Tristan and Isolde

Discussion in 'Western Martial Arts' started by komuso, Sep 17, 2007.

  1. komuso

    komuso Valued Member

    Hi all,

    apologies if this is a particularly stupid question, but hey, you dont know if you dont ask....

    I sat up and watched the movie Tristan and Isolde the other night. The shining light in what was otherwise a pertty ordinary movie was the fighting, which looked oddly brutal and direct when compared with lots of other European sword based things I have seen.

    Did it have any involvement from the western martial arts folk, or am I barking uo the wrong tree here (again)

  2. RAbid Hamster

    RAbid Hamster Herr Trubelmacher

    Haven't seen the movie (sorry) but the fight director was Petr Nusek who is the same guy who runs this place...
    If he was showcasing Johann Lichtenauer's style as this website says he teaches then its probably VERY real.
    German longsword (which I know) is really direct, pretty brutal and to the point (pun intended). Theres very little mincing about in the german styles.
  3. Stolenbjorn

    Stolenbjorn Valued Member

    Never any stupid questions, only stupid answers :)

    I don't know if any wma'ers have been involved in the coreography of that movie. I've seen it as well, and didn't recognise any particular WMA-techniques.

    My guess is that it's just another movie with show-fighting, just as Gladiator. People like me, that think that real fighting looks cool on movie is not heard amongst direcots of movies getting inspiration from european history, they all seem solidly embedded in the wiew that actor-fencing have more appeal than "real" fighting.

    The movie from the west that I've found to at least try to incorporate something is Kingdom of Heaven, where they actually refer to vadi (the fact that vadi lived some 300 years after the time of the crusades should perhaps be forgiven :rolleyes: )

    Apart from that, Troy, actually have some awsome fighting that intentionally (or coincidentally) resembles fighting from Fiore di Liberi (I'm in particular refering to the spear-duel between Achilles and Hector)
  4. Langenschwert

    Langenschwert Molon Labe

    I did like the scene in Tristan and Isolde where they had the kids practicing with wasters. :)

    Other than that, there has never been a decent or realistic portrayal of medieval European fighting arts in cinema. It's been pretty much a pile of pants all around. Utter crap and drivel in all respects. But let me tell you what I really think... ;) There has apparently been a decent job done with the odd movie with rapiers, but I haven't seen any.

    Though, FWIW, in The Princess Bride, when Wesley and Inigo are duelling, the masters mentioned (Agrippa, Capoferro, etc.) are real rapier masters whose treatises are avidly studied today. The fencing is still crap. ;)

    Best regards,

  5. Louie

    Louie STUNT DAD Supporter

    Hi Mark...
    What's your opinion on the Harvey Keitel movie 'The Duellist' - I first saw it on TV many years ago and it was one film where the saber/rapier fights seemed believable... It stuck in my mind so much that 10 - 15 years later I bought it on DVD last week :Angel: Mind you I enjoyed and bought 'By the Sword' too :ban:

  6. koyo

    koyo Passed away, but always remembered. RIP.

    Hi louie

    I have been pushing those western swordsmen to watch duellists for yonks. Maybe they will listen to you.

    regards koyo
  7. Polar Bear

    Polar Bear Moved on

    How about the Prisoner of Zenda, the fight between Stuart Granger and James Mason both of whom supposedly were fencers or even Scaramouche with Stuart Granger again.

    The Duellists is a good movie but I can't remember the fighting particularly. The only duel that sticks in my mind is the one on horseback.

    The Bear.
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2007
  8. RAbid Hamster

    RAbid Hamster Herr Trubelmacher

    while no student of sabre or small sword ... the fight scenes look good to me - especially the injuries during the sabre fights! :eek:

    on the dvd extras Ridley talks about the fight scenes saying that they were as authentic as they could manage with 2 actors who insisted in doing their own fight scenes with steel weapons! Those sabres aren't that blunt and the small swords didn't have buttons on the end!! The cellar sabre fight is particularly brutal.

    To anyone who doesn't know the movie ... BUY IT ON DVD!

