A review
by rg & EFi

5. August 2010

Evi and I have already seen the movie in Germany, but in its original English version.


It is not a must-see, but if you haven’t seen it, you have missed something special!


Since Black Death was filmed in Germany more than a year ago (read here) and opened in British movie theatres on June 11, 2010, we were now anxious to see the result.

Our verdict:
4 out of 5 points

We already knew that the story is about medieval England, depopulated by the Black Death where a remote village is spared from the plague. The Church wants to know why and therefore sends out a group of knights, both battle-scarred and strong in faith, guided by the young novice Osmund.

So far so good.

The knights are lead by Boromir… erm… Ulric… urm… Sean Bean. That is the most important fact for us. And really, the movie only takes up pace once he rides into the courtyard. (No, it is not our fault; this scene doesn’t take place in Rivendell, even if it reads like it!) In many scenes Ulric appears like an older embittered brother of Boromir. This tough knight has bottled up the impotent anger about the death of his wife and child but found a new challenge in defending religion. That is why the bishop recommends him as the leader of this mission, because he is sure that this devout pragmatic won’t stray from the church’s path. 


Black Death

page 2 - Film description, Cast & Crew, Review

page 1 page 3
About the Film Our Review
About the Filming Articles - pre-release
Quiz - only German Articles - post-release

in Canada at: Dedfest in Edmonton,
Myer Horowitz Theatre (8900 114 St.) August 19 - 21, 2010

in UK cinemas since 11. June 2010

German Premiere: at the Fantasy Filmfest
Saturday, 21. August 2010
in German cinemas since 9. September 2010

great photo - found by EFi / 13.08.2010

© German Distributor / Filmverleih
source: www.die-mark-online.de


Über den Film/About the film        

Black Death / Die schwarze Pest

Feature film / Spielfilm
German/british coproduction / deutsch-britische Koproduktion
Filming / Dreharbeiten: 20. April 2009 - 12. Juni 2009 in Deutschland

Mystery Thriller

It's the 14th century. Millions are victims of the plague. Is this gods punishment? Only a village is spared. It is said that there live faithless and invincible people, led by a mysterious woman named Langiva (Carice van Houten) The bishop sends Ulric (Sean Bean) and his group of church knights who have to fight their way through the devasted land. The young monk Osmund (Eddie Redmayne) leads them to the village where he hopes to find his secret love, Averill (Kimberley Nixon).

When Ulric meets the seduceress Langiva and when it seems to become more and more obvious, why the plague spares the village, the church knights have to decide...


Im 14. Jahrhundert fallen der Pest Millionen Menschen zum Opfer. Ist das die Strafe Gottes? Nur ein Dorf wird verschont. Es heißt, dass hier ungläubige und unverwundbare Menschen leben würden, angeführt von der mysteriösen Langiva (Carice van Houten). Der Bischof schickt Ulric (Sean Bean) und seine Gefährten, die sich durch das verwüstete Land kämpfen. Der junge Mönch Osmund (Eddie Redmayne) führt sie zu dem Dorf, in der Hoffnung dort seine geheime Liebe, Averill (Kimberley Nixon) zu finden.

Als Ulric auf die verführerische Langiva trifft und als mehr und mehr klar zu werden scheint, warum die Pest das Dorf verschont, müssen sich die Kirchenritter entscheiden....


Ulric (description from www.blackdeathmovie.com - EFi/29.04.10)

Special Envoy to the Bishop. Ulric has a fearsome reputation, known for his absolute, unswerving dedication to Church and God. Here is a man who will stop at nothing to achieve any mission he is given. The more difficult, dangerous tasks are his stock in trade, Ulric is a Church trouble shooter. He is no henchman though, he is man of honour renowned for keeping his word and for his ability to handle even the most difficult of situations. His wife and baby son perished during childbirth, a tragedy which was to be the turning point in his life. Until that point Ulric had been a Captain in King Edward’s army, after that he devoted himself to serving God. He firmly believes in the afterlife, and that he continues to protect his wife and child by doing God’s work. Ulric is educated and clever, he remains slightly aloof from the men, not through arrogance but because he knows that is expected from a leader. Genuinely believes that witches and demons roam the earth.


Ulric (Beschreibung von www.blackdeathmovie.com - Übersetzung by EFi/29.04.10)

Sonderbotschafter des Bischofs. Ulric hat einen furchteinflößenden Ruf, ist bekannt für seine absolute und unerschütterliche Hingabe für Kirche und Gott. Hier ist ein Mann, den nichts davon abhalten kann, jeden Auftrag, den er erhalten hat, zu erfüllen. Die schwierigen, gefährlichen Aufgaben sind seine Spezialität; Ulric ist der Problemlöser der Kirche. Aber er ist kein Handlanger, er ist ein Mann der Ehre, bekannt dafür sein Wort zu halten und für seine Fähigkeit auch die schwierigsten Situationen zu bewältigen. Seine Frau und sein Sohn sind im Kindbett gestorben, eine Tragödie, die sein Leben veränderte. Bis dahin war Ulric Hauptmann in der Armee von König Edward, danach widmete er sein Leben Gott. Er glaubt fest an ein Leben nach dem Tod, und daß er das Leben seine Frau und seines Sohnes weiterhin schützt indem er Gottes Werk tut. Ulric ist gebildet und intelligent, er steht etwas abseits der anderen Männer, nicht durch Arroganz, sondern weil er weiß, was von einem Führer erwartet wird.  Er glaubt wirklich, daß Hexen und Dämonen über die Erde streifen.

