SPOILERS are ahead for The Last Duel. Meet us back here once you’ve seen Ridley Scott’s medieval epic.
Before there were courtroom dramas, there were medieval duels, which had two men fighting to the death to solve some kind of disagreement rather than hire lawyers and sit before a jury. The last time one of these duels was officially recognized by the crown was in December of 1386 in France between a knight and a squire. This event in history is subject of Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel, which has Matt Damon and Adam Driver playing the two men, Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris, meet each other in the ring on horseback concerning a matter of the rape of Jean’s wife Marguerite de Carrouges. Let’s talk about The Last Duel ending.
The Last Duel starts on the day of the duel, but before it shares the results of Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris’ fight, the movie shares the three perspectives at the center of why the duel takes place. Matt Damon’s Jean de Carrouges challenges Adam Driver’s Jacques Le Gris to a duel in front of King Charles VI after his wife, Jodie Comer’s Marguerite de Carrouges tells him that Jacques raped her on a day when Jean was away at a battle and his mother and the guards were away on errands. Let’s break down what happened and how the movie left its audience.
What Happens At The End Of The Last Duel
After much of The Last Duel spends time on the point of views of Jean and Jacques, the third act points to Jodie Comer’s Marguerite and as the movie suggests, her perspective is the “truth” of the three. Marguerite was raped by Jacques and she told her husband, Jean, but his decision to challenge Jacques to a duel was in part due to seeing his wife as his property and additionally because he and Jacques had a falling out years prior.
Marguerite testifies in court about the rape and it’s revealed that she is pregnant after her and Jean had been trying to conceive for some time. There’s a possibility that Marguerite is pregnant with Jacques' child, but this detail is never explored further in The Last Duel. As Marguerite speaks out, she receives pushback from the women in her life. Jean’s mother (played by Harriet Walter) reveals that she has also been raped, but decided to keep it quiet to stay alive. Marguerite’s best friend Marie (played by Tallulah Haddon) does not believe her and provides to the court that Marguerite had expressed belief in Jacques being handsome prior to the incident.
It’s decided that Jean and Jacques will fight to the death so that God may decide which party is right. If Jean dies in the fight, Marguerite will be burned alive and her child orphaned to punish her for lying. If Jacques dies in the fight, Jean and Marguerite de Carrouges can continue to be a family. After a grueling battle, Jean kills Jacques and justice is served. Jacques' body is dragged into the dirt and hung in the town square as Marguerite finally fulfills her purpose and desire to raise a child. Jean dies in battle a few years later and it is said that Marguerite never marries again.
Trial By Combat Explained
Trial by combat, also known as wager of battle, or a judicial duel, is a common function used in the middle ages to settle disputes, per History News Network. It wasn’t used for all disputes though, mainly these combats were employed when there was not enough evidence, witness or a confession to determine the person at fault. In Great Britain and Ireland, trial by combat was used for settling civil disputes rather than something like a murder case. At the time, it was believed that a duel placed a situation in the hands of God to decide who lives and who dies based on being innocent or guilty in his eyes. The parties involved would have to proclaim in an oath that they are telling the truth. As The Last Duel showed, each of the three involved made this oath, leaving the verdict at the time to trial by combat to seal who is right and wrong.
As we know, innocent people die and guilty people die and are killed everyday, so even though the duel did in fact bring justice to Marguerite, she could have just as easily been burned alive if Jacques was victorious instead.
What Happens Between Jean de Carrouges And Jacques Le Gris?
Marguerite’s rape that led to the duel and Jacques being killed in front of a kingdom is much more nuanced in the film than one might gather from reading the facts in a history book. As The Last Duel illustrates, Jean and Jacques were once friends who fought side by side in battle. However, as the movie progresses Jacques finds friendship in Ben Affleck’s Count Pierre d'Alençon and becomes treated more respectfully in the court than Jean is. In one pivotal scene, Jean explodes on Jacques in front of everyone for not calling him “Sir.’
It’s very possible that Jacques was attracted to pursuing Marguerite due to his own jealousy that his friend was with a beautiful woman after their falling out. Psychologists believe that much of the time the act of rape is about dominance and control and in this situation, Marguerite was caught in the middle of two men with deep-seated power issues with each other. That comes to an absolute breaking point with the duel when Jean kills Jacques after Jacques rapes his wife.
What Happens To Marguerite de Carrouges After The Duel?
The Last Duel also very much leaves audiences with the realization that although Marguerite is in the middle and technically the subject of the trial by combat case, it does not benefit her. If Jacques had killed Jean he would have died a brave man, who only believed his wife and Marguerite would have been villainized and died an agonizing death. And in terms of the fate she received, her husband is blinded by his own ego and ends up dying in battle anyway. She gets to raise a child, but mostly alone and possibly with a son who is the offspring she biologically shares with her rapist.
The Last Duel’s ending is straightforward, but one that holds a deep message to be unpacked. After you’ve seen The Last Duel, there’s many other new movies to check out. You can make your next movie picks with CinemaBlend’s 2021 movie release schedule.
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