Not only does The Last Duel utilize rape as a plot device but audiences have to see it happening on screen twice from different perspectives.
(Edit: Maybe I shouldn’t have used “rape as a plot device” since this based on historical events but the point still stands that this film didn’t sit well with me and SHOULD NOT HAVE DEPICTED THE SAME RAPE TWICE ON SCREEN)
The script is based on a book by Eric Jager but drawing on real-life events won’t change my mind. What may have gone for the court system in 14th century France doesn’t work well in the 21st century. Moreover, it brings no pleasure in having to watch a rape on screen from two different perspectives. I didn’t have interest in this film when it was announced in 2019 and I don’t recommend it today. There’s no denying that rape is a serious subject but when it comes to the big screen, movies should not be using rape as a plot device. And when they do, please do not depict it twice through differing perspectives. It’s traumatic enough that we have to see it once.
Ben Affleck and Matt Damon can collaborate all they want but this film is really about friends-turned rivals Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) and Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver). Ben Affleck comes off as more of a comic relief character as Count Pierre d’Alençon. The film’s synopsis describes it as “a cinematic and thought-provoking drama.” Cinematic, sure. Thought-provoking? I found myself very angry after leaving the film and this was the second screening of a double header. Angry that they show a rape twice on screen. Angry that Jean de Carrouges losing a duel would also sentence his wife to death. A whole lot of angry. While Marguerite (Jodie Comer) does stand up for herself in the film, there’s not enough of it. There’s more of Damon and Driver duking it out on screen.
When we finally see the film from Marguerite’s point of view, we see a very different Jean de Carrouges. Instead of defending his wife as he should, he comes off being more concerned about his name than her. I’m not exactly sure what the film was going for overall but this made me rather angry. Basic decency would be supporting his wife and not worrying about what it would do to his name.
Here’s what would happen if Le Gris killed de Carrouges in the duel: He would have been declared the winner as a sign of G-d’s will but Marguerite would have been burned at the stake as a punishment for false accusation. This should make you both sickened and disturbed. The trial by combat is not based on any evidence. There is no rape kit. It is simply a fight to the death between two men.
The court system in France at the time is just as screwed up as courts systems here in the US today. Anyone remember what happened at Stanford a few years back? A swimmer got off with a six month sentence but would only serve half of the sentence. Unbelievable! This doesn’t even take into account that judges are ruling in favor of fakakta anti-mask, anti-vaccine mandates, there’s a problem. And in this film, the courts are run by clergy and the crown. In fact, the totally biased Count Pierre d’Alençon is the one who makes the initial ruling. By the time he thinks he gets away with declaring Le Gris innocent, de Carrouges is already following an appeal in Paris. So much for Jacques Le Gris thinking he can get away with rape scott free!
If filmmakers are going to go forward on making a film with rape as a plot device, please make the film through the women’s point of view rather than the men.
DIRECTOR: Ridley Scott
SCREENWRITERS: Nicole Holofcener & Ben Affleck & Matt Damon
CAST: Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer, and Ben Affleck