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Life & Style

Film on rape in medieval France reunites Ben Affleck and Matt Damon on big screen

Affleck said there were residual aspects of the same victim-blaming mentality today.
13 Sep 2021

Actors and close friends Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are reunited in The Last Duel, Ridley Scott’s epic drama about the rape of a noblewoman in medieval France which premieres at the Venice Film Festival on Friday.

The film tells the true story of the last lawful duel in 14th century France, when two knights squared off to determine the veracity of the woman’s claim that she was raped.

Damon stars as her husband Jean de Carrouges, fighting to avenge her and restore his family’s honour by challenging his old friend-turned-rival Jacques Le Gris, played by Adam Driver.

Affleck arrived in Venice flanked by singer Jennifer Lopez, in their first outing at an official event since they recently rekindled their romance after 20 years.

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“Yes, I do consider myself a feminist,” Affleck, who in the film plays an all-powerful, macho count, told reporters.

“It was important, I thought, and interesting to tell a story that wasn’t just an indictment of one bad person, but that pointed to the cultural antecedent that Europe and countries colonised by European countries share, which is one that didn’t view women for many, many, many centuries as human beings.”

Considered as her illiterate husband’s property, Marguerite de Carrouges, interpreted by British actress Jodie Comer, risks being burned at the stake by speaking out.

Affleck said there were residual aspects of that mentality “in the disproportionate power that men have in society” today.

The film is divided in three chapters, each one written from each of the three protagonists’ perspectives, with some scenes repeating the same dialogues but with the body language subtly tweaked to reflect the different points of view.

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The film was co-written by Affleck and Damon, the first time the two actors have worked on a script together since Good Will Hunting, the 1997 movie that won them an Oscar for best original screenplay.

They drafted in Nicole Holofcener, a director and screenwriter who was a former student of Martin Scorsese, to write Marguerite’s point of view.

“We found it in an entirely different process this time,” Damon said, recalling that when he and Affleck wrote Good Will Hunting, thousands of script pages had ended up not being used.

“One of the things that had kept us from writing for so many years was the way we wrote back in the 90s, when we were 22 and 20 years old, was really inefficient.”

This time, the script — based on the book of the same name by Eric Jager — took just six weeks and came together very quickly around Christmas 2018, Scott said.

He said the actors had had to shoot a big part of the duel scenes themselves: “All the stuff on foot is all them. And it was probably the most brutal thing I’ve ever had to do...that took a lot of effort, six days of incessant detail and violence.”

At 83, the Blade Runner, Alien and Thelma Louise director said he was still looking for something “fresh” to do, and would like to make a musical or a western next.

The Last Duel is screening out of competition at the Venice festival, which ends on Saturday.

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