Monday, November 22, 2010


Directed by Christopher Smith

Sean Bean - Ulric
Eddie Redmayne -  Osmund
Carice van Houten - Langiva

Set during the time of the first outbreak of bubonic plague in England, a young monk, Osmund, is tasked with learning the truth about reports of people being brought back to life in a small village.

I'm just going to say this right away. This movie is dark. There is no happy feel to the movie whatsoever. It doesn't shy away from showing more than likely what really happened during the Dark Ages when there was only Christianity and every thing else was evil. There really aren't any undamaged characters in this film and I think that is what makes this movie so good. Every character is flawed to some extent. 

Black Death is a character movie, meaning this movie was carried by the actors through and through. Not one actor tried to outdo the other from what I could tell and that is a good thing, for if someone had actually tried to, it would have ruined the movie completely. Sean Bean was amazing in this movie as the driven witch hunter Ulric sent by the church to find out why a village hasn't had any deaths since the black plague hit. Even though Bean's character seems to be filled with complete rage barely held in check for what has happened to him and his complete disdain for anything ungodly, it is only to cover for his caring for those around him in this world full of death and his belief in the church. This is shown by his killing of a young woman accused of being a witch, which we find out later why he did it. While Bean's character can be seen as jaded,  Redmayne's Osmund can be seen as innocent. At least at the very beginning of the movie and that doesn't last long. If you can say anything about this movie I would say it's about the corruption of the innocent in this case Osmund. Redmayne's acting in this movie is quite well done and a lot of the degradation of his character can be seen from his eyes. From bright eyed at the start of the movie to lost and hollow at the end from what all he has gone through and seen and the guilt he suffers because of it. John Lynch should also be mentioned for his portrayal of compassionate and tired of seeing death Wolfstan who has no doubt on where he is going when he dies. If there was one character I wish was more in this movie it would be him.

The look of the film, from the cold monastery at the beginning, to the dead village halfway through, to the suspect village at the end shows how well something can be done without having to rely on CG in movies. The shots are crisp and clean even with a filter being used in post production over the final film. There are different shots used throughout the movie and each one is used to it's fullest effect. From the jarring camera work used when a person is crucified to the beautiful but chilling shot of repenting sinners walking down a stream to the brutal attack by thieves that is vicious and unrelenting and the aftermath of that attack. This movie keeps its feel of doom all the way through. Two shots that stick out the most in the movie to me are of a older Osmund toward the end of the movie slouched over on a bench listening to a innocent woman being tortured. You understand at that point just how far Osmund has falling from grace with no hope of salvation for the character. The second is of Ulric's turned head in the sand with a peaceful look on his face for the first time in the whole movie (you'll understand why when you watch it).

Sound should also be mentioned for this movie. The score for the movie is kept at a minimum which adds to the tension of most scenes, while the sound effects adds weight to each scene instead of music. Even though you cannot see something happening on screen, you still feel and hear it thanks to sound effects. From the ripping sounds of flesh to the breaking of toes in a torture scene, each one is made worse by what is not shown but heard thanks to the imagination of the viewer. The director knows this and uses it to his advantage.

Before I started writing this review, I watched the film a second time, just to make sure I wasn't misled by it the first time and still felt the same as I did before. I'm happy to say I wasn't misled, and actually, I liked even more the second time I watched it and actually paid attention more to the actors than the story. All in all the movie moved very fast but didn't feel  rushed and each character was played wonderfully by the actors. Even though the movie is depressing, hell the movie even made sure you knew that halfway through, it is still a great movie which doesn't lose it's impact even after repeat viewings. A definite watch if you haven't scene it already.

It is without a doubt Sean Bean's Ulrich. I'm not going to say how he dies except for that it's painful and you hear it more than you see it, which makes it even worse.

There is nothing beautiful, or uplifting, in returning people to God. There is no place in heaven for those who kill. The pestilence claimed no higher purpose, and those who had survived our swords that day, soon fell foul of its sithe. They were not protected by the witch, they were simply remote - and once the pestilence crossed their marsh - it killed them too.

The Character of Ivo is a homage to Don Lope de Aguirre played by Klaus Kinski

The movie was originally supposed to be directed by Geoffrey Sax

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