Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Black Death (2010)

My synopsis: God may have caused the black plague (to punish the wayward, of course) but a Celtic witch can cure it, if the people renounce God. God of course can't have that so he sends his best to put an end to it. This movie comes with a 14th century zombie!

A couple of months ago I really wanted to see a medieval movie. That is a movie that takes place or contains subject matter that takes place in a medieval age. To my sadness there wasn't really anything I could find that either interested me enough or that I hadn't seen. That was until I saw an add from our local art house theater boasting Black Death as a brilliant piece of British cinema. This is the same theater that also praised Le Horde which I reviewed around Halloween, so instead of giving them ten dollars, I found it much cheaper myself and gave it a watch. Although I was glad to save the ten dollars I'm still iffy on whether it was worth the two hours. I will of course explain.

First, this movie stars Sean Bean, he's pretty much the go to guy when you need a standard villain or secondary companion for a medieval hero. So I was surprised to see him play a lead even if it was a secondary lead. He was, of course, his usual charming self, which only makes it all the more interesting.

So Black Death follows a young monk who chooses to leave his happy monastery in order to help Sean Bean's crusade to a village known to be untouched by the plague. Rumor is that it is being run by witch and such a den of Satan must be investigated and shut down. Because, as everyone knows, the plague is the wrath of God and anyone who may have found a way to thwart God's plan is in league with the devil.

Ok, so the swordplay was almost non existent and the sorcery was limited to a bastardization of Druidism. Still it was mildly entertaining. The torture device they have is pretty cool. As to the reason why the plague hasn't been to this village it's pretty obvious to the modern viewer. The village is surrounded by swamp. The plague, we know today, was actually spread by rats. I'm pretty confident rats don't choose to swim very often, thus no plague. So not only did God not actually cause the plague but no level of sorcery had anything to do with the village being devoid of plague. It's just that no carrier has been able to get there and spread it. That brings us to the true dilemma of this film.

Artfully presented, and taking into consideration the ignorance of the time period, faith in God is facing off with faith in paganism. And for possibly the first time there isn't a clear answer. Both sides are clearly twisted in their own way. The Druid has managed to turn the monks lover into a zombie and the Christians have a torture devices. In the end I had a hard time picking sides, finding the final outcome distasteful from both sides. It did little make either look worthy of adoration. I choose to believe that was the film makers goal and it was executed brilliantly.

So, if you're a history nut who likes a dilemma in which you find yourself trying to educate the characters on the screen about the follies of science, and witnessing the best and worst of God loving and hating people. I'd say it's worth a watch. No big medaeval battles though which is the best part of the crusades if you ask me. Innocents being slaughtered and such. But there was a zombie! Did I mention that?

Til next we bleed,
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