When the Bubonic Plague swept Europe in the late 1340’s, it resulted in the deaths of around 100 million people – anywhere between 30 and 60% of the entire population. Amongst other things, this terrifying and misunderstood phenomenon produced a complete upheaval of the existing social order, bringing about the end of feudal relationships, the slow rise of the middle class and a wage-based economy, and the decline in power of the Catholic Church. It’s a fascinating period of ignorance and superstition and collapsing social order.
However, aside from the odd startling moment, the Black Death the Movie, starring Eddie Redmayne and Sean Bean, doesn’t really capture any of this particularly consistently or well. Instead, it’s a simple action-adventure flick where a band of blood-hungry Christian Soldiers of questionable morality hunt down the leaders of a remote English town that’s remained plague-free due to a happy coincidence of isolation, good hygiene and the world’s first health service. Importantly, the village is also God-free, and the villagers are pretty hell-bent (natch) on retaining their independence in the face of the soldiers’ dissembling and all-out aggression. Cue lots of graphic physical violence.
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