In medieval France, a woman accuses a squire of having raped her.
Her husband and her attacker will engage in a fight to the death.
Ridley Scott, the director of “Gladiator” and “Alien”, offers a film that is both virtuoso suspense and reflection on the notion of consent.
At 83, Ridley Scott is making one of his best films.
The Last Duel
is the one between a knight (Matt Damon) and a squire (Adam Driver) in front of the court. The wife of the first accuses the second of having raped her, which the latter fiercely denies. The knight and the squire will have to confront each other by arms while the woman, tied to the platform, knows that her fate depends on the result.
At that time, disputes were subject to "God's Judgment" (understanding that whoever died at the end of the confrontation was considered guilty).
The raped woman (Jodie Comer, seen in the series
) was playing her life by denouncing her assailant: if the latter was declared innocent, she would end up at the stake!
The story, separated into three parts, shows the point of view of the men and of the courageous victim who risks her life rather than bowing to the law of silence.
The truth about rape
The screenplay co-written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck (unrecognizable on screen as a libidinous lord) also benefits from the expertise of Nicole Holofcener responsible for bringing a female perspective to the story. “We wanted to give the heroine a voice, to express what she may have felt. It was necessary to make it understood that she takes her destiny in hand, ”she explains. Especially since the gentlemen, old friends who have become antagonists, seem more eager to settle their own scores than to avenge his honor.
This is very noticeable during the rape scene seen three times, imagined by the husband, then experienced by the aggressor and finally suffered by the victim.
“Unambiguously, the heroine is raped, insists the screenwriter, even if her attacker does not see it that way.
This is why it was important to show this scene three times.
The truth is that of the victim.
This repetition makes the sequence all the more difficult to watch and provokes a deep reaction of disgust in the viewer.
A message to pass
“Even today, a woman is raped every three or four minutes and we try to make her believe that she was not, insists Ridley Scott. Even though the film is set in the Middle Ages, the question is still relevant today. The director of
does not lose his sense of awe-inspiring action in this decidedly feminist film. The warlike battles that men experience, like the duel itself, a breathtaking moment of suspense, are all filmed tableaux that screw the viewer into his chair.
"I am convinced that blockbusters intended for a large audience, like this one, can have a positive impact on mentalities," insists the director. Things are gradually moving in the right direction and we must continue to try to get the message across. "This is not the first time that the British filmmaker has put forward a strong woman: we owe her in particular the character of Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) in
from 1979 and those played by Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis in
Thelma and Louise
“The notion of consent is an eternal and sadly universal subject that I wanted to deal with in
The Last Duel,
” insists Ridley Scott.
This film manages both to offer entertainment and to reflect on the place of men and women, whether in the 14th century or today.
It is an understatement to say that it is important.
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