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Film / The Last Duel

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"One of us has lied. Let us let God decide."
Jean: I am telling the truth.
Nicole: The truth does not matter. There is only the power of men.

The Last Duel is a 2021 epic historical drama film directed by Ridley Scott. It is based on the book The Last Duel: A True Story of Trial by Combat in Medieval France by Eric Jager about the last legally sanctioned judicial duel in French history.

In late 14th-century Normandy, France, during The Hundred Years War, noblewoman Marguerite de Carrouges, née de Thibouville, is raped by a man who was once her husband's friend, Jacques Le Gris, who denies that this was a rape. Jacques is protected by both the Count Pierre d'Alençon and the Church, and so Marguerite's husband, the knight Jean de Carrouges, challenges Jacques to a trial by combat, to let God decide who told the truth.

It stars Jodie Comer as Marguerite de Carrouges (née de Thibouville), Matt Damon as Jean de Carrouges, Adam Driver as Jacques Le Gris, Ben Affleck as Count Pierre d'Alençon, Nathaniel Parker as Sir Robert de Thibouville, Alex Lawther as King Charles VI and Michael McElhatton as Bernard Latour. The script was written by Nicole Holofcener (Can You Ever Forgive Me?) and Damon and Affleck themselves.


The film was released on October 15, 2021.

Previews: Trailer.

The Last Duel contains examples of:

  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: Putting a snake on the coat of arms of a man who sneaked into his friend's castle to rape the latter's wife may seem as a very unsubtle metaphor, but the Le Gris family really had such a coat of arms.
  • Ambiguous Situation:
    • There is something suspicious about how Jean's mother Nicole left the home with all the servants, oddly leaving Marguerite completely alone without witnesses and giving Jacques the chance to assault her. This is mentioned offhand in Jean's POV, spoken directly in Jacques' POV and shown to be unusual in Marguerite's POV. Nothing is explained further, even though Marguerite does converse with Nicole after the trial is set in motion.
    • Who's the biological father of Marguerite's child? People at the trial state that, after five years of childless marriage, it's unlikely that Jean would suddenly be able to conceive a child after years of trying and failing. However, Marguerite is obviously pregnant and, while insisting that Jacques raped her, he's more likely to be the father based on this. In the last scene, the child has blonde hair, like his mother and Jean and unlike the dark-haired Jacques, so Jean may possibly be the father after all; but there is the argument that the child simply took after Marguerite in appearance, or that his hair might darken as he grows older. The fact that Jean had a child from a previous marriage (his first wife and child died of The Plague) makes the issue even more ambiguous.
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    • After Jean kills Jacques and wins the duel, he and Marguerite stare silently at one another before embracing, and he then presents his wife to the cheering crowd. This could be either him wanting them to acknowledge that it is also her victory after taking what she said to heart, or he is simply presenting her like a trophy before the people.
  • Annoying Arrows: Deconstructed during the disastrous campaign in Scotland, where Jean shouts contempt at his own forces routing when fired upon by longbowmen before leading a charge up the hill, arrows bouncing off his plate armor... while the much lighter-armored lesser foot soldiers drop in droves around him.
  • Armor Is Useless: In the central Duel to the Death, the usefulness of armor is actually shown exceptionally accurate, as it deflects most sword strikes and the combatants are forced to aim for weak points. The strikes themselves, ranging from sword hits and shield bashes to punching and kicking, do take a toll on the wearer and it becomes more a matter of who gets exhausted first so that the other may deliver a killing blow.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Nicole reveals that she too was raped years ago, but kept quiet about it as she knew how people would treat her and react if she came forward about her assault. Marguerite asks, "At what cost?" She has no answer.
  • Artistic License – History: While the duel is mostly very accurately recreated from the numerous firsthand accounts that survived, some details stick out.
    • Arrows on Fire when Jean fights at the siege of Wark in 1380. It was decidedly not practical to use outside of naval warfare.
    • The "wife as property" behavior wasn't as pronounced at the time as it is in the film (it was more the case in ancient Roman/Greek times), and rape could be punishable by death. The real issue was the difficulty of proving the rape, which the film depicts accurately otherwise. Case in point; when Pierre asks Jacques whether he raped Marguerite he's deadly serious, but as soon as Jacques says that Marguerite 'submitted' to him (in his mind, at least) Pierre's fully on his side to try and get the charges dismissed.
    • The film leaves out Marguerite's family's support and involvement in the trial, including one of her cousins who challenged Adam Louvel (Jacques' servant who helped him get into the castle) to a duel as well.
    • The real Jacques Le Gris was knighted before the duel to ensure both combatants are of equal standing (to avoid the possibility of Jean de Carrouges losing against someone of inferior feudal rank). It doesn't happen in the film.
