History on Film
I'm a historian, but I already said that before. I also have to admit that I have a soft spot for Sean Bean. (I blame my friend Alex for this. After all, she made me watch all those Sharpe films. Though 'made' is perhaps too strong a word. 'Gave me the opportunity to indulge in' may be better.) So I get always excited when I see that a new film with Sean Bean is coming to the cinemas and even more so if it looks as if he is not, for a change, playing the bad guy. Not that there is anything wrong with playing the bad guy and Sean Bean has done a number of very nice, bad guys. But still…

I became aware of the existance of the film 'Black Death' when the film openend in the UK about a month ago. The Guardian had an interesting article about it and of course I immediately not only watched the Trailer but checked the release dates. Since then, fortuitously, a release date has been added for Germany (9 September 2010) so there is actually a chance I may catch it at the cinema. Yeeha.

But putting my over-excitement aside, what is this film about, judging from the trailer? And, looking at it through the eyes (and contact lenses) of a historian, what do I see?
Monika watches Trailers - even on the beach

Robin Hood - Trailer

Robin Hood - Review
Season of the Witch
Hm. It is a time of plague, so we are talking about the mid-fourteenth century. It could, of course, take place at any other of the sporadic outbreaks of plague in the middle ages and after, but it seems to be set during the first and probably most devastating epidemic in 1348. A band of hardy warriors are sent out by the bishop to discover why one village is spared from the disease. There are Dark Secrets! Human sacrifices! The dead are being resurrected! Nothing is what it seems! Oh, yes, and of course, lots of running around and sword-fighting.

Altogether this looks as if it could be good fun. An action-packed film set in the middle ages, though the entire historical setting and the historical plague are most likely no more than hooks, plot devices to get the story started. Nobody claims (as far as I know) that the film is telling the truth. The costumes seem to fit
reasonably to the period the film is set in, at least as far as I can tell. It seems to be set in a sort of generic English place, not anywhere in particular. Mention is made of 'the bishop', not 'the bishop of Bath and Wells' for example and 'the village' also doesn't seem to have a name.

The middle ages as well seems to be rather generic. Monks, knights, dirty people, loads of mud and tatched houses, flaggelants - though at least according to Wikipedia they were a continental rather than an English phenomenon - bodies hanging at the side of the road in cages, and lots and lots of greenery. Just what the audience expects and probably a reasonable if simplified and somewhat sanitised version of that period.

Action, mystery, the middle ages and Sean Bean are a combination I certainly look forward to. There is only one problem…

I don't know why exactly, but somehow the one film this trailer reminds me off, oddly enough,
is 'The Wicker Man'. (And I do mean the real Wicker Man, not some later concoction of the same name.) The two films certainly look nothing like each other. Perhaps it's the mention of human sacrifice - and the fact that Sean Bean apparently seems to be one of the intended sacrifices - that reminds me of the old cult classic, but probably even more that Sir Ulric and his little troup are 'men of god' going to a place where they find that their rules are no longer kept. 

Not that I expect to see anything like Christopher Lee in a dress - even the strange lady in the trailer doesn't really look like him - or Britt Ekland (or her stand-in) doing some steamy bedroom dancing, but it certainly would be great if the denouement of 'Black Death' were to
be as surprising as that of 'The Wicker Man'.

Well, 'we will see what we will see', as the white cat likes to say. I am certainly curious and will stay clear of further reviews to avoid having the fun spoiled for me. - A quick look
on the IMDb shows that some of the reviewers obviously really couldn't abide the film, but altogether it still has 7.8 of 10 stars, so it can't be all bad, right? [I also noticed that the entire films seems to be on YouTube, but that just isn't fun. I want to see Sean Bean on a big screen. And so I wait for September.]
[17 July 2010; some spelling mistakes amended 20 August 2010]

Sadly, the film is on rather limited release in Germany. The only cinema showing it in English does so at quarter past eleven at night. And since it is a rather grotty one at the other end of town I will wait for the DVD. Sigh. I would even have broken my solemn vow never to enter that particular cinema again, but not at this time of day or rather night.
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