"The Year of Our Lord, 1348. The fumes of the dead hung in the air like poison," so opens Christopher Smiths's 2010 release of Black Death which seemed to instantly go to DVD (and on Netflix Instant Play this month) but there are several good reasons to watch the film: it's one in a growing genre of disease films including Contagion (please see my post Contagion: Bats and Pigs), Rise of the Planet of the Apes (there is a virus being spread that a doctor caught from a lab monkey experiment) and disease is even in The Help (please see my post The Help: Of Chocolate Pies), so Black Death, about the Bubonic Plague spreading throughout Europe starting in 1348, is a timely piece; the question is why are disease films trending right now? I think the most straight-forward answer lies in the options presented by Black Death: a young novice monk Osmund (Eddie Redmayne) and a knight working for a bishop rooting out heresy, Ulric (Sean Bean). Osmund and Ulric are exact opposites of each other in terms of spiritual advancement and how they respond to the events presented in the film.
|Repent. Black Death film poster 2010.|
The sin is its own punishment.
|Penitents making a pilgrimage in Black Death.|
|Osmund, on the right side, was late in joining the gathering; he's not obedient.|
|Dead bodies wrapped in sheets, prepared for burial due to death of plague.|
|Averill and Osmund saying goodbye before she leaves.|
|The name "Ulric" means "powerful," but in what way?|
|The "witch" bound to the wood of the ladder where she was going to be burned.|
|The group of soldiers traveling with Ulric and Osmund.|
To show that he is powerful enough to do so.
The villagers would have burned her for fear of their own lives, but Ulric kills her for the glory of God. Ulric, further, is right: she is all ready dead, dead in sin, and that is important for the viewer to discern because this scene foreshadows the Necromancer in the village and whether or not she can be trusted to tell Osmund the truth about Averill. The name "Ulric" means "powerful," and now we know in what way he is powerful: spiritual discernment. He is going to this village "to see for himself" how they avoid the plague, and "seeing" is the gift of discernment. Being able to distinguish between what is good and evil is a gift, one which Osmund doesn't have.
|Osmund giving absolution to a soldier with the plague.|
|Mold the executioner who knows Osmund has a secret and who bravely dies for God.|
|Osmund and Ulric, the image of a boy and a man of God.|
|At Martyr's Cross, deep in the forest, where God answers Osmund's prayer for a sign.|
|Another group shot, Ivo is the first on the left side.|
|The remaining soldiers have entered the enchanted village and Ulric isn't happy.|
|Langiva's power to discern is as strong as Ulric's and she discerns Osmund's weakness. Note that she wears "red." It symbolizes that she knows the appetites--sex, wealth, power, whatever we desire--and who desires what.|
|Walking through the quiet village is like walking into a dead soul.|
That night, the village has a dinner for the group and (no one from the village saying Grace) Ulric stands and says Grace, prompting Langiva to mock him for it. She calls Osmund away from the dinner even as the girls of the village are trying to tempt the soldiers, and the ones who fall for their temptations are also the ones who fall the next day; the ones who keep their eyes on moral behavior, are the ones who stand firm for Christ the next day. But Langiva has a gift for Osmund, and she "leads him away from the others" as they eat and drink poison, so Langiva can give Osmund poison for his soul.
|Langiva lets Osmund see her as she really is, and he still can't "see."Langiva looks like Death in this instant, however, it is Ulric who has been given the power of Death by virtue of his martyrdom.|
|Ulric held captive by the village just before his martyrdom.|
|Ulric and Osmund both see the same thing but Osmund doesn't see at all.|
|Osmund returns to the monastery in a wagon.|
|Because Osmund could not accurately see God, he now sees the devil everywhere in the form of Langiva.|