Elective Affinities II: The Duellists (1977)

by Nandia Foteini Vlachou

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“A Russian Cossack in the forest”, The Duellists (1977), dir. by Ridley Scott, cinematography by Frank Tidy

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Caspar David Friedrich, The Chasseur in the Forest, 1814, oil on canvas, 66 x 47 cm, Private collection

Caspar David Friedrich, The Chasseur in the Forest, 1814, oil on canvas, 66 x 47 cm, Private collection

Ridley Scott’s first feature The Duellists (1977) is a feast for the eyes – and I was surprised to find out that its impressive cinematography did not secure a brilliant future career for Frank Tidy. The film does not so much quote specific paintings; rather it displays the director’s keen eye for composition, unmistakable feeling for the period, and more than a superficial knowledge of European art. One thing I have always admired in Ridley Scott’s films is precisely the visual and compositional aspect of them, the insistence on details and the capturing of an atmosphere that transports the viewer into the materiality of the world represented. I have been waiting many years to catch the film (I was hoping it would be on the big screen, but the DVD with Scott’s commentary was an additional treat), and I’m more than happy to add my visual commentary to it: stills as paintings with titles, related to actual paintings.

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“An Hussard charging against his opponent”, The Duellists (1977), dir. by Ridley Scott, cinematography by Frank Tidy

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Théodore Géricault, An Officer of the Chasseurs Commanding a Charge, 1812, oil on canvas, 349 x 266 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris

Théodore Géricault, An Officer of the Chasseurs Commanding a Charge, 1812, oil on canvas, 349 x 266 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris

“D’Hubert, in front of his horse”, The Duellists (1977), dir. by Ridley Scott, cinematography by Frank Tidy

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George Stubbs, Otho, with John Larkin up, 1768, oil on canvas, 101.3 x 127 cm, Tate Britain, London

George Stubbs, Otho, with John Larkin up, 1768, oil on canvas, 101.3 x 127 cm, Tate Britain, London

“The Russian Campaign (detail)”, The Duellists (1977), dir. by Ridley Scott, cinematography by Frank Tidy

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Antoine-Jean Gros, Napoleon Bonaparte on the Battlefield of Eylau, 1807, 1808, oil on canvas, 521 x 784 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris

Antoine-Jean Gros, Napoleon Bonaparte on the Battlefield of Eylau, 1807 (detail), 1808, oil on canvas, 521 x 784 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris

“Still-life with glass of wine and pears”, The Duellists (1977), dir. by Ridley Scott, cinematography by Frank Tidy

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Cornelis Kick (1635-1681), Still-Life with Silver Cup, oil on panel, 44 x 34 cm, Private collection

Cornelis Kick (1635-1681), Still-Life with Silver Cup, oil on panel, 44 x 34 cm, Private collection

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“Still-life with mouse and feather”, The Duellists (1977), dir. by Ridley Scott, cinematography by Frank Tidy

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Willem van Aelst, Still-Life with Mouse and Candle, 1647, oil on copper, 19 x 25 cm, Private collection

Willem van Aelst, Still-Life with Mouse and Candle, 1647, oil on copper, 19 x 25 cm, Private collection

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