You possibly can be forgiven, upon listening to the premise for The Final Duel, for pondering that the film is actually a medieval Title IX case with a little bit of bloody, muddy jousting thrown in. The trailers promote the 14th-century story as a type of he mentioned/she mentioned—or, extra precisely, as a he mentioned/he mentioned/she mentioned—a couple of knight named Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon), a nobleman named Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver), and the knight’s spouse, the girl Marguerite de Carrouges (Jodie Comer), who claims the nobleman raped her.
However whereas the film tells the story from three completely different views, it affords no ambiguity about what occurred when the nobleman barged his means into the Carrouges residence and compelled himself on the girl. What the trailers current as an unsure accusation, the film presents as reality. He raped her. It occurred. Watching the assault on display screen, even from completely different factors of view, leaves no room for doubt from the angle of a up to date viewer.
However The Final Duel is way more than a medieval #MeToo. Slightly, it is a gripping remix of most of the concepts that director Ridley Scott has engaged with for many years, in movies as numerous as Alien, Thelma & Louise, G.I. Jane, and Kingdom of Heaven. It is a film about feminine company and energy, spiritual complicity in barbarism, the primal bodily calls for of existence, and the the Aristocracy of survival in a harsh and unforgiving world. Extra intriguingly, it is a subtly subversive film about cultural notion and perspective, and the way energy is preserved by institutional methods that everybody concerned takes without any consideration.
The film is informed in three chapters, every from a unique perspective. At first, we see issues as Jean de Carrouges sees them: He understands himself to be a loyal soldier, barely awkward however primarily honorable, who’s betrayed by a better-looking, extra worldly pal who first takes land that was alleged to be his, then claims a title de Carrouges deserved by start, after which assaults his spouse. Within the second chapter, we not solely see Le Gris as he sees himself—clever, cautious, and possessing superior social and political judgment—however de Carrouges as Le Gris sees him: cussed, stiff, silly, whiny, and never significantly intelligent.
Close to the top of his chapter, we see the rape of Marguerite de Carrouges as Le Gris sees himself committing it. He pins her down and listens to her cry no, however this type of response is acquainted to him, for it performs out similar to a sport we noticed him play earlier with extra prepared targets. He understands his actions as sins, and asks forgiveness—however just for adultery, not for rape.
Thus the film not less than raises the likelihood that he doesn’t imagine it was genuinely an act of pressure. Partly that is as a result of it so clearly suits the gamelike template in his thoughts. At one level, he dismisses the notion of rape by insisting that Marguerite solely gave the “ordinary protestations,” as if he understands some quantity of resistance as odd.
And partly that is as a result of the totally male-dominated social constructions of the period reinforce the concept that what he did was not rape, certainly couldn’t be, as a result of the girl was drawn to her attacker. The film would not excuse him—fairly the alternative—but it surely does try to reveal how Le Gris might need understood his actions within the cultural context by which they have been dedicated.
That context and its related social constructions come most clearly into view within the film’s last chapter, informed from Marguerite’s perspective, which the film strongly signifies is the true fact. And the true fact is that each males are egocentric and despicable, that the assault was way more brutal than Le Gris understood or imagined, that her husband has abused her in several methods as effectively, and that she had little recourse, as a result of the religiously inflected God-and-king-driven political and authorized methods of the period handled ladies as males’s property, not as people with their very own rights.
Scott’s movies have usually depicted cruelty and violence justified on spiritual grounds, and he is equally been fascinated about feminine company and survival in male-dominated areas, so in some methods, that is acquainted—if successfully orchestrated—thematic territory.
However there’s one thing else happening right here too. The Final Duel is not only a film about how dangerous males brutalized ladies underneath the duvet of social approval, although it’s definitely that. It is about how highly effective elites justify their inhumane conduct, and defend their very own, by means of lies dressed up as scientific, authorized, or cultural consensus.
The movie is bookended by a savage and satisfyingly rendered jousting match that turns two hunky Hollywood main males into narcissistic dirtbags after which lets them beat the crap out of one another.
However the film’s key second is a courtroom scene by which Carrouges and Le Gris each plead their instances. The assembled authorized minds—all males, for it was males who dominated the day—decide that it couldn’t have been rape, for Marguerite conceived a baby, and kids, they clarify, can solely be conceived when a girl enjoys the act. “That is simply science,” one exclaims.
The road is arguably too on the nostril, and but it hints at one thing lurking simply beneath the movie’s comparatively standard left-leaning floor. Scott has at all times been a feisty individualist, a humanist with little regard for authoritarian methods or conformist ideologies, and in The Final Duel, he appears to be questioning, if not fairly outright saying: If authorities and faith—the institutional authorities that dominated 14th-century France—may deploy false scientific authority to such inhumane ends so many centuries in the past, what kind of barbarism may the facade of science be used to justify at present? And the way would at present’s cultural attitudes and expectations blind folks—and particularly these in positions of energy and authority—to their very own complicity?
In spite of everything, Damon’s de Carrouges and Driver’s Le Gris have been simply ancient-times elites jockeying for their very own standing inside a merciless and abusive system. However it was the one system they knew.
The film’s finest trick, then, is to slyly counsel that many people can not actually perceive what’s round us, what we’re doing, and what we’re idly accepting, due to embedded cultural assumptions which have blinded us to the bigger fact. The Final Duel explicitly presents three views, however there is a fourth hidden in each viewing: your personal.