The Duellists

The Duellists ( The Duellists ) is a British film of Ridley Scott , released in 1977 . The film features Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel .

Prize of the first work in Cannes in 1977 , the scenario is taken from the new Le Duel by Joseph Conrad , published in 1908.


In 1800 in Strasbourg , Lt. Gabriel Feraud from the th Hussars Regiment severely injured the nephew of the mayor during a duel with swords. Brigadier General Treillard then ordered Lieutenant Armand Hubert of th Hussars Regiment find to put under arrest. Hubert finds Féraud in the salon of a lady, and the latter takes the order to stop for an affront and encourages Hubert to a duel saber, which ends in favor of Hubert.

Faced with the vengeful and unreasonable attitude of Feraud, a friend of Hubert informs him of the means of avoiding a future duel; if they do not meet physically at the same place, if they are of a different rank in the army, and if the nation is at war, which becomes the case. Six months later in 1801 followed a short period of peace when Féraud and Hubert met again in Augsburg . In their new duel with the sword, Hubert is seriously injured. Recovering his strength, he trains in arms to prepare for the next fight where the two officers fight with the sword until the mutual exhaustion. Shortly after, Hubert was promoted captain.

In 1806 in Lübeck , Hubert was recognized in a brewery by Féraud, who was also promoted captain and who provoked him to a new duel. The duel took place on horseback, and Hubert managed to wound Feraud at the top of the front. Féraud is then transferred to Spain , so the two officers do not meet again until the Grand Army is reunited in 1812 during the Russian campaign . The two men find themselves alone and fight a small group of Cossacks , after which Hubert offers to Féraud that their next duel is done with the pistol.

Two years passed, and during the exile of Napoleon on the Isle of Elba , Hubert, now Brigadier-General, healed peacefully from a wound in his leg in his estate of Tours with his sister. The latter introduces him to Adele, and the couple gets married. Shortly after, a Bonapartist agent found Hubert to join the Emperor who had just escaped his exile, but Hubert refused. On hearing the news, Féraud, also Brigadier-General, accuses Hubert of always lacking loyalty to the Emperor. After the Hundred Days , Napoleon is finally defeated and Hubert joins the armies of Louis XVIII. He learns that Féraud has been arrested and will be executed for his rallying to Napoleon, and convinces the police minister Joseph Fouche to spare Féraud, but wishes that his intervention on his behalf remains secret.

Shortly after, Féraud finds Hubert and provokes him in a duel with the pistols. But during the duel, Féraud pulls his two pistols without touching Hubert, so he is at his mercy. D’Hubert chooses to spare Féraud, but informs him that his life henceforth belongs to him and that he will have to submit to his will by acting as death in the case of a possible future meeting.

Technical sheet

  • Title: The Duelists
  • Original title: The Duellists
  • Director: Ridley Scott
  • Script: Gerald Vaughn-Hughes from The Duel by Joseph Conrad
  • Production: David Puttnam
  • Production Company: Paramount Pictures
  • Music: Howard Blake
  • Photography: Frank Tidy
  • Editing: Pamela Power
  • Country of origin: United Kingdom
  • Format: Colors – 1.85: 1 – Mono – 35mm
  • Budget: 900,000 USD
  • Genre: Drama , Adventure
  • Duration: 95 minutes
  • Release date: August 31, 1977 (France); December 1977 (United Kingdom)


  • Harvey Keitel (VF : Pierre Trabaud) : Gabriel Féraud
  • Keith Carradine (VF : Bernard Murat) : Armand d’Hubert
  • Albert Finney (VF : Pierre Garin) : Joseph Fouché
  • Edward Fox : Colonel
  • Cristina Raines (VF : Béatrice Delfe1) : Adèle
  • Robert Stephens (VF : William Sabatier) : Général Treillard
  • Pete Postlethwaite : Domestique du général Treillard
  • Tom Conti (VF : Jacques Thébault) : Le docteur Jacquin
  • John McEnery (VF : Roger Crouzet): Chevalier
  • Diana Quick : Laura
  • Alun Armstrong : Lacourbe
  • Maurice Colbourne : Second
  • Gay Hamilton : Domestique de Féraud
  • Meg Wynn Owen : Léonie
  • Jenny Runacre : Mme de Lionne
  • Alan Webb (VF : Claude D’Yd) : Chevalier de Rivarol