    IMDB entry for the duellists

    Scaramouche is considered an all time classic and I think the small sword fencing is legit ... but then again it is closer to its origins than older weapons.
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2007
  9. RAbid Hamster

    RAbid Hamster Herr Trubelmacher

    if anyone fancies reading the rather good joseph conrad short story that inspired the duellists you can find it here ... for nothing!
  10. Langenschwert

    Langenschwert Molon Labe

    I haven't seen it yet. It's on the list, though. :)

    Best regards,

  11. Langenschwert

    Langenschwert Molon Labe

    OK, I've youtubed one of the scenes from the Duellists.

    First of all, beautiful cinematography. I'm going to buy the movie for that alone. I watched the smallsword duel in Strausborg. Beautiful smallswords as well. I want one. Mine is an antique from Prussia, but it is only ceremonial.

    The fight itself: Keep in mind that I'm no smallsword fencer. However, the fact that they're attempting to cut with a smallsword is borderline ridiculous... some smallswords have minimal cutting ability, but most are AFAIK edgeless. Might as well try cutting with a knitting needle. Smallswords are for thrusting, even more so than the rapier. It doesn't look they're gripping the swords correctly, either.

    Look here:

    That being said, the fight looks great. It's well choreographed, but smallsword fencing it ain't. It is stage combat, and a nicely done combat at that. The Duellists came out in '77, right? That puts it a full three years before the current WMA revival. There was a revival in late 19th early 20th century (go look up cats like Hutton and Castle), but it didn't last, thanks to The Great War. At the time of the movie, Historical European Swordsmanship simply didn't exist for the most part. The only European sword arts out there were "sporting" foil, epee and saber, and stage "combat". There are/were classical fencers out there who train(ed) as if the weapons were sharp (i.e. for a formal duel), but that's still rare.

    Nonetheless, looks like an awesome movie. :)

    Best regards,

  12. RAbid Hamster

    RAbid Hamster Herr Trubelmacher

    bit unfair there dude especially as you haven't actually seen the whole movie and all the duels... especially as the only ones that matter are between Feraud and D'Hubert

    harassing slashes are part of rapier. if someone thought themselves to be superior (as Feraud thought himself and indeed was), a slash would be a contemptuous move almost inviting like say alber or nebenhut. Also his opponent in the Strasbourg duel (the mayors cousin?) was a very poor fencer who was getting his @ss handed to him thus a certain desperation on his part.
    In a later small sword duel (in the mist) between Feraud and D'Hubert - obviously both skilled small swordsmen, the points never come offline, its all point work, it lasts seconds and you can barely see the strike (I think one actor's got the point across his ribs when they did the scene - I wont say which actor got hurt to preserve who won that duel) ;)

    it is a great movie - was really happy when I got it in a sale for £6.99.

    ps: if you like I could watch all the fight scenes tonight (to refresh my memory) and write a quick para on each.
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2007
  13. Devon

    Devon Valued Member

    The fights in the Duellists were choreographed by William Hobbs, who was a pioneer in both researching historical fighting styles for stage combat and in staging realistic fight scenes for movies and theater.

    For practical purposes, 1977 was about two decades before the present WMA revival, which really only got underway once the Internet became ubiquitous. However, Bill Hobbs and his colleagues in England - mostly fencers and professional fight directors - were among those who were actively researching historical combat styles at that time.

    Smallswords of this period frequently did have sharp edges, partly to prevent the opponent from catching the blade in his free hand (which is featured in the Duellists fight scene referenced here). Also, I'm not seeing any cuts as attacks in this choreography, except as beats to the opponent's weapon, which is entirely realistic. Feraud (Harvey Keitel's character) does allow himself a few slashes out of distance, which read to me as expressing impatience with his opponent, intimidating him, etc.

    When assessing any choreographed fight in a work of drama, it's extremely important to remember that the combat is not intended as a literal representation of any fighting style. A good fight choreographer will do his research and take inspiration from history, but must prioritize safety and dramatic storytelling over historical accuracy. Miss that point and you risk mistaking drama for educational documentary.

