Starring: Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne,
David Warner, Carice van
Houten, Kimberly Nixon
Runtime: 97 minutes
Distributor: Magnet Releasing/Magnolia
Director: Christopher Smith
Executive Producer: Mark Woolley, Chris Curling
Producer: Jens Meurer, Douglas Rae, Phil
Robertson, James Saynor,
Robert Berrnstein, Matt
Writer: Dario Poloni
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Along the way, the leader, Ulric, picks up a novice monk-in-training, Osmund, for extra Godly protection, but the young novice already has doubts about his vocation due to secretly loving a woman. His faith is further tested by the brutal events that occur on their journey.
Eventually, the men get to the mysterious village, where they are treated to nicely before they realize their drinks have been drugged. They all wake up in captivity, awaiting torture and death if they refuse to renounce their faith in Christ. All but one man maintains their faith, with two killed for it, before the monk and other protagonists engage a quick battle to surprise the townspeople and prevent them from killing the others.
In the end [SPOILER ALERTS], the young monk returns to his monastery but has changed for the worse. Thus, the only other surviving person narrates that the young man has gone mad and wants to engage in wanton killing in the name of taking out witches, even if he’s killing the wrong women. Ultimately, both the Christianity of the men and the paganism of the townspeople are seen as false.
BLACK DEATH comes down first on one side, then the other, offering some sympathetic, positive views of the Christian characters. In the end, however, both sides are shown to be suffering under delusions that, taken to their extreme, lead to brutality.
The direction by Christopher Smith and writing by Dario Polone are sometimes impressive, especially when making a fully believable medieval world come to life. Alternating between graphic action and subtle, intelligent dialogues about God, good and evil, the movie offers some food for thought. The cast – particularly Redmayne as the young monk and Van Houten as the lead witch – are outstanding, making “Black Death” grim but provocative fare. The violence is excessively graphic at times, however, and the movie finally reveals its humanist, anti-supernatural viewpoint. Thus, in the end, viewers have been duped, and there are no real heroes, just brutal misguided fools. In a way, this is a trick ending that only secular humanists may enjoy.
The direction and writing in BLACK DEATH are sometimes impressive. BLACK DEATH comes down first on one side, then the other, offering some sympathetic, positive views of the Christian characters as opposed to the pagans. In the end, however, both sides are shown to be suffering under delusions that, taken to their extreme, lead to brutality. Also, the violence is excessively graphic. Only atheists may enjoy BLACK DEATH’s trick ending.