France, 1801. Due to a minor, perceived slight mild-mannered Lieutenant d'Hubert is forced into a duel with the hot-headed, irrational Lieutenant Feraud. The disagreement ultimately results ... Read allFrance, 1801. Due to a minor, perceived slight mild-mannered Lieutenant d'Hubert is forced into a duel with the hot-headed, irrational Lieutenant Feraud. The disagreement ultimately results in scores of duels, spanning several years.France, 1801. Due to a minor, perceived slight mild-mannered Lieutenant d'Hubert is forced into a duel with the hot-headed, irrational Lieutenant Feraud. The disagreement ultimately results in scores of duels, spanning several years.
And the immersive world. Scott usually aims for this, and this is from a time he did it well. He takes from Kubrick the idea of natural light that, once the camera locks in, will look and move (and slightly breathe) like a Romantic painting. The era is Napoleon's, and at least the wintry march back from Russian defeat provides opportunity for some astonishing images.
Some words exhaust their meaning, when thrown without care; so it's not enough to call this existentialist. The story is that an army officer bears an inexplicable grudge that spans 20 years and half of Europe.
Everything you need to know is in the last scene, expertly executed. The idea is that something deeply not-logical gnaws and eats at man's soul and sniffs for blood. And that men, this is strictly male, have lived with this aspect of self for so long, we have developed separate not-logical tools that allow us to not only instinctively respond to the call, however reluctantly, and in spite of recognition of how insane it is, but to silently respect and defend it as its own kind of logic (in our case, the concept of honor).
In the last scene, we have two men seeking each the other to eliminate him from existence, as simple as that. It's the oldest game men have played, and the same thrill resurfaces across poker tables and football. It's got to have something of death in it, if it is to matter at all.
And I have a book called Bushido: The Soul of Japan here with me, retrieved from a shelf because the film sparked an interest, that explains how the blade is the samurai's extension of soul and imbued with the same discipline.
The two rivals have fenced for the entire film, but settle on pistols for the deciding duel, and wander about in a forest, two shots each, meaning they will be able to instantly discharge what is in their soul.
Each man in the shot he takes reveals who they are, one of them rash and impertinent, and fires first, they other level-headed and reserved. The subtle context of the scene is that politics do decide war from afar, in our case the slippery (faulty) pair of boots of the aristocratic boot-maker.
Which is, in a third level, a beautiful way of putting the subtle discord strummed by the universe that creates a slippery world and illogical selves of us, dumb chance as fate.
And suffice to say, the film is British, so you will not learn it here, but in spite of the probably British-started legend, the French are historically the best tactical warriors in Europe. There is a reason why nearly every word in the modern lexicon of war is originally French, and that includes honour.
- Aug 30, 2012