel que, devant Maillezais, il jette les armes de sa famille d'origine française.
In this trilogy of stories, the episode "Elizabeth" is about an American war-widow who goes to Italy where her husband was in WW II. The episode "Jeanne" tells the life of Jeanne d'Arc. The episode "Lysistrata" is about Athenian wives, an adaptation of the Greek play.
The film takes place mostly in a surrealistic fantasy around the time of the execution of Joan of Arc. Joan of Arc, played by Ingrid Bergman, is being burned alive for heresy. In a kind of dream state, she departs from her body and looks back upon her life. She begins this journey depressed and demoralized. However, a priest appears to help guide her. First, he shows her those who accused her in the guise of animal characters, in order to show her their true nature. Then, he shows her the good that she has performed for people. In the end, she is proud of what she has done and is ready to face the flames.