Professors of medieval history, experts in historical weapons and an arduous work of documentation are behind this film that represents a trip back in time to the fourteenth century. Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer and Ben Affleck are its protagonists.
The actors of The Last Duel when Ridley Scott it says “action”, you never know when the camera is focusing on you because at least four of them record each shot. And part of that essence, in which the story must be told from all its points of view, is the key to this most brilliant film, a history of medieval violence against women, told from three perspectives: that of the husband, that of the assailant and that of the victim. In short, a film about survival and how the truth can be distorted so that the lie becomes the valid story.
The latest work by Ridley Scott, which will allow you to experience time travel by XIV century the one who drags us, it has everything to be one of the best productions of the year: a brutal betrayal, a powerful and admirable heroine, a story based on real events perfectly documented, breathtaking violence and action scenes and an exceptional cast starring Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer and Ben Affleck starring. In addition, Damon and Affleck are also screenwriters – along with Nicole Holofcener – and each of them is in charge of writing the role of a character. Next, we review how the director has built this medieval epic which portrays the last documented duel of the 14th century.
Between files and scrolls
It was Matt Damon who discovered the story of what is considered the last duel of medieval France. It is recounted by Eric Jager, UCLA and Columbia Professor of Medieval Literature – in his book The Last Duel: A true story of crime, scandal, and trial by combat in medieval France.
The book is based on official documents of the time that describe what happened around this duel with surprising level of detail. Jager spent more than 10 years researching chronicles of the time, legal records, and centuries-old historical records. He was even able to see the original manuscript of the legal testimony that is preserved in a parchment from the 14th century. And he also found that the story was not exactly as it had been told. “I discovered that what jurists and historians had been saying for centuries, that Marguerite [el personaje de Comer] he lied, it was false ”. And he felt that justice had to be done for Marguerite de Carrouges, who risked everything and risked a horrible death, but chose to defend the truth and her honor.
Who were the real people who inspired ‘The Last Duel’?
Damon understood its potential and imagined Ridley Scott leading the project due to its visual potential and its experience in historical epics. For the project, he hired the author of the book as a historical consultant – who read and corrected the script twice – and partnered with Ben Affleck – a friend of his for 40 years and with whom he wrote the libretto of El Indomable Will Hunting, which won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay in 1998-. After discarding several screenwriters, it occurred to both that the best way to tell everything was with the three points of view; the three stories. AND each story, written by a screenwriter, with Damon and Affleck being two of them. And, obviously, the one about the real heroine, Marguerite, had to be written by a woman: Nicole Holofcener.
Dignifying and doing justice to a battered woman
Marguerite’s perspective was essential because it offered a rectification of the opinions that men have of themselves and of the world around them. He explains it in the production notes for the film Matt Damon. “In the Hundred Years War these men only knew of an incredibly violent world where rape and looting it was the usual thing. And as I read the book I felt that the only story that was really worth telling was hers: her incredible bravery under such terrible pressure; the way in which they interrogated and shamed her and how she did not give in and always told the truth about what happened, “says the producer and actor who plays Jean De Carrouges.
How do you portray The last duel Marguerite’s story that occurred more than 600 years ago is a magnificent tribute to the survivors and all those who fight in silence but firmly throughout history. Because when he told what happened, he put his life and his reputation in danger. And like many survivors of sexual assault, she endured extraordinary public derision as the victim and unjustly went down in history as a liar who invented sexual assault. In order for the portrait to allow him to restore the dignity that the facts demonstrated and that was stolen from him, several organizations acted as advisers on the history of sexual abuse, the consequences and the recovery of the victims.
The ‘Sex Education’ privacy advisor
For the filming of the sexual and rape scenes, the team relied on the series’ privacy consultant Sex Education, Ita O’Brien, to ensure the safety and comfort of all during filming. “It’s a job very similar to what a stunt coordinator does in fight scenes, but applied to intimate content,” O’Brien explains, also in the production notes. His main concern was to account for sexual violence with the utmost sensitivity.
This is how Jodie Comer prepared to shoot the most traumatic scenes of ‘The Last Duel’
The director decided to shoot the scene of the sexual assault in order not to leave doubts about what happened, since the Marguerite’s historical account had become clouded in later centuries by historical chroniclers and members of the clergy, who had distorted it until the rape was eliminated. The scene was shot without any nude, because the filmmakers were more interested in showing the emotional cost of the experience rather than exploiting it cinematographically.
150 spears, 50 shields, rubber swords, and more than eight full armor
The person in charge of designing the costumes and armor, Janty Yates, is the same one who had to dress the Romans in Gladiator (2000) or the medieval bandits of Robin Hood (2010), both directed by Scott. And, since there are no complete 14th-century armors, Yates se inspired on a model from the Metropolitan Museum in New York And, based on this, they built eight complete suits of armor that the actors and specialists later dressed and that had to be modified – all at the same time – to guarantee that there were no continuity errors as the duel progressed.
They were made up of Plastic sheets similar to those of the bumpers of the cars, that imitated steel. In turn, the chainmail is the same that was used for The kingdom of heaven in 2005, also made of plastic, with each hoop made individually and then all of them hand-linked. The women’s wardrobe was made with fabrics bought in the cities of Florence, Rome and Lyon.
The man in charge of the weapons was Tim Lewis, who also found himself with the lack of real references of the time in good condition. Thus, versions of every hard rubber gun, 150 spears and 40 breakable shields. “The details are essential. Without them, the actors and the filmmaker have nothing to work with. If you explain to an actor why his character is wearing something specific, you help him better define his character, ”says Lewis.
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Recreated castles and royal settings
To gain verisimilitude, many of the scenes were shot in real settings in castles in France, where they shot in the Pèrigord Noir region, the same place where Scott filmed his first film, The duelists, in 1976. Among the castles where they shot, those of Baynac, Berzé-le-Châtel, Fénelon in Sainte-Mondane or that of the city of Monpazier stand out. And much of the interiors had to be recreated in a studio, where some rooms were rebuilt. Everything so that the travel in time and so that that last duel was almost real and Margherite’s honor was returned.