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Laramie Movie Scope: Black Death

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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December 16, 2011 -- “Black Death” is a straightforward film about the clash between Christianity and the older pagan religions, as well as one man's personal struggle with his faith set against the violent, repressive backdrop of the Dark Ages. The story also happens during the time of the Black Death, a bubonic plague that killed millions of people in Europe.

The only actor I recognized in this European production is Sean Bean (“The Lord of the Rings”) who plays Ulrich, leader of a band of religious mercenaries. David Warner (“Titanic”) is also in the movie briefly as the Abbot of a monastery that Ulrich and his band visit, looking for a guide through the marshes to a remote village which has avoided the plague so far. A young novitiate, Osmund (Eddie Redmayne of “My Week With Marilyn”) volunteers to help them find the village, but he has a hidden motive.

Osmund has fallen in love with a girl, Averill (Kimberley Nixon of “Easy Virtue”) and plans to rendezvous with her in a forest location near the path of the group he is leading. When he gets to the rendezvous, he finds Averill's horse and blood, along with a fierce group of bandits. He warns his followers about the bandits just in time and there is a fierce battle. The bandits are defeated, but some of them steal the horses. Ulrich blames Osmund for leading the bandits back to their camp, resulting in the death of one of his men and the loss of the horses.

The journey becomes even more difficult. The wounded Osmund has even less reason to stay with the group when he discovers their purpose. They plan to kill the villagers because they are following a pagan witch who claims to have delivered the village from the deadly plague. The witch, Langiva (Carice van Houten of “Valkyrie”) is clever, however, and sees through Ulrich's deception. She drugs the would-be executioners and captures them. Up to this point in the story, Ulrich's band of torturers and killers seem like the bad guys. It turns out the Pagans are evil in their own right.

Osmund is forced to make a choice between Christianity and paganism. His choice turns tragic, spelling doom for both the villagers and the group he came with. The movie probably should have ended there, but it continues into a kind of tragic epilog with more cruelty and injustice than came before. This is a brutal, bloody film with a lot of blood, beheadings, torture, mutilation and other forms of graphic brutality. It shows the worst things that people do to each other in the name of religion. This could have been more of a thought-provoking film, but it turns into a gore porn display. This film rates a C.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2011 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)