BAXTER — Sometimes the hardest thing in this world is to be heard — especially if you are a woman.
“The Last Duel” is a feature film adaptation of the book of the same name by Eric Jager, which is centered around a sexual assault accusation by the wife of a knight in medieval France.
The new release at the Lakes 12 Theatre in Baxter brings to life the political intrigue and battles by noblemen in a patriarchal society where women were treated like little more than property.
The thought-provoking dramatization of the last legally sanctioned duel in France's history in 1386 was directed and produced by Ridley Scott, maker of historic epics. He directed “1492: Conquest of Paradise,” “Gladiator,” “Kingdom of Heaven” and “Exodus: Gods and Kings.”
“‘The Last Duel’ is a gripping tale of betrayal and vengeance set against the brutality of 14th-century France,” according to the official synopsis by 20th Century Studios, and the R-rated film stars Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Adam Driver and Jodie Comer.
Frenemies Jean de Carrouges, a knight played by Damon, and his squire Jacques Le Gris, played by Driver, court the favor of Count Pierre d'Alençon, played by Affleck, in the 152-minute movie directed by the four-time Oscar nominee.
Comer plays Marguerite de Carrouges, the second wife of Damon’s real-life character. Comer co-starred in this summer’s surprise blockbuster “Free Guy” with Ryan Reynolds.
Marguerite claims Jacques, who barged into her home while Jean was away, raped her. And the film unfolds in chapters, told from the viewpoints of Jean, Jacques and Marguerite.
The major plot points remain consistent between the three in the “love triangle” but certain additions, omissions and revisions are made to the narrative based on the bias, agendas and subjective nature of those recalling the alleged sexual assault against a noblewoman.
"The penalty for bearing false witness is that you are to be burned alive,” a judge warns Marguerite.
Marguerite says in response to those who wish to silence her, dismiss her or are skeptical of her, “I will not be silent!”
“The Last Duel” may be set in medieval France, but the inherent imbalance of power between the genders of that period arguably continues today with women speaking out against sexual harassment and sexual assault by powerful men as epitomized by the #MeToo movement.
Marguerite’s unsympathetic mother-in-law tells the young woman at one point to stop bringing shame upon her son and says, “The truth does not matter. There is only the power of men.”
Affleck and Damon co-wrote the screenplay, based on the 2004 of the same name, with Nicole Holofcener. She wrote and directed “Friends with Money,” a 2006 dramedy starring Jennifer Aniston, Joan Cusack, Catherine Keener and Frances McDormand.
Damon and Affleck wrote and starred in “Good Will Hunting” with the late Robin Williams in 1997, which won the pair the Academy and Golden Globe awards for best screenplay. But the duo and real-life friends haven’t since written together until “The Last Duel.”
“The Last Duel” currently holds an 85% approval rating among critics and an 81% approval rating among audiences at Rotten Tomatoes, a review-aggregation website for film and television.
The RottenTomatoes.com critics consensus reads: “‘The Last Duel’'s critique of systemic misogyny isn't as effective as it might have been, but it remains a well-acted and thought-provoking drama infused with epic grandeur.”