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Two officers in Napoleon's army violently confront each other in a series of savage duels that escalate into a consuming passion that rules the lives of the men for the next thirty years.
Genre: Feature Film-Drama
Release Date: 19-AUG-2003
Media Type: DVD
- Commentary by Director Ridley Scott
- Duelling Directors: Ridley Scott and Keven Reynolds featurette
- "Boy and Bicycle" - Ridley Scott's first short film
- Photo Galleries
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If you enjoy a decent costume drama – with an emphasis on the costumes, you may enjoy this one. You may also just enjoy it as an outlier of late 70s cinema. In any event, it has its own charm and is worth your time provided you are in an expansive and forgiving mood.
This was the film that launched Ridley Scott's career. It was made on a puny budget. Scott's massive talent is married to a text from a master short story writer. After 40 years it holds up remarkably well.
The Duelists is on my list for the top ten War films of all time. All excellent War films are anti-war films as well.
Buy it. See it. Share it.
If you like The Duelists you may also enjoy my new book America Invades: How We've Invaded or been Militarily Involved with almost Every Country on Earth with Stuart Laycock and Italy Invades
I was a competitive fencer for nearly 20 years and a lifelong recreational fencer, who has also done some theatrical work. I was nearing the height of my competitive career when this film was released. I knew former national champions, Olympic team members and trained with them and many others. Everyone agreed that this film portrays dueling, which fencing is based on, more accurately than any other film before or since- including "By the Sword."
Willliam Hobbs, the fight director in this film and a former competitive fencer from Australia, makes a cameo appearence in the scene of the second encounter where D'Hubert is practicing with him in the background as Faraud rides up. (Hobbs shows up in all his films somewhere - check out Polanski's Macbeath). Hobbs has many films to his credit and at least was a top if not the top fight director in the 70s and 80s. I think this is his best work since it shows dueling most realistically. How do I know? Trust me, I know. Fencers tend to be intolerant of nonsense. But one may also consult Aldo Nadi's book on fencing and read his description of a real duel he fought in the 1920s.
Based on a short story by Joseph Conrad who wrote on a real series of duels between two antagonists that began during the Napleonic Wars, The Duellists is informative and beautiful. The calvary duel is particularly so as it is realistic. We can imagine the feelings of a man who has no wish to be repeatedly drawn into duels by a nemises who will not let him be. It is glimse into the Western tradition of chivalric honor and the ancient rule of trial by combat that makes this film so fascinating.
Supported by a wonderful caste of British character actors, Americans Keith Carrdine and Harvey Keitel are only slightly out of place. Keitel moreso with his Brooklyn accent. Regardless Keitel overcomes this with a convincing portrayal of a hotheaded zealot, unreasoning in his pursuit of his self created foe. A great line offered up by a doctor describing him to D'Hubert after their first encounter "The enemies of reason have a certain blind look. He has that look, don't you think?"
A great film for a rainy afternoon.