“The Last Duel”, a duel for divine justice at the time of the medieval #metoo (vote 4) – Corriere.it

from Paolo Mereghetti

Ridley Scott brings to the screen a true story that happened in Paris in 1386

The story is true and documented: on December 29, 1386, in Paris, the last “duel of God” was fought, the supreme test of justice where the two contenders, not having received satisfaction from the courts, challenge each other with arms, convinced that God will make justice triumph. Seeking divine judgment was then Jean de Carrouges and Jacques LeGris, the latter accused of raping de Carrouges’ wife, Marguerite, while she was alone in her castle. An episode too succulent not to attract the attention of a Hollywood always looking for uplifting stories and in tune with the prevailing moralism: a woman who, six hundred years before the #metoo, has the courage to denounce those who have violated her and risks even the stake, as well as generalized contempt, just to defend his truth (yes because if the husband does not win the duel of God, thus confirming that the truth was on LeGris’s side, he would die but the woman would end up burned for blasphemy and perjury) was a subject that could not be let escape.

When Eric Jager published the fruit of his research in 2007 (now translated from Bur: The last duel) Martin Scorsese also declared his interest. Then it ended up in the hands of Ridley Scott and 20th Century Studios (i.e. Disney) and what could be expected became reality: a historical fact told for the use and measure of the #metoo champions. Without substantially distorting the facts, but skilfully underlining the scenes, jokes or shots so as to be able to make the viewer and the spectator say “look a bit: certain things already happened in the Middle Ages, but women had the courage ever since to denounce the assaults and abuses of males… ».

Lhe didactic-propaganda ambition catches the eye already from the structure of the film. After a short war prologue (Ridley Scott is or is not the director who enchanted with the war scenes of the Gladiator? So why not let him do it again …) here the facts are told by each of the three protagonists: the knight Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon), an excellent fighter on the battlefields but a little less in court intrigues, always determined to claim what belongs to him but not exactly attentive to the needs (and the needs) of his wife; the squire Jacques LeGris (Adam Driver), able to read and write and for this reason entered into the good graces of Count Pierre d’Alençon (Ben Affleck) with whom he shares a passion for women, fascinating and rapacious; and finally Marguerite de Carrouges (Jodie Comer), the beautiful daughter of a gentleman who had betrayed France for England and for this view with widespread resentment but very much in love with her husband.

All three tell practically the same facts – the absence of Jean who left for Paris to demand due for his campaign in Scotland, the mother-in-law who leaves Marguerite alone at the castle without servants, the surprise visit of LeGris – but from three different perspectives: that of the offended husband, that of the raped wife and that of the visitor who gives in to female temptation. And as did the court of the Paris Parliament, meeting in plenary session in the presence of the young King Charles VI (Alex Lawther) and unable to arrive at a shared verdict, so too did Ridley Scott (and his screenwriters: Ben Affleck, Matt Demon and Nicole Holofcener) takes no position for any of the three, leaving the final duel with the task of making known the outcome of the “judgment of God”. Which, on closer inspection, doesn’t seem like the best attitude …

But basically this is what the wave of prevailing moralism seems to want, an exemplary “judgment” such as that which can be carried out by the force of weapons and which the last part of the film is responsible for showing with an abundance of spears, swords, axes and spades. Or perhaps – rather – it is what film producers think viewers want and therefore prepare them in spite of their intelligence and what cinema should give: a help to make the head work and a contribution to stimulating the imagination.

October 12, 2021 (change October 12, 2021 | 20:45)

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