    • The joust helmets with half-visors are pure Rule of Cool. Matt Damon admitted that, as described in the Eric Jager book, the duel would have looked quite un-cinematic as the two duellists were basically walking tin cans with a small eye slit. Here's a common type of joust helmet of the time for comparison.
    • At the end of the film a textual epilogue reveals that Jean dies a few years after the duel in the Crusades, while Marguerite outlived him by thirty years, never remarrying. In fact Jean lived for another ten years after the duel, so most of his marriage to Marguerite was ahead of him, and they had two more children. It is unknown how much longer Marguerite lived.
  • The Atoner: Downplayed. Jacques is overcome with guilt and confesses to a priest... for committing adultery and betraying Jean. He never expresses any remorse for raping Marguerite because he sincerely believes that it was consensual.
  • Awful Wedded Life:
    • Marguerite and Jean do seem to appreciate each other at times, but it's made rather clear that they don't really love each other as a couple should and the marriage is one of finances and producing an heir.
    • Count Pierre introduces his wife to the party as pregnant with their eighth child and telling jokes, which she laughs along with everyone else until she leaves the room and her smile immediately turns into a scowl. Pierre is soon shown to be regularly engaged in orgies.
  • Babies Ever After: The last scene of the movie is Marguerite happily watching her child play in the garden on a sunny day.
  • Babies Make Everything Better: Played with. The birth of a son does not improve Jeans and Marguerite's marriage. But for Marguerite, who has longed for motherhood, he instantly becomes her entire world and the only time she's shown to be truly happy is when she's caring for him. In fact, in the epilogue, she's happily smiling while watching her child play in the garden and has clearly gotten her happy ending through him.
  • Beauty Inversion: Matt Damon as Jean de Carrouges is given a very rough appearance with a nasty scar on his cheek, perpetual grime and unflattering haircut and beard (or at least unflattering by modern standards). Ben Affleck is a little similar, as while he is supposed to be much better groomed as befitting a nobleman the blonde hair and goatee are strikingly out of sync with modern audience tastes and serve a similar role in hiding his handsome features.
  • Berserk Button: Jean does not tolerate any disrespect or affronts to his ego, whether real or perceived.
  • Believing Their Own Lies: Jacques sincerely believes he did nothing wrong, that Marguerite wanted and enjoyed it and that his only crime was adultery and betrayal of a friend.
  • Birds of a Feather: Jacques justifies his fascination with Marguerite by saying they're both more educated as opposed to the less formally educated Jean. During a banquet, Jacques and Marguerite even share a conversation while slipping into German and discussing literature. We see no other overt fraternizing beyond acknowledging the other in passing, but he ends up convincing himself that they were meant for each other.
  • The Black Death: The film's events occur roughly 40 years after the start of the very deadly Plague (or "Black Plague" or "Black Death") pandemic that decimated Europe. It calmed down circa 1353, but there are still outbreaks here and there as characters talk about the economy being slowed down by the loss of workers/serfs to it.
  • Casting Gag: It's obvious that Jean de Carrouges and Count Pierre d'Alençon dislike each other, which played a role in Jean and Jacques gradually becoming bitter enemies. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are real-life friends.note 
  • The Charmer: Jacques is very good at winning people over, particularly women.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Discussed during Marguerite's testimony, during which she is visibly pregnant. The accepted belief at the time was that it was physically impossible for a woman to become pregnant from rape (as pleasure only made it possible for a woman to conceive), so by her testimony, the father cannot be Jacques. Yet, as is pointed out, she has been unable to conceive a child with her husband for over five years, so it would be quite a coincidence if she just so happened to get pregnant by her husband shortly after another man raped her.
  • Corrupt Church: A priest who counsels Le Gris states as a matter of course the enormous number of church officials who are accused of sexual assault and how the religious establishment uses clerical trials to subvert consequences.
  • Courtly Love: Deconstructed; Jacques grows fixated with Marguerite after only one meeting, but he becomes convinced that she loves him back — which, combined with his more sexual roleplays, lead to him believing Marguerite 'submitted' to him. Meanwhile, Marguerite not only doesn't return his love, but she's also horrified and bemused since he springs it on her out of nowhere.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Discussed as to what Marguerite's fate would be should Jean lose. She would be stripped naked, have her hair shaved off, tied to a post, and brutally whipped before being burnt alive. It's also stated that some deaths take up to twenty or thirty minutes of unspeakable agony before actual death. Marguerite is clearly terrified at the prospect of such a fate, pushed to near tears in court as this possible future is graphically described to her, but states her refusal to be silent about her rape.
