Entertainment Weekly - 12/13/2002
"...The duels themselves have a visceral energy, but Scott's talents really shine in the sweeping outdoor panoramas and indoor shadowplay..."
"To the surprise and admiration of their fellows, two officers, like insane artists, trying to gild refined gold or paint the lily, pursued a private contest through the years of universal carnage." Thus wrote Joseph Conrad in the opening paragraphs of the story that provides the basis for Ridley Scott's first feature. During the era of the Napoleonic wars, a conflict arises between two of the emperor's cavalry officers when one of them, the aristocratic Lt. D'Hubert (Keith Carradine), is sent by his superior to deliver the message to commoner Lt. Ferraud (Harvey Keitel) that he's to be placed under house arrest for having wounded a man in another duel. Since Ferraud is with a woman at the time, he takes offense at the intrusion and challenges D'Hubert to a duel. Their match, though fierce, is without resolution. Whenever their paths cross, they continue their battle, fighting a series of six duels over the course of 14 years, paralleling Napoleon's major battles of the period. Scott's meditation focuses on the absurd vanity behind the old European code of honor--and the nature of warfare itself. All the distinguishing marks of Scott's later work is already on display here, from the meticulous re-creation of period costume, decor, and behavior to the lush, carefully composed photography.
Director Ridley Scott's atmospheric first feature film, set during the Napoleonic Wars, follows a pair of French officers as they fight a series of increasingly vicious duels.
Essential Cinema |
Period Piece |
Theatrical Release |
Theatrical release: January 14, 1978 (N.Y.).
THE DUELLISTS was shown in competition at the Cannes Film Festival on May 23, 1977.