‘The Last Duel’: When Speaking Truth to Power Self-Destructs
“The truth does not matter. There is only the power of men.” These words come from The Last Duel , Ridley Scott’s historical drama about the last sanctioned trial-by-combat in medieval France . This particular movie has been on my radar for a while, as it touches on topics I have spent years researching and writing about. My friend Jonathan Broxton describes the focus of the film thus: “the powerlessness, lack of agency, and mis-treatment [sic] of women throughout time.” The story, he says, helps us see “how comparatively little has changed over the course of the past several centuries in terms of how sexual assault is viewed differently by men and women.” As such, I am grateful for the opportunity for collective introspection provided by big-screen treatments of this subject. In spite of my excitement over The Last Duel , however, there is a problem. Two problems, actually. In attempting to address the debasement of women in society, the movie inadvertently debases its actresses.