  • Cultured Badass: Jacques at one point studied to become a priest, and has a good understanding of both Latin and arithmetic. The former gets the Count's attention and favor, amusing him at debauched orgies, while the latter makes him the Count's indispensable right-hand man since he's able to make his Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense master solvent through a mixture of good financial stewardship and ruthlessness.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Count Pierre. He always has a witty remark or withering putdown at the ready, usually directed at Jean.
  • Defiant to the End: With Jean over him with a knife in his face and clearly in a bad position, Jacques still refuses to admit to the rape. After all, from his perspective, he isn't guilty of anything but adultery.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The movie goes fairly deep into the cultural norms of the time, but does so with a subtle eye on the modern-day such that it isn't so absurd as initially presented.
    • Women are considered property of their male caretakers and had very little legal rights without their support. Jean is also very confrontational with the property that forms Marguerite's dowry, making it all clear this was a marriage of opportunity rather than love.
    • Rape itself is not considered a crime in general, only if they were married or otherwise engaged at the time and the man could press charges for "defiling of property". In fact, it was considered relatively standard practice with bands of soldiers invading another area or country, something Nicole even comments on. Even under the perspective of Jacques, the act would not be considered rape, as he sees her inability to resist as her submitting to him rather than him overpowering her. When talking to Count Pierre on the subject he frames it as her resisting him at first "as a lady would" before it becoming "consensual" in his eyes.
    • Marguerite has trouble conceiving a child and goes to a doctor, who proceeds to give very outdated views on medicine, biology and sexual matters. During the trial, the doctors even state that it is not possible for a woman to conceive unless she orgasms with her partner and declares this as "science". Thus, she cannot conceive a child during a rape she didn't enjoy.
    • The punishment for a woman falsely accusing a man (or at least a man in power) is for her to be stripped, shaved, publicly whipped, and then burned alive.
    • It's fairly common for people to kiss each other on the mouth, not romantically but as a mark of good faith which might well have contributed to Jacques believing Marguerite was actually interested in him, even though Jean commanded her to kiss his old friend.
  • Desecrating the Dead: After Jean wins the duel by killing Jacques, the latter's body is stripped naked, dragged behind a horse, and hanged upside down at the gallows.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The film is not at all subtle is drawing parallels between the historic case and modern-day rape cases in how victims are treated and how many women are forced to simply accept what happens and unable to seek justice as the cost, be it to their careers or families, is far too high.
  • Dowry Dilemma: Marguerite's father can't give Jean de Carrouges a dowry as big as he hoped since Jacques Le Gris has confiscated important chunks of land that belonged to him.
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: Jean completely fails to understand how Marguerite has been traumatized by Jacques' rape, focusing on the offense committed against him personally. Marguerite's facial expressions even convey that she can't believe how significantly Jean has missed the point of her coming forward with her rape.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Jean expected to gain command of his father's garrison after twenty years of serving Count Pierre d'Alençon and the king, only to see it go to Jacques Le Gris, and voices his displeasure to the Count.
  • Duel to the Death: The Trial by Combat is one to the death, it's considered that God favors the one who will survive it and therefore the one who said the truth.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: For Marguerite, at least. Despite constant abuse from friends, family and society on nearly all sides, she manages to live in happiness and prosperity for 30+ years in the epilogue with her child and is said to have never remarried after Jean died in a crusade (at the Battle of Nicopolis) just a few years after the public duel. Her genuine smile at the end while watching her child play in a field in particular cement this.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Count Pierre is consistently shown to be a pretty awful human being in many ways, but when Jacques is accused of rape, he is dead serious, asking him straight-up if the charges are true. Only when Jacques assures him that the rape in question was actually consensual adultery and kinky roleplay does Pierre relax and begin plotting to help him get off scot-free.
  • Evil Debt Collector: Originally downplayed. Jacques states to Jean in the latter's chapter that he will appeal to Count Pierre for leniency on his behalf when he cannot pay his debts. However, during Jacques's own chapter, we see him intimidating Jean's father-in-law by having henchmen brutalize a servant to bully him into giving up valuable properties to settle up. It's not done out of greed, since Jacques himself doesn't know his grateful boss is about to gift him said property in thanks, but to help his Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense master become financially stable again.
  • Fearless Fool: Jean is shown to both lack fear and common sense, to his advantage in battle and disadvantage elsewhere. He is a troublemaking servant to his overlord Pierre, a poor husband to Marguerite, and a petty jerk to his former friend Jacques… but he's also 100% serious when curiously wondering why other soldiers are running away from danger, and is an utter beast in combat.
  • Field Promotion: Jean gets knighted during the campaign in Scotland.
