It is the era of Napoleon, and France is involved in conflicts on all sides, without and within. The monarchy may be gone, but there is still a strong class distinction between the old, genteel aristocracy and the new, boisterous men of the people who have risen to new positions of power. This tension is evident in the army, as demonstrated by two young, upcoming cavalry officers: the genteel, reserved Lieutenant Armand D’Hubert (Keith Carradine) and the belligerent, ferocious Lieutenant Gabriel Feraud (Harvey Keitel). Feraud, despite being one of the new guard, has embraced certain old-fashioned romantic ideals. He has adopted a rigid, outdated concept of personal honor that treats the smallest slight, whether real or perceived, as a grave insult. He has also become a fierce devotee of dueling as the only appropriate way to expiate such insults. Ironically, although he a product of the aristocratic society that gave birth to such romantic notions of honor, D’Hubert takes a more tolerant, perhaps more enlightened view of such things. His sense of personal honor is no less strong, but is certainly less bloodthirsty. For D’Hubert, honor is an internal matter; for Feraud, it is an external matter. –DVDVerdict
One of the most promising directors of the late ‘70s, Ridley Scott displayed stylistic flair and remarkable storytelling abilities in such films as The Duellists (1977) and his landmark Alien (1979). Born in 1937, in Northumberland, England, Scott was educated at the West Hartlepool College of Art and London’s Royal College of Art. After completing his education, he became a set designer for the British Broadcasting Company in the early ’60s, eventually getting promoted to director of such popular BBC series as the long-running police adventure Z Cars. With the establishment of his own firm, Ridley Scott Associates, Scott was in on the ground floor of some of the most inventive European TV commercials of the 1970s.
The director’s transition to the big screen came with his direction of 1977’s The Duellists, a visually striking Napoleonic war film that won the Jury Prize for Best First Feature at the Cannes Film Festival. Further success followed with 1979’s Alien, which established… read more
The much-vaunted, Magic Hour beauty of The Duellists often distracts attention from its intriguingly absurd and admirable, almost Pythonesque, premise. Despite its pictorial aspirations, the excellence of its cast's performances moves it away from the area of turgid Period piece, and from the leaden influence of Kubrick's galumphing Barry Lyndon.
ridley scott's fantastic first feature film, which was inspired by kubrick's barry lyndon. the duellists is a worthy homage to barry lyndon and a film which stands on its own merits as well. the long standing feud, interrrupted several times by war, is an interesting one. the final scene is wonderful and breathtaking as well. keitel is perfectly cast as the hot headed feraud. carradine is equally good as the slow to anger d'hubert.
It had an interesting premise, but in execution it doesn't really work. It just kind of meanders along, and every now and again there's a beautiful shot, but I never felt much dramatic tension. Everything just happened and whether these characters survived or not meant very little to me.
Howard Blake’s duel cues and Prokofiev pastiches for Tony Scott’s debut film.