UK, 2001, 105 minutes, Colour.
Lena Heady, David la Haye, Jason Flemyng, Ian Mac Niece, Jon Finch.
Directed by Alberto Sciamma.
Anazapta is set in an English village in 1348 on the eve of the Black Death. The film recreates the life in the village, generally squalid, although the bishop lords it over the village with wealth and luxury.
The focus is on Lady Matilda (Lena Heady) who is waiting for her husband to come back from the war. Instead, her nephew arrives with a hostage. The plan is to exchange the hostage for her husband. However, the hostage is a mysterious person, seemingly the child that may or may not have been murdered by Matilda's husband, wreaking vengeance on his unfaithful wife.
There are many intrigues, counterplots, but finally the invasion of the Black Death. It is difficult to know at the end whether the hostage is who he says he was or is a symbol of the Black Death itself. The meaning of the title, according to the director, is "Came to Be Out of Blood and Passion".
1. Audience interest in mediaeval dramas? Melodramas? The tone, the grim subjects, grim life? The violence of the period? The emphasis on eroticism?
2. The recreation of the village, the houses, the streets, the bishop's palace? The dark side of the village? The battle sequences? Retribution? The musical score?
3. The title, its sound, its meaning, application to Jacques?
4. The prologue, the attempted murder of the baby, his being spared, the cross on his chest? The later information about Lady Joan, her infidelity, the execution of her lover, her brutal rape by her husband's troops? The survival of the boy? The repercussions for Sir Walter, his not believing that the boy had survived?
5. The portrait of Lady Matilda, with her child, with the chastity belt on? With the servants? The physician, the priest? The return of Nicholas, the news of her husband's safety, the plan for the exchange? Lady Matilda and her concurrence? Her visiting the bishop? His lewd propositions, giving her the pictures, her burning them? The passing of the ten days, her getting to know Jacques, saving him, discussions with him? The clashes with Nicholas? His death? The escape of Jacques, her rescuing him again? The bishop, her plan for the mass, the infecting of the wine, the bishop's death? Her erotic dreams? Her going to Jacques? Their being together, the death of Sir Walter, the plague, going to the next village? Her future?
6. Jacques, his coming as hostage, his cross on his chest? Mystery, the plan, his imprisonment, torture, humiliation? His relationship with Matilda? The escape? Matilda saving him? The confrontation with Sir Walter? The deaths, his changing face, his being a symbol of the Black Death coming to England?
7. Nicholas, bravado, the troops, the plan for the exchange, his attitude towards Matilda, ambiguity? His drinking, the torture of Jacques? The sudden death?
8. The troops, their being examined, the indications of the plague? The reaction of the soldier, his death? The physician and trying to cope with the disease?
9. The three men who were party to Lady Joan's rape? The physician, his being killed, the steward and his death, the Latin words? The priest and his suicide? Their place in the court, working with Matilda, the suddenness of their deaths?
10. Randall, jovial, his being put in charge of Jacques, pushing him around, getting to know him, the discussions? His friendship with Matilda, his helping her with the bishop?
11. The bishop, lewd, selfish? The proposition to Matilda? His bath, preparation for the mass, his death? His advisers?
12. Sir Walter, Matilda's devotion? Sir Walter's return, his attitude towards Matilda, her fidelity? Towards Jacques? Confronted by the cross, his disbelief, the flashbacks to his brutal behaviour, his wife, the torture, the rape, the killing of the boy?
13. The impact of this kind of melodrama? Historical film? Historical horror - in the tradition of Hammer Studios and the British tradition of horror history in the 60s?