Thursday, July 28, 2011

Black Death

First off, this is not a horror film. Drama? Sure. Action/adventure? Ok. But not horror. Even though there's a witch it in. Still probably NSFL, but if she were to watch it with someone else, maybe it'd be okay. Did you watch Braveheart, Lisa? This is less violent than that.

I loved your reference to The Wicker Man, Brandon. It reminded me of how much I loved the original and HATED the remake (you should have never left Las Vegas, Nicholas). What a creepy film. I need to see it again, and so do all of you.

Okay, so I enjoyed Black Death. No surprise there; I enjoy most of what I see (except for Godard, that bastard). But there are specifics: great setting, nice cinematography, wonderful mood. I agree with Ben about the first part creating tension and setting the stage. I almost enjoyed that anticipation more, when we didn't know what they were going to discover in the remote town. SPOILERS next.
So, a part of me was thinking, maybe they're not really pagan and this is going to be one of those mistaken identity/bloodthirsty Christians kind of films. But then they were pagans. So then I thought, maybe they'll be peaceful pagans and will be contrasted with the bloodthirsty Christians. But then they were bloodthirsty pagans. I agree with (?) that our sympathies are meant primarily to lie with the Christians; I honestly don't see any redeeming qualities presented for the pagan side, especially when the narrator pulls the rug out from under their secret to staying healthy by saying that they were just remote. Their paganism didn't save them from anything, any more than the Christians' religion saved the Christians.

So I suppose then that the message is plague (and whatever it's meant to represent) destroys us all equally, pagan or Christian. That we're all subject to the same pits and snares as human beings, whatever our religion. Which is a fine message, if you subscribe to the Christianity that is presented in the film. Which I don't. And I don't mean the violent side of it (which is about its historical context), but the defiant, never-say-die, Mel-Gibson-freedom side of it. If you believe them, there abound stories of martyrs who sang and called out to God when they were about to be burned or quartered or flayed or whatever. They submitted peacefully. These guys swore and yelled and beat their chests (or the equivalent) but never called out to God once. My recollection could be wrong, but even the first guy who was singing was singing a drinking song, not a hymn. I thought that seemed odd. So even though these guys were supposed to represent my kind, and seemed noble enough, I didn't feel a kinship with them. It's true that I now ally myself with a fringe group of Christians (Mennonites) that themselves were persecuted by Christians back in the day, but I didn't even recognize that much of the more evangelical or fundamentalist strains that I came from, which in addition to holiness and purity also emphasized a personal connection to God (yes, it's true, not all fundamentalist Christians are hateful assholes. Imagine it!) that none but the novice priest seemed to have, which itself is even called into question by the end of the film.

Which brings me to the next part, where I agree with John that the most compelling aspect of Black Death is the young priest's transformation from a man who protests the murder of a young woman to a killer himself bent on vengeance. I actually have to go to work now and am out of time, but I don't know that I'd have more to say about it except to talk about the things that lead him astray and perhaps relate them to the things in life that lead us astray in similar ways: guilt, unforgiveness, lack of confidence in our beliefs, etc. It was really a sad and tragic film for me, but not for any reason other than the one young man's downfall. Other than that, it was an entertaining period action film.

Side question: why are witches in films either super hot or damn ugly? You don't often see normal-looking people as witches in these kinds of movies. It's the patriarchy again, isn't it? Dammit.

No comments:

Post a Comment