SEASON OF THE WITCH
Crusading 14th century knight Behman (Nicolas Cage), sick of years of brutal warfare in the name of God, deserts the army along with his comrade Felson (Ron Perlman) and returns to Europe, unaware that Europe has been decimated by the Black Plague. While searching for food, Behman and Felson are caught and threatened with imprisonment as deserters by Cardinal D'Ambroise (Christopher Lee) unless they agree to a dangerous mission: escorting a young woman (Claire Foy) now held in the dungeon and accused of being a witch, who has brought the Plague with her. They have to take her to the distant abbey of Severak where she faces trial by the monks. On the long and arduous journey, they are also accompanied by a swindler (Stephen Graham), a young man who aspires to knighthood (Robert Sheehan), Eckhart (Ulrich Thomsen), a knight who has lost his family to the Plague and a naïve priest (Stephen Campbell Moore). And evil spirits ...
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Nicolas Cage seems to have acquired a thirst for period adventures with supernatural themes - from Night(s) at the Museum to The Sorcerer's Apprentice and now Season of the Witch. Here he plays Behman, a 14th century knight who - with his comrade in arms Felson (Ron Perlman) - gives their pious commander the finger and walks out, disgusted after yet another battle in which women and children are slaughtered alongside their husbands and fathers.
There are some strong anti-church sentiments in the screenplay, ranging from Behman's angry outburst at his commander in the Crusades in which he draws a distinction between serving God and killing for the church - to the young woman's accusation that the church has killed more people more brutally than any witch.
There is care taken not to show the crusaders killing people who look like Muslims, though, and the emphasis in the screenplay is on the elements involving witches, the plague and the devil him/herself.
It's a top notch cast, from the charismatic Cage toMoore's determined monk - Lee makes a striking cameo all deformed by the plague - and the film looks just as we imagine 14th century Europe (it was shot mostly in Hungary and a bit in the Austrian alps), so much so the American accents and modern speech idioms seem out of place. Perlman, so memorable in Hellboy I and II, is a great presence and makes an unusual partner for Cage. Foy is excellent as the girl inside whom the spirits dwell ....
It's a bit cheesy but there is action and tension and strong graphic effects - and even a deadpan moment: after a nasty fight with the forces of evil, during which Debelzaq hurls a flask of holy water, he says matter of factly, "We'll need more holy water."
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SEASON OF THE WITCH (MA15+)
CAST: Nicolas Cage, Ron Perlman, Stephen Campbell Moore, Stephen Graham, Ulrich Thomsen, Claire Foy, Robert Sheehan, Christopher Lee
PRODUCER: Alex Gartner, Charles Roven
DIRECTOR: Dominic Sena
SCRIPT: Bragi F. Schut
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Amir M. Mokri
EDITOR: Bob Ducsay, Mark Helfrich, Dan Zimmerman
MUSIC: Atli Örvarsson
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Uli Hanisch
RUNNING TIME: 94 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 24, 2011
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.