Black Death - 2011 Film

Black Death - 2011 Film

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Released directly on DVD on 1er April 2011 without going through the cinema box in France, Black death (in French: Black Plague) directed by Christopher Smith (Creep, Severance) is reminiscent of The Last of the Templars, projected on our screens in January of the same year: a story of a witch hunt in an England plagued by the terrifying Black Death. While films dealing with the medieval period are rarely of good quality, what about this small production that has remained largely anonymous in France? Surprise, surprise ...


1348, the plague struck England mercilessly. All of England? No, a small village remote beyond a distant forest and swamp seems to resist the terrifying epidemic. A necromancer bringing the dead to life is said to be at work there. A young monk, Osmund, agrees to guide a band of “god-mad” soldiers determined to get their hands on this necromancer and uphold the Christian faith.

Plague and witchcraft: some historical elements

Opinions can be mixed as to the historical accuracy of this film. Indeed, if on the one hand, the film avoids falling into a number of pitfalls that the very mediocre Last of the Templars, it does not escape certain clichés and certain approximations, starting with chronological ones. The action takes place in 1348 in England, a country which paid a heavy price for this disease by losing nearly 70% of its population in half a century. However, the Black Death did not arrive until the end of the year in the south-west of England, not fully spreading there until 1349 and causing its greatest devastation during its endemic returns accompanied by 'a procession of other epidemics such as diphtheria, smallpox or influenza to name a few. Admittedly, this is really only a point of detail but once again we are witnessing this inability in a very large majority of cinematographic productions over this period to respect a minimum the historical reality all the more distorted when the witch hunt has emerged for the umpteenth time a century too early. And once again, the latter is accused of being responsible for all evils when historically it concerns the Jews who were generally considered to be a scapegoat. As for our hero, a novice monk who finds himself confessing and giving absolution, is it so complicated to know the difference between a monk and a priest? So how hard is it to open a history book?

Where, on the other hand, the film stands out historically speaking is in the representation of the plague and its psychological repercussions, for example with the processions of flagellants or even on the collective conscience, often terrorized and considering as it is very rightly said in the film that it is about the wrath of God.

Faith, fanaticism and alienation

The message of the film seems clear a priori, it is a critique of religious fanaticism imaged through the merry band of warriors ready to commit any exaction in the name of God and execute any woman for how little she would be called a witch. Are we in the presence of a new cliché? There is no question of denying the absence of religious fanaticism in the Middle Ages but of understanding that all religious intolerance does not necessarily come from fanaticism but above all from an economic-political desire to control and build a modern state. demonstrating in part through witch hunts.

Nevertheless, the scenario turns out to be particularly intelligent because more than a virulent critic of Christianity, Christopher Smith offers us a reflection on good and evil. And, if throughout the film the faith of the young monk is put to the test, we too find ourselves in doubt as our hero sinks into an ever darker stranger, where death seems omnipresent and madness good. close.

A little pearl among the B series

This film is ultimately a real surprise. Historical errors aside, Christopher Smith gives us a fascinating vision of a dark, violent and alienated Middle Ages which is reminiscent of the recent and very good Valhalla Rising at the level of the atmosphere or Flesh and Blood of Paul Verhoeven at the level of darkness. If the handheld camera makes the few action scenes difficult to read (because they are relatively rare, contrary to what the trailer might suggest), the sober and unadorned photography fully contributes to the installation of an atmosphere. deliciously morbid and terrifying. The cast is not left out, Carice Van Houten fascinates as a necromancer while Sean Bean as a vengeful and tortured knight effectively recalls his role as Boromir in The Lord of the Rings. The scenario lets hover throughout Black death a rare and appreciable ambiguity which makes it possible to hoist this low budget film to the rank of a true pearl of the B series. In the end, we can only regret that it did not find distributors in France when the other Last of the Templars was projected on no less than 340 screens. Hopefully in the future we will have the chance to enjoy this kind of film production more fully.

Christopher Smith's Black Death, released on DVD / Blu-Ray April 1, 2011.

The movie trailer

Video: Top 10 Worst Epidemics in History (June 2022).