  • Fleur de Lis: The symbol of the French monarchy can be seen on the king's regalia and on banners hanging in front of the stands where the king and the queen are watching the joust. There's also a big one above the stands.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: While Jean de Carrouges is exceptionally loyal to the king, has faithfully engaged in regular military campaigns and is seen as a merciful leader for his territory, his Hot-Blooded attitude, sometimes sloppy command style and perpetual demands for more respect has made him disliked among the royal court. Jacques is actually one of the few friends he does have, which he sometimes sabotages by seeing his praise as condescending. Which it may or may not be.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Jean is firmly on the right side and is shown throughout as an honorable person and brave soldier. He is also stubborn, abrasive, extremely prideful, bad-tempered and incredibly self-centered. This ends up somewhat deconstructed as, even while identifying his virtues, his flaws become harder and harder to ignore and Marguerite grows further away from him as a result.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Jean's bitterness towards Jacques comes from his certainty that he deserves honors, positions, and property that Count Pierre instead lavishes on his old and increasingly former friend out of petty dislike, or even because Jacques is poisoning Count Pierre's ears against him.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Marguerite is blonde and a very sweet-natured person.
  • Handsome Lech:
    • Jacques Le Gris has this reputation with the ladies, at least until he rapes Marguerite.
    • Count Pierre as well. Much of his seduction comes from his wealth and status but he's legitimately charismatic and witty and played by the very handsome Ben Affleck.
  • The Hedonist: Count Pierre loves wild orgies where wine flows freely and loose women fly freer. He ropes Jacques into it, in the process distorting the young squire's views on what normal sexual relationships look like and, crucially, whether or not no means no.
  • Heroic Second Wind: Jacques looks like he will come out on top in the duel but a blow to his knee with an ax allows Jean to come out on top.
  • Hollywood Old: The 38-year-old Adam Driver plays Le Gris who was between 48 and 56 when the duel took place.
  • Honor Before Reason: Both men could have avoided this duel to the death if their honor had not gotten in the way.
    • Reason would command Jean to avoid a Trial by Combat as both he and his wife could end up dying because of it, but he pushes through to avenge his honor, which matters more to him than his wife having been hurt/mentally scarred by the rape. Marguerite sees it as going way too far and too big of a risk, while Jean sees it as the only opportunity to get justice against Jacques (the regular courts would go through Count Pierre who would, and does, dismiss the charges, but by appealing to King Charles directly with the promise of an exciting duel he was able to circumvent it).
    • Because Jacques previously trained as a Catholic priest, he could have avoided the duel by pleading benefit of clergy to receive a trial in the Church's court system, where he would have likely received a slap on the wrist. However, he feels that Jean has ruined his reputation by spreading what he feels are false accusations, and so accepts the duel in an attempt to clear his good name.
  • Hope Spot: Trapped in a loveless marriage. Marguerite finds a sense of purpose and happiness managing Jean's estate whilst he is away on a campaign.
  • Hot-Blooded: Deconstructed. Even in Jean's own account, he's an impetuous hothead who acts and speaks before he thinks and gets himself into a mess of trouble in the process, though it's played as him being a straightforward and heroic person wronged by the world. In both the other accounts, he instead comes off as an inconsiderate brute constantly lashing out at others without having the brains to see how he's making problems for himself.
  • How We Got Here: The movie opens with the start of the final duel, then goes back to a decade earlier to show the evolution of Jean and Jacques' relation from friends to bitter enemies. On a smaller level, the film also uses "Rashomon"-Style to tell the story from the perspective of the different characters, and something that was glossed over in one account is given more focus on another.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Jacques is educated in both maths and reading, and ends up being a debt collector for Count Pierre because he is more than aware of how mismanaged his house is at the moment. Jacques does end up organizing their accounts well, and is rewarded handsomely by Pierre by giving him land and a military promotion (both of which were once intended for Jean).
  • Imagine Spot: Jacques and Marguerite's "first night" together as shown in the second part is heavily implied to be this, given how much Marguerite's part of the story contradicts it.
  • Impoverished Patrician: Jean de Carrouges is a noble, but he's not rich, and that's primarily why he marries Marguerite.
  • Irony: While obsessing over Marguerite, Jacques has what turns out to be an Erotic Dream about her coming to his bed-chamber. After he rapes her, multiple characters suggest that perhaps she only dreamed the assault.
  • It's All About Me: In Marguerite's point of view, Jean treats Jacques raping her as an offense against him. Which, in all fairness, is keeping with the overall views of the time during marriage. He also seems to view the battle as a chance to settle his grudge against Jacques with Marguerite outright telling him he's risking her life for his pride. It's telling that the finale after the duel is him enjoying the rapturous praise from the townsfolk and barely paying Marguerite any attention.
  • Jerkass: Most of the characters, both male and female are shown to be deeply flawed and none are particularly decent people with the exception of Marguerite.
    • Count Pierre is shown to be a self-indulgent adulterer who is willing to screw over people he doesn’t like such as Jean.
