Ranging from history movies such as The Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, Robin Hood to science fiction with Blade Runner, Alien, The Martian, or iconic road movies such as Thelma and Louise, Ridley Scott’s films are free, creative, courageous, and timeless.
They need a viewer up to them, ready to embark on a journey of visual seduction and keen on asking the right questions. His cinema never betrays the expectations. The latest film The Duel recounts the last “God’s duel” fought between Marguerite’s fearless husband and the man who brutally assaulted her.
With an all-star cast (Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Jodie Comer, and Adam Driver), the themes are relevant for our times: sexism, oppression, the courage to oppose the system, research for truth. The director chose three different points of view, in a Kurosawa-like style, to tell a story that is inspired by a historical event, with the force of the present. The outcome is, as usual, convincing.
What attracted you to this subject?
When you get a call from Matt Damon (it was on Christmas of 2018) who is proposing to read a book with an interesting story, you cannot say no. We talked about it for six weeks; then, I accepted wholeheartedly.
What is historical and what is fictional in the duel of the film?
We had to make changes. The fight lasted for a long time because the controversy had to be settled down at a certain point – a person’s life was at stake. During the shooting, we needed six days just to decide how to move.
How did you decide to put Marguerite on the tower?
She was the symbol of the resolution of the challenge between Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris. If the latter, the assaulter, had won, the woman would have been burned alive without having committed any crime. For this reason, she is put on a pyre waiting for the duel to end and settle down.
What is the biggest challenge in The Last Duel?
I know a lot about the Middle Ages (after The Kingdom of Heaven); that helped me with the historical reconstruction. However, getting to the meaning of the film is a different matter. The most complex aspect was to offer three diverse points of view of the same story.
What is the hardest scene to see and understand?
The assault on the victim told from the assaulter’s point of view and from the victim’s point of view. It is not easy to decide what was the abuse committed on Marguerite in absolute terms. In both cases, it is a form of violence.
You made science fiction and historical films in your career. Do these genres have many aspects in common?
Usually, I prefer unreleased material. Something fresh, different. I have never made western movies, for example, and I’d like to make it now.
What is the attractiveness of epic blockbusters to you? Time traveling is more gratifying?
I live in a house of 1360. I think that I should have been born at that time. I like the smell of those years. Any period, however, can be fascinating because history is made of cycles that repeat over time. They chase each other to return.