The model of the character of Gabriel Féraud

Fournier ” el demonio “, inspirer of the duelist Féraud

After scouting in the south-west of France, Ridley Scott chose Sarlat and its surroundings ( Commarque Castle ) as a backdrop for his film. He also chose the castle of Repaire (between St Martial de Nabirat and Salviac). The country of Sarlat is a wet and as green region (according to him) as Ireland; it corresponds to the aesthetics he wants to give to his film (a “stratosphere as fine as a silk sheet” 2 ). It was the mayor of Sarlat who revealed to him the coincidence that the news of Conrad, on which the film’s scenario is based, is in fact based on a local history: the Grande Armée did have two officers who had agreed to fight in duels each time they meet, one of which,François Fournier-Sarlovèze (who will become General Count François Louis Fournier Sarlovèze) is from Sarlat (hence the extension of Sarlovèze to his name). The second is Pierre Dupont de l’Etang , aide-de-camp to General Moreau .

Fournier, who was nicknamed “the worst subject of the army,” inspired the character of Gabriel Féraud, played by Harvey Keitel. Quarrelsome and duelist, Fournier provoked and killed in a duel in 1794 a young Strasbourg named Blumm. Captain Dupont was instructed by General Moreau to prevent Fournier from going to the ball he was giving the same evening. This was the origin of the first duel between the two men, with the sword, which Dupont carried off. The two men clashed over twenty other occasions for nearly twenty years, using all sorts of weapons. Fournier even drafted a charter, which sealed the agreement between the duelists as follows:

“Article st . Whenever MM. Dupont and Fournier will be thirty leagues distant from each other, they will cross each half of the way to meet sword in hand;

Article 2. If one of the two contractors is prevented by his service, he who is free will have to travel the whole distance in order to reconcile the duties of the service and the requirements of the present treaty;

Article 3. No excuse other than those resulting from military obligations shall be admitted;

Article 4. The treaty being made in good faith, the conditions laid down by the consent of the parties can not be waived. “

These facts 3 , 4 largely inspire the scene of the first meeting of the main characters of the film and part of the subsequent meetings. The rest of the real story between Fournier and Dupont was fictionalized for the purposes of Conrad’s fiction, and again for Scott’s.

Similar to Barry Lyndon 

The photograph, the rhythm, the punctual narrator that initiates certain sequences, recall Stanley Kubrick’s film Barry Lyndon (1975) . Ridley Scott will say himself:

“This film is very much inspired by Barry Lyndon . But who would not have been influenced? […] I admired Barry Lyndon a lot . This film really influenced me. That comes from the fact that we have the same references ( sources ): those of Kubrick are the painters, consequently they became mine too. “

During the filming, Ridley Scott had the idea to use some fixed shots inspired by paintings like so many transitions between the scenes. He noted that some critics of the time they found the film “too good”, which led eventually to not take criticism, good or bad, too seriously 2 .


The film was shot in Corrèze , Dordogne, Périgord Noir and Sarlat-la-Canéda and its surroundings.


  • Cannes Film Festival 1977 : Prize of the first work


The film inspired the th song on the album Powerslave by Iron Maiden , also named The Duellists .

Notes and references

  1. ↑ (en) ( dubbing tab )  [ archive ]
  2. ↑ a and b Coming from the comments of the DVD Paramount Collector’s Edition published March 13, 2003
  3. ↑ According to James Landale, The Last Duel: A True Story of Death and Honor
  4. ↑ See on Sarlovèze-Fournier, the worst about the army [ archive ] .

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