The Duellists (1977)

When it comes to making a movie, the filmmaker wants to make it as perfect as possible. But there are some films that are just perfect; it’s almost too good to look at. Enter “The Duellists”, a 1977 period piece set in France starring Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel, and making his film debut as a director for this movie is Ridley Scott, who would later go on to direct such hits as Alien (1979) and Gladiator (2000). This film is an example of just because a movie looks absolutely beautiful, doesn’t mean the rest of the film is going to be great. And “The Duellists” has some flaws, not a whole lot, but some. It has the potential of being a good movie to watch to keep you entertained.

The plot of “The Duellists” revolves around two military men, during the time of Napoleon in the early 1800s. After a horrible confrontation in a duel with Gabriel Feraud (Keitel), Armand d’Hubert (Carradine) tries to make Feraud apologize for his actions. Feraud sees d’Hubert’s words and challenges him to a duel. After this encounter, we see both characters fight numerous times, over a 20-year period to be exact, and both men are irrefutable until the end of the film. We see several instances where both characters meet each other and it seems like they are going to fight, yet they don’t do so either it be a personal matter surrounding them, or it’s the area that they are in. This is crucial in one particular moment in the film where both characters have loaded guns, in the middle of a snow flurry, yet they do not fight due to the extreme weather conditions surrounding them. By the end of the film, one character dies and the other lives; thus the duel between the two men is now over.

“The Duellists” excels in quite a lot of things that make a perfect film. For one thing, the scenery is just amazing to look at. Aimed with good lighting, and well-crafted sets, we get a travel back in time to when the events of the movie take place, and where the characters went. The acting does a standout performance from Keitel and Carradine that you forget to pay attention to the other actors and actresses. For his first time in the director’s chair, Ridley Scott does a pretty good job at handling the film accordingly. The music fits well with the film and it’s a pretty good score to listen to. “The Duellists” is a good film that is nice to watch for some wonderful technicalities, but everything else in the movie just doesn’t fit too well.

There are some things that make “The Duellists” turn some people off. For one thing, the scenery, along with the lighting and the sets, can become a distraction making the viewer look the other way instead of paying attention to the action. While the main actors display brilliant performances in the movie, the supporting cast does little to nothing at all to advance the movement of the action. It seems like these supporters are only here on screen just to be on the set for a short amount of time, and that’s all we ever see of them. Finally, the editing could have made the film a little longer, but since the production was on a tight budget, we have to settle for this finished product. This film could have been a lot better, but we have to settle for what we got.

Overall, “The Duellists” is an overlooked film that has some major flaws. It has its moments, but the film could have been easily improved if the budget was expanded. “The Duellists” is a marvelous film to look at, which may be the only reason to add it to your collection, but it’s one you just may like. The overall production on this film is a good piece of quality, yet the end result doesn’t qualify as a masterpiece, but it’s a good movie nonetheless.

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