    All that said, IMO the best fight scene in the Duellists is actually the savage saber combat that takes place in a barn about 1/3 of the way into the story. Please note that it is not a textbook display of military saber fencing, nor is it supposed to be. It is, however, one of the most realistic depictions of two desperate men trying to kill each other with swords ever put on film.
  14. RAbid Hamster

    RAbid Hamster Herr Trubelmacher

    what I particularly like about the sabre duel in the cellar is that the scene starts at the end of the fight. Both exhausted and almost unable to stand, both cut to ribbons, blood everywhere and still they fight on! You can read nothing into that scene with regard to technique.

    The other sabre fight on foot (at Feraud's lodgings at the beginning of the film) is also not a 'textbook display of military saber fencing' as Feraud is wound up, angry and fighting as a Buffel (buffalo). D'Hubert is almost totally defensive and in very tight quarters. Again nothing can be pointed at as being 'wrong'.
  15. Langenschwert

    Langenschwert Molon Labe

    Oh, quite possibly. I'm going to buy it and give it my full attention. And I enjoyed the fight nonetheless. I still the "swordfighting" in Lord of the Rings, for that matter. I'm a geek, what can I say? ;)

    That's smallsword, not rapier. They are different (but related) beasts.

    Fair enough.

    Now that's what I'm looking for. :)

    That would be neat. I'll expect a full report in the morning, filed in triplicate. And I'll take my tea in the den. :D

    Best regards,

  16. Langenschwert

    Langenschwert Molon Labe

    Is that the same guy who did one of the Three Musketeers movies? I heard that a lot of research went in to one of those as well.

    True enough. From my own perspective, my teacher was in on the ground floor with the current revival, training with people who until that point didn't know anybody else was doing it. Very pre-internet. Though it was the internet that brought ME in. :)

    See now that's cool.

    Like I said, I'm no smallsword fencer. However, I was under the impression that it was more likely to use an engagement (presence du fer?) like a rapier stringere to initiate attacks in smallsword than to use a beat. Am I incorrect?

    Oh, I'm quite aware of that. All I'd like added to movie swordfighting is some good solid technique that does the art justice. That and keeping blatant asshattery (say rigid edge on edge parries at 90 degrees with a longsword, knights that can barely move in their armour, etc.) to minimum.

    I'm looking forward to it. :)

    Soundly corrected with very best regards,

    -Mark :)
  17. Devon

    Devon Valued Member

    Hobbs staged the fights for the 1970s Three Musketeers and the sequel, the Four Musketeers. He also plays an assassin who takes on Porthos (IIRC) in one of the fight scenes. Quick answer, yes, he did his research (hence the realistically long and weighty rapiers, etc.) but these films were action/comedies so there was a lot of artistic license available for the choreography.

    I was pre-Internet. I think "rapier fencing" was the first search-term I ever entered.

    Difference between an academic fencing match (text-book technique) and a duel, let alone a duel staged in a work of drama. The beats were much more vigorous than would be encouraged in a formal training/fencing situation, but the dramatic point was that these men were trying to kill each other; lots of adrenaline flowing.

    Aldo Nadi, a famous Italian fencing master of the early-mid 20th century, once fought a duel with sharps and was afterwards appalled at how badly his form had suffered. His students actually couldn't believe that he'd "broken form" so much, but as he said afterwards, "all I could see was the point of his sword". As a fight choreographer, Hobbs is also a master at portraying the realistic effects of pain, fear, etc. on textbook form.
  18. Langenschwert

    Langenschwert Molon Labe

    Su-weet! :) I'm glad we have someone of your experience here. Terry Brown stops by from time to time as well.

    Best regards,

  19. Langenschwert

    Langenschwert Molon Labe

    Yes, I read his account of it. One of the best reads I've ever had. It's online somewhere. I'll have to find a link and post it.

    Best regards,

  20. koyo

    koyo Passed away, but always remembered. RIP.

    My wife STILL hates Keitel after that film. Worth watching just as a movie. Ridley Scott is amasing. Then he does Alien in another genre , still the best.

    regards koyo

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    Last edited: Sep 19, 2007

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