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A Pox on Both Your Houses
on 4 November 2010
If you look at a directors CV you can often get a feel for the type of film they make. Christopher Smith is the director of `Severance' and the excellent `Triangle', both genre fare. Throw into the pot the fact that `Black Death' has the trappings of a violent Medievalathon and I thought it was going to be an out and out exploitation pic. I turned out to be wrong as although there are plenty of moments that are gratuitously violent and the prerequisite number of limbs are hacked off, the film itself is a slower paced and almost serious look at how the Church tackled the Black Death in Britain. What happens when a village remains untouched and rumours spread that they are devil worshippers?
The main character is not Sean Bean's Ulric as you would expect, but a Monk called Osmund played by Eddie Redmayne. He is torn between his love of the Church and his love for a local woman. He aids Ulric and his men on their quest as a way of challenging his faith. The film has an authentic medieval feel, although the German money in the film is apparent on the screen with England looking a little mainland Europe at times. However, on BluRay the forests and landscapes of Germany do look fantastic and Smith does a good job of balancing story with a mini travelogue.
The film has a slow pace, especially at the beginning, and grew a little tiresome. However, this allowed for the characters to develop and some of Ulric's men came to the fore. I felt that Andy Nyman as the twisted torturer and John Lynch as the seasoned campaigner came out as the real stars of the film. In the end the film falls between two stools - is it a realistic historic depiction, or a Medievalplolitation film? The answer is neither, it a surprisingly accurate portrayal of people's reaction to the Black Death in Medieval Britain - with added dismemberment.