    • Jean’s mother Nicole is a petty and cruel old crone who never has a kind word to say to anyone.
  • Jousting Lance: The climactic duel between Jean and Jacques starts with a joust where they both break a few lances charging at each other, getting new ones for each charge.
  • Justice by Other Legal Means: Le Gris's political and religious connections make taking conventional legal action against him difficult, if not downright hopeless (Count Pierre was the one to inform Le Gris of the charges and that he would be the one to dismiss it offhand, plus the Church is expected to protect him since he was a clerical student before), which is one of the reasons why Jean de Carrouges petitions King Charles directly to challenges Le Gris to a Trial by Combat.
  • Karma Houdini: Both Nicole (Jean’s mother) who suspiciously took all the servants with her to run errands, leaving Marguerite alone against Jean’s wishes, and Adam Louvel (Jacques’s servant) who tricked Marguerite into opening the door so Jacques could get into the castle, avoid any comeuppance for their roles in allowing Jacques to rape Marguerite.
  • Kick the Dog: Jacques brutalizes servants who interrupt him during his collections and forces Marguerite's father to give up his most valuable estate, one which he especially wanted to leave her. He even states it's worth twice what his debt to Pierre is and Jacques merely mockingly tells him to imagine "how wonderful it will be to be completely free of debt."
  • Knighting: Jean gets knighted during the Scotland campaign, which at least allows him to "bring something home" from said disastrous campaign. Jacques, meanwhile, never rose about his squire rank.
  • Lack of Empathy: Downplayed with Jean. He does care very deeply about right and wrong, but he's so thoughtless and impulsive that it honestly never occurs to him to even try to see things from others' point of view. Throughout the other two chapters, he completely fails to read the motivations, intentions, or even basic feelings of others, to the point that when his wife confesses to being raped in the third chapter, his first thoughts are of how he has been wronged by Jacques, and the scene ends with him brusquely ordering her to bed with him. To his credit, Jean does visibly feel bad about it when confronted directly and publicly by Marguerite.
  • Last of Its Kind: As the title suggests, the duel between Jacques Le Gris and Jean de Carrouges that occurred on December 1386 was the last legally sanctioned Trial by Combat in France. note 
  • A Lighter Shade of Grey: Jean is a deeply flawed person. Even when the story is told from his perspective, he has a Hair-Trigger Temper, rages at how little respect he gets for his services to the king and is embroiled in the cultural norms of the time. As the narrative switches the point of view his flaws become more pronounced, but even with Marguerite she recognizes that at times he can be a decent man and acknowledges with sincerity that he does care and provide for her; plus while he takes her rape as an affront against him, he still stands by her testimony throughout and never considers that she might be lying, which is more than just about anyone else involved in the trial does. This is contrasted with Jacques, who is presented much more favorably at first, but the orgies he engages in with Count Pierre and of course his rape of Marguerite paint a picture of a fundamentally worse person.
  • May–December Romance: Jean is clearly a good bit older than Marguerite (Matt Damon is twenty-three years older than Jodie Comer).
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: It remains unclear as to who the father of Marguerite's baby is, especially considering she and Jean had been married for five years previously with no children despite trying hard for them. The film itself also leaves the answer ambiguous; the child is blonde, but many white children at that age are before their hair starts to naturally darken as they grow older. Also, he could very well have simply taken after Marguerite in his appearance.
  • Meaningful Echo: At one point, Jacques engages in rough but apparently consensual sex with a woman after pursuing her, telling her "If you run, I will only chase you." Later on, he chases down Marguerite in her home and believes she's coyly playing with him like the other women he's had sex with. In reality, she's genuinely terrified of him and actually desperately trying to get away from him.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer depicts Nicole's "power of men" line as part of a conversation with Marguerite, and a (cynical) condemning of the patriarchy. In truth, the line appears when Nicole is discussing the case with Jean. While she does express similar sentiments to Marguerite later in the film, her lines have an undercurrent of Quit Your Whining.
  • Nice Girl: Marguerite is regularly shown as being a kind and good-natured person who treats others with respect, which makes what happens to her even worse.
  • Nobility Marries Money: Even though they're nobles, the Thibouville name is tainted with some infamy since Marguerite's father once sided with the English. But they're much richer than the Carrouges, and the Carrouges name has more prestige, so Jean marries Marguerite primarily out of this.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Despite the film being set in France, Jodie Comer maintains her natural British accent, albeit a very different one from her natural and extremely strong Liverpool accent and both Ben Affleck and Matt Damon keep their Boston-American accents as does Adam Driver. The supporting characters also do the same.
