I imagine that creating a historical film is not easy: although the story is full of interesting events, choosing which one to treat without going beyond the instructive lesson is complex. Moreover, we must also look for some that have not already been covered and, if we want to maintain a certain amount of realism, we need to dig deep enough. The Last Duel, by Ridley Scott, does just that: it delves into French history as far back as the XNUMXth century and brings something unique to the screen, with a focus on storytelling and a little less attention to detail.
Filming, which began in 2020, has ranged between France and Ireland. The cast includes Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer, Ben Affleck, Harriet Walter and Nathaniel Parker. The central theme is the last duel of God / Ordalic duel, which took place in France between two contentendi: Jackes Le Gris and Jean de Carrouges.
A three-part story in search of the truth
Far from the symbolic glories from Green Knight, The Last Duel tells the story of its three main characters by breaking it into three different points of view; in fact, initially we follow the “Truth of De Carrouges”, a gruff, angry man and much better at fighting than at holding speeches. De Carrouges (Matt Damon), after having long fought for the King of France, becomes a knight, marrying the beautiful Marguerite (Jodie Comer). His life, however, is difficult: he is not among the sympathies of Count Pierre (Ben Affleck) who instead dotes on his best friend Le Gris (Adam Driver). Thus, antipathy begins to arise between De Carrouges and Le Gris, until Marguerite reveals to Jean a sad event: Jacques raped her, just as Jean was away to do battle on behalf of the king.
The story then passes into the hands of Le Gris, narrating "La Verità di De Gris"; a handsome man, skilled with the sword and decidedly charismatic. His friendship with Pierre makes him popular at parties, where he makes a name for himself as a flatterer and suitor; his friend Jean, on the other hand, is always so grumpy that having him next to him is almost unfortunate. Things fall apart between the two (due to Jean's stubbornness, of course) and, at a reconciliation dinner, Jacques meets Marguerite. The two fall in love, even if the rules of courtly love, in addition to the clear marriage of the woman with her friend, force the two to a silent passion. This, which has now become unstoppable, leads Jacques to lie down with Marguerite, consensual act within the limits of good manners.
The truth only at the end
Finally we then have the testimony of Marguerite, The Truth. Skillful woman entrusted in marriage to a stubborn, gruff and dumb man, forced to live in her austerity and shadow because of her husband's jealousy. It is only when this leaves for the war that Marguerite manages to have some breathing space: she cultivates some friendships, administers the castle, she finally feels free. However, on her Le Gris puts her eyes on her: a charismatic man, but definitely too much of a womanizer and arrogant for the tastes of the woman. Just Le Gris, by deceiving her, will be able to break into her castle and rape her, against her will.
Finally, the three stories find the epilogue in a violent duel, the fulcrum of the film itself; The Gris and De Carrouges fight to establish who is right, if one or the other, and the second has the better of the first. Having killed the rapist, the man can then consider his honor as a husband restored, and take the bride to Notre Dame. Did the blood really manage to cleanse away the wrong suffered?
On the side of the victim always and in any case
The Last Duel is a good movie; fluently tells three different points of view leaving little doubt about who the victim is and what the truth is. A very contemporary discourse, nowadays, since many still believe that the fault, between abused and abuser, lies in the middle for X number of reasons.
Ridley Scott succeeds in the masterful feat of telling something current that took place in the Middle Ages: to help him are breathtaking photography and flawless sound design; whether it is in the French forest or inside a crowded room of a castle, the direction captures every little sensation and throws it without discount on the viewer. And it is thanks to this particular ability that the story, told using two different points of view, seems to be impregnated with what the protagonists feel, experience, breathe.
A spectacular acting performance
Driver and Damon, although they are two actors with a different cinematic past, manage to keep themselves within reach, without stepping over each other; their two characters are well written and interpreted, with a gruff and angry De Carrouges and a shrewd and somewhat treacherous Le Gris; Affleck, in the background, does justice to his character without getting too low in tone. Jodie Comer stands out above all: her marguerite is a woman who wants to tell the truth, at any cost, cost what it costs.
The bitter ending of the film is a worthy conclusion to a bitter story. After a duel that forces us to hold on tight to the chair, the final ride to the Notre Dame under construction and the symbolic representation of the display of divine justice that is neither one nor the other, towards something that is being built over time and that , perhaps, it will not end with our story. Great Ridley Scott, great music, great costumes. Completely impressive.
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