Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Black Death

Christopher Smith's new film Black Death, opening in the US in March 2011, stars Sean Bean as a medieval warrior exploring a mystery: why do the inhabitants of one small village seem immune to the plague?

In a recent post discussing the new Dominic Sena film, the much-hyped Season of the Witch (opening January 7, 2011), Jason at The Wild Hunt mentioned Black Death as a plague story sure to give the Nicolas Cage vehicle a run for its money. Judging from the trailer, it certainly seems to be less sensational, although the story includes a supernatural component. I also like the look of the cinematography. And it has a great cast, including Bean, British character actor Tim McInnerny, and John Lynch.

Films about the plague are few and far between. Certainly the best known is Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal (1957), starring a young Max von Sydow as a young Crusades knight who plays chess with Death, and sacrifices himself to save a young family from the plague. The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey (1988) is an intriguing anachronistic film about a young boy who travels through time to save his village from the plague. One of my favorites is Roger Corman's Masque of the Red Death (1964), based on the Edgar Allen Poe short story and starring Vincent Price.

All of these films have occult elements, given the superstitious beliefs surrounding the plague. Ignorance about disease pathology and communicability led many people to think the plague was a curse, caused by witchcraft or demonic possession. In a season of cinema that seems increasingly interested in the topic of exorcism (such as The Last Exorcism and the forthcoming The Rite), this trend of plague films is intriguing, to say the least.

Sorry to have been neglecting this blog in recent months, folks! Maybe some of you have found my new blog The Witching Hour, devoted to pagan perspectives on television, cinema and other media. But I will try to continue to post content on cinema and the occult here, and strive to do so more often than I have in recent months!