  • "Not If They Enjoyed It" Rationalization: This is what Jacques' defense boils down to; since Marguerite physically climaxed, she must have enjoyed intercourse, which makes it consensual. (It's not at all suggested that this is a mere physical response to sexual touching and that Marguerite still never gave consent and protested.)
  • Obliviously Evil: Jacques genuinely doesn't think he did anything wrong beyond infidelity and disrespecting his friendship with Jean.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Marguerite and Nicole can barely stand each other.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: Jacques assumes Marguerite is just teasing him and playing hard to get, seducing him when she kicks off her shoes before climbing the stairs to her bedroom. When the same scene is played from Marguerite's point of view, there's nothing playful or teasing about it when she instead desperately rips them off when they impede her ability to get away from him by climbing the stairs, as well as showing her saying no multiple times, continuously begging him to stop and crying during the rape which were absent in his version of events.
  • Pet the Dog: For all his shitty behavior, Count Pierre's friendship with Jacques is entirely sincere and he greatly respects him and allows him to climb to a much higher rank than a man of his background would normally achieve. He's also shown to be sincerely devastated when Jacques dies in the final duel.
  • Poor Communication Kills: The initial major dispute between Jean and Jacques involves a valuable piece of property, promised to Jean as part of Marguerite's dowry before Jacques demands it from Marguerite's father without knowing who that dowry was intended for. Both men sincerely feel they were wronged, Jean that he was cheated out of something promised to him by perfidious legal means, Jacques and Pierre that an arrogant vassal troubles the king himself trying to demand a piece of property he never owned in the first place.
  • Pride: Jean's defining trait. He takes every affront, real or perceived, to his ego extremely personally, is regularly enraged at how little respect he feels he gets for all his services from Pierre and flies into a rage whenever he feels disrespected in any way. It's made clear he sees the titular duel as much as a chance to win the glory he feels he is owed and prove his status as God's righteous warrior as it is to defend Marguerite, who outright tells him with disgust that he's risking her life to protect his pride.
  • Quit Your Whining: Nicole is annoyed that Marguerite is making a case of her rape, and feels she should simply deal with it quietly. Nicole's rationalization for her attitude is that Nicole herself was raped in the past, but because she chose to keep silent about it, she is still alive. Though Nicole has no answer when Marguerite asks her about the "cost" of keeping quiet about her rape for all these years. When Marguerite later gives birth to her son, she also hints at this type of attitude, saying how she should have stayed silent to ensure a long life with her son as opposed to risking the chance of leaving him orphaned and without her.
  • Rags to Riches: Jacques came from a modest background but rises to become the right hand of Count Pierre.
  • Rape and Revenge: After Jacques rapes Marguerite, Jean seeks his head as recompense and Marguerite wants justice for what was done to her. The movie is actually something of a deconstruction of this as it's highlighted that Jean cares more about his own honor being besmirched by his former friend than Marguerite's suffering. If Jean loses the duel not only will he die but Jacques will be found innocent, resulting in Marguerite being horrifically executed as a false accuser. Jean is willing to risk both their lives for the sake of honor, although at the same time it's the only way Marguerite will get justice.
  • Rape as Backstory: Nicole has been raped too.
  • Rape as Drama: Marguerite accuses Jacques Le Gris of having raped her. Both Jacques and Marguerite's viewpoints portray the events that surrounded that incident. From Jacques' perspective, Marguerite was resistant at first, and just playing hard to get, but consenting in the end (though even his sequence doesn't really show that kind of reaction from her). From Marguerite's own viewpoint, she wasn't at all willing; she screams for help, says no repeatedly, struggles against him, and cries during the whole scene.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Rape is not treated in a modern sense, that is a crime that physically and mentally hurts the victim (though this is essentially how Marguerite sees it) that must be punished because of this. Rather, it's frowned upon because Jacques is accused of having committed a major offense to Jean de Carrouges since Marguerite is his "property"; at no point is Marguerite's suffering brought up against Jacques.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: The movie is divided into three sections, each told from a different point of view. It also takes the extra step of each viewpoint being written by a different person: Matt Damon for his character Carrouges, Ben Affleck for Le Gris (who he was originally intended to play), and Nicole Holofcener bringing a female perspective to Marguerite. Uniquely, very few scenes and dialogue overlap, with a focus more on what part of an event mattered most to the individual perspective. Unlike the Trope Namer, the differences between the different accounts are exceptionally minor with it being more about body language, camera angles, and the Exact Words that were used. Everyone is legitimately trying to tell the truth... but not all perspectives are created equal.
  • Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense: Both Jean and Count Pierre are hopelessly lax when it comes to managing their properties and collecting rent.
