Tag Archives: The Rashomon Effect

My Thoughts on: The Last Duel (2021)

I was so excited by the idea of The Last Duel. It’s directed by Ridley Scott (he who gave us Gladiator and Alien just to name two), it was based on a true story, and its all-star cast included Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and Adam Driver. The 2 1/2 hour run time made me a little antsy, but I’ve sat through long movies before (Avengers: Endgame being the most recent example that I can think of), so I hoped it wouldn’t be an issue. The story, for those not familiar, is based on the true story of when Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris fought a duel to the death after Carrouges’ wife Marguerite accused Le Gris of raping her. It should be a completely compelling story.

Then I actually went to the movie theater and watched The Last Duel and I left disappointed.

It’s not all bad. At its heart, The Last Duel contains a very important message about rape and being held accountable for one’s actions, even if all the world says you shouldn’t say such things. I can’t fault the film in that regard. I should also say that Jodie Comer and Adam Driver both turn in magnificent performances and the titular duel itself is a thing of beauty to behold. If you make it all the way through the movie to the duel, you will not be dissatisfied.

No, my big issue is with how the film is put together. The story elements are good, they really are, but the way they’re put together…a big chunk of the film comes across like a disjointed mess. One scene will cut to another and it’ll take you a few minutes to realize that years have passed between these two scenes. It’s just not how I would’ve imagined a story like this being told. I thought it would be one big epic like Gladiator and that’s not what we get.

The large scale format of how The Last Duel is told is interesting, I’ll give it that. The story is essentially divided into three perspectives, with each retelling of the story emphasizing (or glossing over) certain story elements based on whose perspective is being shared. It’s the classic Rashomon effect, where we see the same story from multiple perspectives, except that instead of the true outcome being left completely up to the audience to decide, it is subtly hinted that one of the viewpoints is actually the true one.

I think part of my problem is that I misunderstood what this story would be about. The trailers led me to believe that the issue at question was whether or not the rape took place. It sounded like this was going to be strictly a case of “he said/she said” with the truth ultimately left unrevealed.Maybe I should’ve known better given what I read of the real life story before going to see the movie…but that’s what I get for misreading the trailer I suppose.

I can’t in good conscience recommend The Last Duel, but I am curious to see what all of you thought about the film. Let me know in the comments below and have a great day!

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Film 101: The Rashomon Effect

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poster from Rashomon

It’s been a long time since I updated Film 101, so I decided to pick something that I’ve wanted to cover for a while: the Rashomon effect, which you’ve most likely seen even if you didn’t know it was called that.

First, the definition: The Rashomon effect occurs when the same event is given contradictory interpretations by the different individuals involved. The name derives from Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 film Rashomon, where the murder of a samurai is described in four mutually contradictory ways, with the final description presented as “the truth.”

If this sounds familiar, it’s because it appears a lot in crime shows (imagine episodes of CSI where different suspects are being interviewed and they each describe what happened from their perspective, but everything is different each time it is told). Another good example is the third season Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “A Matter of Perspective” where Commander Riker is put on trial for allegedly murdering a scientist. Using the ship’s holodeck, the events are recreated using each person’s testimony, with radically different interpretations of the same events.

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Still from “A Matter of Perspective”

The Rashomon effect is interesting because it often forces the audience to ask themselves “what is the truth?” and even when the “solution” is given, there is sometimes an implication that there is no correct answer and the truth must be determined for oneself. As a side note, given that the characters involved give contradictory accounts of certain events, they can also be considered unreliable narrators (meaning, unlike certain shows where you have no reason to question what a character says, an unreliable narrator cannot be trusted under any circumstances).

Thinking about the Rashomon effect, do any examples come to mind? List one or two in the comments below, along with what you think about the Rashomon effect (like, is it still a good technique or has it had its day?) Have a good day and thank you again for supporting Film Music Central 🙂

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Film 101

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