Friday, February 4, 2011

Movie Review: Black Death



Black Death is a well crafted, little, (self proclaimed) horror movie from Britain and Germany from last year. It is more of a historical-quest piece, and it is clogged full with religious issues. This is no longer surprising in a post-Passion of the Christ world, but not all religious issues films are created equal.

It teases us with the question of natural evil: is it God’s punishment or a curse of the devil? In the end it remains just a tease, but can anyone really do better?

It also plays as though it might become a supernatural thriller, but the story here is firmly material, and there is not much to the “mystery” even though they feel obligated to explain themselves.

Ultimately this movie at its best is a rather clumsy analogy for the current political atmosphere with the issue of terrorism, and the West’s response dominating the plot. The fundamentalist knights stand in for the terrorists. The village is Europe and America. The leaders in the village are the political leaders that create a climate of fear to protect their power. The plague would probably best be called all the various problems that create terrorism in the world. Religion—in all its forms—stands in for… well, religion and other ideologies.

This film could have been so much more. Some reviewers are praising it for its “nuanced view” but it is far from that. It could have been an interesting look at religious institution vs. real faith. It does come close to exposing some of the basic flaws of fundamentalism.

Religion is a wholly unsatisfactory way of relating to God. It does not allow for Him to behave as a person with whom we can relate, but as a force—a formula whom we can only deal with through a system of rules and behavioral patterns. In its fundamentalist expressions, it reduces its god to a weak force that needs men to protect it. It creates a system where men establish what is true, rather than truth being an external constant.

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