Directed by Christopher Smith

Black Death movie review

While historically accurate as possible Black Death falls short in character development. The film does not allow the audience to care about the characters on screen

Directed by Christopher Smith

Black Death takes place during the chaos of the plague outbreak in Europe during 1348.  This film depicts the horror of not only the spreading of the disease, which claimed lives without remorse but also shows, the involvement of religion in claiming lives.  The story revolves around a novice monk named Osmund (Eddie Redmayne) who is rather conflicted with his devotion to God and his love for Averill (Kimberly Nixon).  His religious conflict is set aside when threat of the plague arrives in the village Osmund and Averill inhabit.  To save her, Osmund sends Averill to a rumored plagueless village hidden in the forest.  He decides to remain in the monastery to continue to deal with his religious dilemma and asks God for a sign on which choice he should make.

Osmund does not wait long for his sign.  A group of knights arrive in the village who have been charged by the church to investigate the rumors surrounding the plagueless village and its leader.  The head knight, Ulric (Sean Bean) enlists the aid of Osmund to find the village.  Osmund joins willingly, taking this as his sign to follow Averill.

As they journey toward the village, Osmund discovers that Ulric was charged to destroy the necromancer that leads the forest-hidden village and fears that some harm may have already come to Averill. Osmund’s journey quickly becomes a rescue mission and his questions about religion disappear as he becomes more like Ulric taking lives in the name of God.  In the end Osmund’s life becomes more of a myth since no more was known of him after completing his journey.

The look of the film generally was smokey and grungy, depicting the filth and despair found in Europe during the plague.  The costumes and weaponry were accurate to the period, to the point where actual timber sets were built to give authenticity to the year.  The beauty of the surrounding structures was lost amongst all of the marshland shots however; more of the general surroundings would have given the film a more complete feel.

Although much care was taken into making the film as historically accurate as possible, it seems that not enough care was taken into the character development.  The film does not allow the audience to care about the characters on screen.  The actors go through their lines and act them perfectly but reasons to care about the characters are few.  Background on Ulric, for example, would have been helpful to see why he was so extreme in his choices when it came to religion.  The potential of a heartbreaking back-story exists but is only hinted at and never explored.  The main story seemed to drag on and the time could have been filled with more about each of the characters.