    • It's implied Jean's Perpetual Poverty is as much a result of his inability to collect from his tenants on schedule and poor stewardship skills as actually being diplomatically isolated by his feuds; Marguerite learns from one of the local peasants that he regularly forgets to inquire when said peasant offers two months' rent unprompted and it's shown that he micromanages the skilled professional horse-tenders even when he's not present. After he dies shortly following the end of the film, Marguerite spends the rest of her life in prosperity and peace without remarrying to secure any type of security; implying she is able to turn a profit long-term on land her husband couldn't.
    • The Count, meanwhile, comes to rely on Jacques to handle his money for him, even disrupting Jacques's late-night calculations to demand he engage in more debauchery with him.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: A movie about a rape accusation and a "your word against hers" situation, a perpetrator escaping punishment for some time thanks to his connections. The movie was made during the #Metoo era, and it shows.
  • Rugged Scar: Jean de Carrouges has a prominent and nasty-looking one on his cheek, as shorthand for his historical background as a more experienced combat veteran.
  • Rule of Symbolism: A sequence during Marguerite's chapter has Jean showing off a beautiful white mare with respectable pedigree that he intends to breed many foals from. Then an aggressive black mustang comes charging into the paddock, mounts the horse and begins mating, sending Jean into rage as he tries to beat the horse off his prize brood mare. The comparison to Marguerite's situation is about as subtle as a brick to the face.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Jacques is in good with the King and several other government figures who would undoubtedly tamper with any trial, another big reason Jean goes with a duel instead.
  • Self-Serving Memory:
    • Both Jean and Jacques liked to view events in ways that favor them as being honorable, misguided, humble, or caught in unfortunate circumstances. When the narrative shifts to Marguerite, the subtitle leaves "The Truth" as the last words still on-screen. Importantly, though, the actual events are depicted as largely accurate in all three POVs, with the difference being mostly one of emphasis...which means that even in Jacques Le Gris's memory, there is blatant clarity to the audience of what he is actually doing, even if his perspective ignores it.
    • Each man remembers saving the other during a battle. Likewise, when they try to make peace years later, each remembers saying "let there be peace among the King's allies." In Marguerite's version, it's a different lord who says that.
  • Slut-Shaming: Poor Marguerite is subjected to this several times during the film, especially after reporting her sexual assault:
    • First, when she hears of the latest fashion trends in Paris and gets a dress with a nice cleavage that she thinks will please her husband upon his return from war. Unfortunately, the only reaction he has is finding it indecent and comparing her to a whore.
    • As a Kick the Dog moment, when Jean and Marguerite come forward to their friends about the rape and want to spread the news to force legal attention, her own close friend turns on her. She brings up the fact that Marguerite said she found Jacques attractive and, based on this detail, refuses to believe she was raped. When Marguerite reminds her that all the women (said friend included) said the same thing, her friend bluntly says that was "different" and makes Marguerite out to being in the wrong.
    • Later, during the hearing in the Palace of Justice, Marguerite is subjected to leading questions, pointing to how she admitted to finding Jacques physically attractive beforehand. When Marguerite paints the whole picture behind this comment, she reminds them how she said it in an off-hand comment before saying that Jacques had questionable character. However, this point gets dismissed and the court only chooses to focus on her having found Jacques attractive.
    • It's further suggested in court that she may have enjoyed the sexual assault due to her pregnancy, hewing to Medieval beliefs about fertility being tied to sexual pleasure. They also use this to bring up how odd it is that she's suddenly pregnant after years of failed attempts at children with her husband to discredit her testimony.
  • Shown Their Work: The duel was exceptionally well-documented for the time, with numerous witnesses writing their own accounts to the point that it can be reconstructed just about blow for blow. The film takes great care to be accurate to this.
  • Spiritual Successor:
    • To Gladiator. Both are Period Piece movies directed by Ridley Scott featuring scenes of graphic violence, and both end with two main characters fighting a Duel to the Death in front of a large audience.
    • It could also be seen as one to another Period Piece and Scott's debut film, The Duellists. Both The Last Duel and The Duellists cover a narrative centered on an ongoing feud between two men, spanning several years, while also going to great lengths to capture the historical settings and intricacies of the titular duel (or duels in the latter's case) in exceptional detail. Both were also filmed in the French department of Dordogne, which is exceptionally well suited for period pieces set in either The Middle Ages or The Cavalier Years with all its preserved castles, medieval towns and forests.
    • To Rob Roy, another period piece ending with a Trial by Combat between a man who thinks through Honor Before Reason and a cultured and depraved man who raped the other's wife and is protected by his liege lord.
  • The Squire: Both Jean and Jacques have this rank at the start of the story. Jean gets knighted during the Scotland military campaign later on, while Jacques remains a squire (in France, nobles who never rose to the rank of knight were still called "squires") up until the final duel, wherein they are both referred to as knights. In the real duel, he was knighted just before the duel to prevent Jean being killed by an inferior; presumably this happened off-screen.
