Cinej: Cinema Journal, Vol 2, No 2 (2013)
In this article we argue that Season of the Witch (Sena, 2011) is not to be analyzed according to its faithfulness to the known historical sources, but only by understanding medievalist codes, traditions and (filmic) intertextuality. When read from this perspective, Season of the Witch tried to create new meaning by combining a dominant interpretation of Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, European traditions on representing medieval witchcraft, contemporary perspectives on the crusades and Susan Aronstein’s concept of “Hollywood Arthuriana”. However, as this demands a lot of medievalist capital to fully understand, Season of the Witch in the end may have lost its coherence for the audience.
In Season of the Witch, written by Bragi F. Schut and directed by Dominic Sena, two fourteenth century knights have to escort a girl accused of witchcraft to an abbey in Severac where the monks will decide on her guilt. When the film was released in January 2011, it was picked to pieces by the critics. The story of the film was considered to be “ridiculous”, flawed with historical inaccuracies and poorly executed mainly due to “unconvincing” CGI and bad acting. Despite this poor reception by the critics Season of the Witch is a remarkable example of how meaning is constructed in medieval films. Most authors agree that the Middle Ages in the cinema are primarily not a historical period as such, but serve as a “distant mirror” or a “significant other” to contemporary society. Essentially, we either feel nostalgic for what we think is missing in our modern society and return to an Age of Chivalry or we congratulate ourselves on what we have outgrown compared with what then becomes the Dark Ages. By studying medieval films we want to understand what specific elements of the Middle Ages still appeal to a contemporary audience and how, although the meaning of these films is always intrinsically bound with the present, the discourse on the medieval past is constructed.