Director: Christopher Smith (Creep, Severance, Triangle)
Writers: Dario Poloni
Producers: Douglas Rae, Robert Bernstein, Jens Meurer, Phil Robertson,
Starring: Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne
Carice van Houten
Running time: 97 min.
As a big fan of Severance I was quite happy to be able to check out his newest movie Black Death at Toronto After Dark this year. As luck would have it I was not able to attend the actual screening but I was fortunately presented with the chance to watch a screener of the film. As this was a fullscreen screener I am not going to talk about the cinematography which I believe will look quite good on the big screen as the film has a dark gritty look to it. What I will focus on more the story and the characters.
Black Death tells the story of a young monk, Osmund (Eddie Redmayne) who has fallen in love with a woman and when the plague is ravaging the town tells her to leave. As he wants to leave but is unwilling to do so due to his believes he asks God for a sign as to if he should leave. The sign comes in the form of Ulric (Sean Bean), an envoy for the Bishop who is requesting help in finding a village that needs to be questioned as to how they are avoiding the plague. Osmund sees Ulric’s arrival as the sign and leaves after a warning from the other monks. Osmond quickly discovers that Ulric and his men have been sent to capture what they believe is a necromancer and that they are to bring him back to the Bishop. A particularly evil looking contraption is will torture the suspected necromancer. Osmond has little choice but to go along with the men as he hopes to find his love and leave with her. When the men eventually find the village they are greeted with friendly faces and open arms but there is definitely and underlying tension between the two groups and Ulric is still determined to find the necromancer.
Black Death is a very dark and grim movie. Very little happiness is to be found during the time of the plague when everyone was suspected by the church of being in league with the devil. The violence when it comes is brutal and th lives of everyone involved is quite nasty. The grim realism of the movie is one of the films strongest points. It draws you in and you begin to feel as if you are within the world as it existed at that time. Black Death also has a very strong ensemble cast. Each of the soldiers has their own quirks and character but they all fit together as a whole yet their is a certain level of tension also between them. These men of God are killers and they know it. Some of them are doing it for money and others for their belief.
The film does take a few twists and turn that I found annoying while watching the film but as the movie progresses it all ends up coming together nicely. My biggest complaint about Black Death is the need to dumb things down a bit by providing a voice over to explain what you are seeing on screen. Yes some time has past and you might not recognize everyone involved upon an initial glance but it quickly obvious even without the voice over just who is who and what is happening.
Overall, Black Death is a very strong dark gritty tale of mans need to be in control and not accepting the beliefs of others. It does not feel as if it is preaching about the subject but instead is just providing us a glimpse of what the times were like and how the suffering of the plague could bring the worst out in people. If Black Death ends up in a theatre near me I am going to revisit it as I wish to see the full movie in widescreen aspect as I also believe that it may very well be very beautiful with its washed out colours and gritty look.