  • Stalker with a Crush: From Marguerite's perspective (and from his own, once the audience sees past his delusion of himself) Jacques is this; they meet only once and he barely makes an impression on her, then he turns up at her home, essentially forces his way in, declares that he loves her (naturally shocking her given that, again, she's only met him once), and does not take no for an answer.
  • Stunned Silence: When Jean kills Jacques by stabbing him through the mouth with a knife, everyone goes silent with shock.
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome: Jacques as is standard for any character played by Adam Driver. The women in the court, including Marguerite, comment on his good looks. This comes back to haunt her during her trial, since the court brings up the fact that she admitted finding Jacques handsome to discredit her.
  • Take That!: During Marguerite's trial, one of the priests proclaims that a woman can't get pregnant through rape and such a claim is backed up by "science", a very clear direct jab at Republican Todd Akin's notorious "legitimate rape" quote from 2012 that naturally sparked public anger.
  • Throwing Down the Gauntlet: Jean de Carrouges literally throws a gauntlet on the ground before King Charles to provoke Jacques Le Gris into a Trial by Combat.
  • Toxic Friend Influence: Count Pierre's friendship with Jacques involves copious amounts of debauchery and orgies. It also gives him a distorted view of romantic relationships and, crucially, teaches him to see women saying ''no'' to sexual advances as a flirty game of seduction, rather than an actual refusal.
  • Tragic Villain: Jacques gains a great deal of power and wealth as a result of his friendship and utility to Count Pierre, and gets to enjoy the temporary pleasures of the Count's debauched lifestyle — but in the process, he loses a close friend in Jean and ultimately his life. In addition, it's not only directly stated that his reputation for excess has made it hard for him to pursue healthy, normal romantic relationships (at one point in Marguerite's point of view, when he tries to flirt with a noblewoman she's already had a bad report of him from other women and rejects him, and even in Jacques' own point of view Marguerite says that her husband doesn't trust him) but the viewer is also shown how Jacques' lifestyle actually distorted his own ability to distinguish between pornographic fantasy and reality, meaning he fixated on Marguerite and genuinely came to believe she loved him after meeting her once. This culminates in Marguerite being raped when he misinterprets her refusals as coyly playing hard-to-get, and even at the point of death he denies that he raped her because, from his point of view, he didn't. The film overall humanizes him and tries to help the audience understand him, without ever condoning or trying to excuse his actions.
  • Trial by Combat: Jean requests a duel to the death against Jacques to "let God decide" about the rape accusation of his wife against Jacques since all the other justice appeals fail. The duel itself is the climax of the movie.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Jean and Marguerite. Marguerite is also significantly younger compared to her older and battle-scarred husband.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: When Jean returns from a brutal and draining campaign in Scotland, and Count Pierre is discretely setting him up for yet another public humiliation, Jacques speaks up on his old friend's behalf, to try to drum up support for him among the courtiers. Unfortunately, Jean has become so blinded by bitterness that he can only hear Jacques snubbing him by omitting his recently-obtained knightly title of "sir," which Jacques then begins coldly adding to all their communications. Jean is the only one who doesn't notice, and it's the last straw for their friendship from Jacques's perspective.
  • Villainous Friendship: Downplayed, the film spends great effort humanizing and fleshing out Jacques, and it's the Count's debauched lifestyle that leads Jacques to make poor choices later on, but while Count Pierre is largely shown in an extremely unflattering and unsympathetic light, his most positive quality is his close friendship with and trust in Jacques. He's utterly distraught and devastated when Jean kills him, and stays behind to watch Jacques's body stripped and hung, weeping.
  • War Is Hell: Medieval war is cold, bloody and brutal. Jean's campaign does not give him much of the wealth and glory he seeks.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Jean and Jacques were old war friends, and would often vouch for each other in various matters. But Jacques found favor with Count Pierre and, intentionally or not, was constantly receiving property and promotions that Jean was in line to receive. They would go back and forth in their closeness over the years, but evidentially Marguerite's rape shattered anything that remained.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Despite repeatedly highlighting the pregnant Queen Isabeau as the only person with true sympathy for Marguerite, the film doesn't mention that her son Charles was born very sickly. He dies soon after, with King Charles refusing to go through the usual mourning period in favor of holding a massive series of parties leading up to the duel.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: After the duel where Jacques is killed and Jean wins, it's said that Jean died a few years later in The Crusades and Marguerite lived another 30 years in prosperity, never remarrying. (In real life Jean died ten years later, he and Marguerite had two more children together, and it's unknown when she died.)
  • Wrecked Weapon: Jean breaks Jacques's sword during the Trial by Combat.

"I will not be silent."

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