The Last Duel, a historical drama directed by Ridley Scott, premiered in September 2021 at the Venice Film Festival. It offers a glimpse of medieval Normandy. The movie is written by Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and Nicole Holofcener and is based on the book "The Last Duel: A True Story of Trial by Combat in Medieval France" by Eric Jager.
The film tells the story of two friends-turned-foes, Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris. Squire Jean de Carrouges challenged his former friend to a judicial duel after Marguerite, Jean's wife, accused squire Jacques Le Gris of raping her in her home castle.
The Last Duel was shot in France (Château de Beynac, Château de Fénelon, Forteresse de Berzé-le-Châtel, Abbaye de Fontfroide) and in Ireland (Cahir Castle). I believe it would be interesting to learn a bit of curious facts about these authentic places.
Chateau de Beynac
Let's start with Chateau de Beynac in Beynac-et-Cazenac, Dordogne, Nouvelle-Aquitaine. It is one of the most famous and well-preserved chateaus in the region. It was used to represent the interiors of the Carrouges' Estate and both interior and exterior scenes set at Fontaine-Les Sorel castle, the home of Marguerite's family.
Its walls were once guarded by some of the greatest historical figures - King Richard I "the Lion-Heart" of England or Simon de Montfort, leader of one of the crusades – to name a few. It is believed that deep inside the heart of the fortress, you can still hear the sound of fierce battles of the Hundred Years War – the war between the Crowns of England and France.
Chateau de Fenelon
The 13th century castle is located in Sainte-Mondane, Dordogne, Nouvelle-Aquitaine. The medieval fortress stands on the lands of the Périgord Noir, famous for its truffles and foie gras. Remember Jacques Le Gris' arrival at the Carrouges' castle? The scene was filmed at Château de Fénelon.
The castle was used for exterior scenes, which took place at Belleme Fort as well, where Jean's father was captain. Interestingly, the chateau has an imposing slate roof and the mysterious cabinet of curiosities and its mermaid of the China Seas.
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Forteresse de Berze-le-Chatel
This chateau is located in Berzé-le-Châtel, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté. The 10th century fortress with its fourteen towers, which was built over an 1,100-year-old Carolingian chapel, is the largest in southern Burgundy. It was used to depict the Carrouges' castlea and Belleme Fort in various scenes of the movie.
This former Cistercian monastery is located some 15 kms from Narbonne in Occitanie, close to the Spanish border. The abbey was founded in 1093 and took its name from a nearby spring called the Fons Frigidus, or the Cold Fountain. The cloister and the church were used during the filming, the latter was remade into the courthouse attended by Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris.
Back in the 14th century the abbot of the monastery Jacques Fournier led the court of inquisition against the last Cathars - so popular in Occitanie at the time. The man was elected pope in 1334 under the name of Benedict XII, built the Palais des Papes in Avignon and died there 8 years later.
Cahir Castle in Ireland
This castle is deemed to be one of the largest castles in Ireland and it also dates back the 12th century when it was built by lord Conor O'Brien on a site of an earlier native fortification called a cathair (stone fort), which gave its name to the place. The stronghold on a rocky island on the River Suir was later granted to the Butler family.
Cahir Castle featured in David Lowery's The Green Knight, a movie based on the medieval story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Stanley Kubrick's 1975 drama Barry Lyndon and John Boorman's Excalibur also used the castle as the setting. The castle was also used as a location for television series The Tudors, Saban's Mystic Knights Of Tir Na Nog on Fox Kids and The Conflict television film.
One of the best medieval drama films The Last Duel has surely evoked, yet again, interest to all things medieval – be it castles, knights, dames, battles, way of life or law.