Let’s put it this way. If you had to make a list ranking the five or 10 best movies ever made about the Crusades, which is hard enough once you’ve acknowledged the lofty example of “The Seventh Seal” as number one, and harder still on account of all movie-ranking lists being so restrictive and subjective and arbitrary anyway, at least “Season of the Witch” wouldn’t make your task any harder. No, “Season of the Witch” would do you a favor, by sparing you the further agony of deciding where on your list it belongs. It would have the courtesy to not belong anywhere near your list.
I know I’m not helping here. I’d just hoped to be the first and maybe the only person to mention an Ingmar Bergman masterpiece in a review of “Season of the Witch.” With that out of the way, here are some details. Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman play disillusioned medieval knights on a witch hunt. Or, more precisely, a witch delivery. The deliverable witch (Claire Foy) is believed to be the source of a pervasive, pustule-intensive plague, and the knights must take her to a group of monks with holy instructions for what to do about that. Presumably they’ll recite a few Latin phrases, run a few torturous tests and presto: plague over.
Oh — but what if she’s not really a witch? What if she’s innocent? Or, worse, a demon?
Oh — but who cares? Director Dominic Sena doesn’t much seem to, and it’s hard to blame him. As with any recent Nicolas Cage venture, there is the pressing question of how profoundly moronic it all is. And there is the obvious answer that the profundity of moronism in Nicolas Cage ventures remains highly subjective, depending on preliminary viewer intoxication and receptivity to dialogue such as this:
Perlman: “We have seen things few men have seen.”
Cage: “And fewer still will believe.”
Perlman: “Ah, but we will know the truth, my friend. We will know.”
I can’t offer many more examples of the dialogue because I didn’t write them down. I didn’t want to be the guy actually taking notes on “Season of the Witch.” But this journalistic lethargy seems commensurate with the filmmaking. It was easy enough to get a general sense of screenwriter Bragi Schut’s wantonly anachronistic buddy-banter slang — at once a tad too new to evoke the 14th Century and a tad too old to evoke the 21st. Whenever anyone talked about the witch, I half expected them to pronounce it “wee-otch.” Otherwise, it went more or less like this:
Perlman: “What is that smell?”
Cage: “That would be you.”
Well, they can’t all be chess games with the Grim Reaper, now can they?