Season of the Witch

Playing tabletop RPGs again has started to change, or maybe widen, what I look for in movies. Specifically, ideas and inspiration for my games are beginning to be just as important as other more common measures of quality in film. By this measure, Season of the Witch was a great success (and was not a bad movie apart from that either).

I would highly recommend it especially to fantasy game players. In fact, in some ways this story is a model for how to run a weird fantasy scenario. It is set during the Crusades. Right from the very beginning, it is clear everything is not quite right, but the day to day existence is still mundane. And I think every D&D player will recognize the small troupe of main characters as an adventuring party.

There were a number of small touches that I greatly appreciated. For example, everyone doesn’t speak in a British accent just because the movie is set during medieval times. A standard American accent was used by most actors throughout, which I enjoyed. More period movies should take this approach. Accurately representing accents is impossible, so why not make it feel natural?

Once the movie decided what kind of story it was going to tell, it didn’t dick around with you and keep making you second guess what was going on. It just went for it, and didn’t make any apologies.

12 thoughts on “Season of the Witch

  1. Greg

    I just saw this movie a few weeks ago. The American accents bothered me as it sort of took me out of the movie. As a period piece, it should emulate the appropriate accents of the time. Other than that, it was a good movie.

    I followed it up with the rental of “The Black Death”. Similar that it too deals with a witch, but very different in tone and mood.

    1. Brendan

      From the Wikipedia entry:

      Meanwhile, Teutonic Knights Behmen von Bleibruck (Nicolas Cage) and Felson (Ron Perlman) are engaged in a crusade, taking part in several different battles throughout the 1330s and eventually taking part in the Smyrniote crusades. After witnessing the massacre of civilians during the 1344 capture of Smyrna, the two knights choose to desert the Order and the crusade and return to Germany.

      While traveling through Styria, they encounter the grotesque sight of people infected with the Black Death and soon discover that the Holy Roman Empire has been swept by the plague. Behmen and Felson enter the medieval town of Marburg, the German name for Maribor (once part of Styria, now in Slovenia).

      So what is the appropriate accent here? A modern German accent? The Holy Roman empire was a huge mash of linguistically incompatible regions.

      Also, realistically, many of the characters would have probably been speaking different languages and communicating in pidgin or a common second language (not sure what that might have been).

  2. biopunk

    I’m with Greg.

    American accents in historically based films don’t “feel natural” to me at all.

    They are an immediate turn-off that causes me to fixate on all the other anachronisms the film-makers let slide.

    These people are allegedly “actors”, and should be able to do a decent English accent.

    Needless to say, I don’t enjoy a lot of films, but do check out ‘The Black Death’ though, it’s a good one…

    1. RedHobbit

      I caught ‘The Black Death’ on Netflix instant queue. It’s great at keeping you guessing whether this is a supernatural or a realistic movie. Sean Bean is always a plus.

    2. Brendan

      Okay, after all these recs I guess I really need to watch this movie. Happily, it also seems to be available to stream on Canadian Netflix (which often has pretty bad selection).

  3. richard

    um. American accents are exactly as “authentically medieval” as British ones (some might argue they are more authentic, but then they should be pelted with overripe fruit for claiming to know what’s an authentic medieval accent anyway).

    Unless you genuinely believe that the past is a foreign country, which can be found just across the Atlantic.

  4. richard

    Now I feel bad for not having found out what the movie was about before commenting. My comment stands for anything set in Britain or the US before the 19th century.

    Alas you couldn’t give everyone generic German/Eastern European accents because that means “bad guy” in Hollywood semiotics and we wouldn’t know who to sympathise with 😉

    1. Brendan

      I think your comment still stands either way. The truth is, “British accents” are lazy signifiers for Hollywood (they also commonly mean intellectual and evil).

      This same dynamic is a problem in other places too. Many American translations of classic fiction fall back to Britishisms because they can feel more traditional (even when it is obviously not appropriate, like when translating Russian novels). Also see American translations of Plato.

      It shows the powerful hold the British Empire still has on the intellectual world.

      (For whatever reason, Blogger decided your comment was spam. I wonder why.)

  5. Matthew James Stanham

    Black Death is a lot better. I am not that bothered by American accents, but really it needs to be done more like The Eagle, the way things were handled in Season of the Witch just felt lazy to me. That said, the props were much more jarring than the accents!


Leave a Reply