Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Duellists

The Duellists; Drama, UK, 1977; D: Ridley Scott, S: Keith Carradine, Harvey Keitel, Cristina Raines, Albert Finney

Strasbourg, 1800. Hussar officer Feraud stabs the mayor cousin with his sword. As a punishment, officer D'Hubert puts him in house prison following the order of his superior. But the angry Feraud directs his rage towards him and challenges him to a duel that ends unsettled even though he injures his arm. In the next duel, D'Hubert gets wounded in the chest but they are interrupted by the Napoleonic wars. Serving under Napoleon, D'Hubert and Feraud get promoted, but continue to duel. In 1815, D'Hubert gets married while Feraud ends in prison. D'Hubert gets him out, but the ungrateful Feraud challenges him again to a duel. He loses, but D'Hubert spares his life and thus puts him under control.

The feature debut film by Ridley Scott was puzzlingly acclaimed by the critics due to a visual style that at all isn't original or impressive like in his later films "Blade Runner" and "Legend". "The Duellists" are an elegant drama, from the opening scene were the peasant woman is chasing ducks up to the finale where one of the two protagonists looks at the sunset defeated, with visible references to "Barry Lyndon" and a few interesting details. So, for instance, after being stabbed, D'Hubert has to watch not to sneeze or the pain in his chest will affect him even more, whereas in the courtroom a bird is flying here and there completely in a surreal manner. But the character of the infantile Feraud (Keitel) who is constantly challenging the hero for a duel is quickly starting to become old and annoying, which makes the standard story look nothing better than it is. The cinematography is aesthetic, but not to such a degree to carry the whole film.


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