  Cast / Darsteller      
The Abbot/Der Abt
Sean Bean
Carice van Houten
Eddie Redmayne
Kimberley Nixon
Andy Nyman
Johnny Harris
Jamie Ballard
Tygo Gernandt
Emun Elliott
John Lynch
David Warner
Production Design/Szenenbild
Christopher Smith
Dario Poloni
Sebastian Edschmid
John Frankish
  Production / Produktion      
  Egoli Tossell Film AG, Deutschland - Jens Meurer
Ecosse Films, UK - Robert Bernstein
Zephyr Films, UK - Phil Robertson
  German Film Funding/Filmförderung      
  MDM Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung,
MBB Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg: 250 000 EUR
DFFF Deutscher Filmförderfonds: 1 005 015 EUR
  Distributor - Sales / Verleih - Vertrieb      
  Deutscher Verleih Wild Bunch / Central www.centralfilm.de
  World Sales Hanway Films www.hanwayfilms.com  

The film leads us and the knights through a miserably, half abandoned country where the usual law and order is no longer intact. The colors are gloomy, it is humid and foggy, and misery is almost within reach of the audience. The plague brings death and decay to everyone no matter the reputation, but who is to blame for? The movie shows how people try to find an answer to this question. It is the question about meaning. We need a culprit. Without one we won’t survive.

The guilty ones seem to live in this remote village. But what is guilt? The Church explains the plague as a God-indented visitation which hits all true believers. Due to the logic of the Church, people obviously haven’t lived godly enough. So this plague is now the nemesis for their ill doings, and all true believers have to take it on them.

If a whole village is spared from it then its inhabitants must have fallen from grace. The rumor of revenants doesn’t make things easier.



To find out what has happened not only the knights are sent out but they also take a carriage with instruments for questioning faith with them. Order must be.

The knights reach the shores of the marsh where the village lays – and suddenly the mood changes – everything becomes bright and fair. The weary men in their soiled armour appear almost like aliens in the pastoral scenery. The villagers greet them friendly, and so they hide the true intentions of their journey.

The peaceful atmosphere and the charm of the local beauties let the fighters vigilance cease. A bath in the village pond is long overdue and aptly Langiva, the beautiful leader of the community shows up in the warm sunshine. She takes care of the wounded novice and confuses him with knowledge of virtue and about his lost secret love.


Visitors from far away are always a reason for a great party, but the effects of the gluttony are surprising. Only Osmund is prevented from taking part in the revelry. Instead Langvia lures him into the nocturnal woods. He becomes the secret witness to the women’s ritual, something that seems to validate the bishop’s apprehension about the revenants. Out of his mind he rushes back to the village. The next morning reveals the true nature of the villagers. Langiva gives Osmund the choice. Will he choose the true faith or his true love?



A verbal dispute between Langiva and the knights develops with an outcome that stays thrilling to the end.

As a matter of fact, we had expected that as the climax – because the whole movie had lead to this – the crucial war of words about faith and belief between Ulric and Langiva would now take place. Both are obviously strong, highly educated personalities, who can stand in for their points and can vocalize their opinions quite well, but hardly ever find an adequate interlocutor. Unfortunately this potential of intellectual confrontation is wasted.


Instead a strange somewhat bloodless blank in the story line emerges. Obviously director Christopher Smith had also realized this. Because now he lets blood flow in streams.

After the waves of fight have smoothed again and the blood has dried the village elder gets acquainted with the carriage of faith and the bishop finally gets his long awaited prey.

But it is still not over yet. The following long ending affects the strong impact of the final scenes in the village and lets the audience wish that Ulric would have had the final words.



Our next to last words - about the performances of the actors: Eddie Redmayne as Osmund brings the forlornness and inner conflicts of the innocent young novice quite believable to the screen. We can emotionally follow his character in the interaction with the experienced actors in the first half of the movie. But in the second half when he is left alone in the true meaning of the word, the director should have carefully guided him through his scenes. There the young man is lost. Luckily this isn’t the case with the two main actors Carice van Houten and Sean Bean. You notice their long years of experience with which they can mask weaknesses in the script without ever loosening the grip on the audience! Sean Bean and Ulric do their job and they do it extremely well. Dire, dirty, weary and tight-lipped, Sean Bean’s character Ulric is the centre of the movie without ever outplaying the other actors. Once again this shows Mr. Bean’s ability, to interact with others aiming only for the big picture. He rather takes himself back than to jeopardize a scene and through that shines even more.


Evi: I liked the movie. Especially the coloring, the use of light and the camera work. Also the costumes really fit the times with their contrast between plague and fresh air. But Langiva’s make-up style, which would have better suited a diva from the silent-movie era, shouted: “I am the evil”. Also, the ending of the original script where Ulric as one of the Four Riders of the Apocalypse is riding into the sunset, wilding his sword, would have been much to my taste.



Renate: I was deeply impressed by this movie, announced as a horror-fantasy-medieval-flick. Instead, it intelligently deals with questions of belief, guilt and atonement and it relinquishes ostensible horror. The real horror lays in the characters themselves and not in the special effects. It is one of the few movies where I wanted “more”: More debates between the two main characters, which are splendidly portrayed by Carice van Houten and Sean Bean. More scenes like those where the knights travel through the country side and are confronted with distressed peasants. Admitting, these scenes would have made the movie too long, but maybe it is a suggestion for the bonus material on the DVD.









Evi & Renate: Our conclusion – finally a movie which leaves the beaten paths and can’t be put into a specific category. But its director could have had way more faith into his actors and their way of handling the script and their characters. But of course, it was the first script that he didn’t write himself. We do look forward to further movies by him.

If we would give out points, then Black Death would be awarded with 4 out of 5.

P.S.: A final question: Where actually did the pullet go??


And now our (really) last words: The End...

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update 23. September 2010 +++ page created by rg & EFi on 10. August 2010