My Buddy Mr J. Christopher Wilson is reviewing some movies. He has agreed for us to post his reviews here.
“The Last Duel” is a clever exploration of the classic “he-said she-said” rape allocation set during medieval times. It does so by showing the same story from three different truths, according to each of the characters.
What we see are three actors who must act the same scenes three different times, giving the moviegoer nuances in speech, movement, and intonation so that three perspectives are viewed ever so slightly yet powerfully. To do so shows acting chops, and these actors are clearly at the top of their game. Acting students will no doubt study this movie for years to come to see just how a professional can act a scene in such similarly let drastically different ways to convey three nuanced ideas.
Besides the acting, which if not nominated for an Oscar would render the Academy completely irrelevant, the script provides depth to which we can not only examine our society’s previous misgivings but can view our current world critically.
A friend once asked me, “Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?” Of course, there are instances when one can have both, but in many situations these are mutually exclusive. “The Last Duel” explores this idea of rightness versus happiness in as authentic a way as can be done.
Throughout most of the movie Jean would have lived happier had he chosen happiness over rightness, over his anger, over his self-righteousness. Many of his troubles (and this his wife’s and mother’s troubles) were caused by his own stubbornness and hotheadedness.
Marguerite, like many survivors of rape, must weigh the costs is speaking truth versus keeping the truth hidden with varying outcomes. When a woman is property rather than her own personhood—as it was during medieval times—this choice is heavier and costly. In a most courageous way, she spoke her truth despite the possible costs. Even she questions if sharing her truth was worth the cost.
Furthermore, we are privy to the way society looked at a woman who was attacked in those days. We are forced to draw connections between those barbaric days and our own enlightened modern day world. If we were asked to create a Venn Diagram, we would likely not like the results, as much has not changed for survivors of rape.
“The Last Duel” is moviemaking at its best. It balances the heavy topic with the reality of war while creating something that is watchable and doesn’t send people running up the aisles. This is. Ot a story about duels or armor, war or empires and it is not about shock. It is about story and character, honor and truth. This drama is highly recommended.
Currently (January 2022) available on HBO