Review by Sean Boelman
Sword of God (whose original language title Krew Boga translates directly into the arguably much cooler “Blood of God”) is an experimental historical horror film, and it’s just as insane as it sounds. A stylish and captivating watch, this movie is more effective at building a sense of dread than almost any other in recent memory.
The film tells the story of two travelers in the middle ages who find themselves immersed in the culture of a group of pagan natives, one having the hope of converting them to Christianity and the other hoping to understand their way of life. However, unlike many movies with similar premises, it is not the natives that are the threat, but rather, the outsiders, and that is what makes the film hit so hard.
Co-writer and director Bartosz Konopka says a lot about European colonialism in his movie, and while this is no longer as much of a directly pertinent topic, a lot of the discussion that he poses can be tied into modern issues of racism and prejudice. It’s interesting and meaningful, much more so than the average genre picture.
The writers also do a very good job of building the film’s characterization. The dichotomy that they build between the two leads is absolutely fascinating. Perhaps more impressive, though, is that the film takes care to give the native characters personalities, which is not something that happens commonly in movies such as this.
The two lead actors, Kyrzysztof Pieczynski and Karol Bernacki, are both very good. The film previously toured the festival circuit under the English title The Mute because of the fact that a majority of Bernacki’s performance is done without dialogue. The level of expressiveness he is able to bring to the role is astonishing.
This is very much a slow burn, but it works well, crawling under the viewer’s skin and staying there for the entirety of the runtime. Konopka’s style is very moody and atmospheric, giving the movie a great tone that is immersive and horrifying. Atmosphere and tension almost always work better than jump scares, and Konopka’s film is a great example of this in action.
Visually, the movie is truly gorgeous. The color palette and cinematography of the film are cold and uninviting, which is exactly what the story calls for. It’s not a fun watch by any means of the word, but it’s a rewarding and effective one. Konopka crafts the movie in a way to disturb the audience, and he pulls it off gracefully.
Sword of God is one of the most unexpectedly terrifying horror films of the year so far. It is truly a hidden foreign gem of the genre, and hopefully audiences will discover it in all of its dread-inducing and thought-provoking glory.
Sword of God is now screening online in partnership with indie theaters. A list of participating locations can be found here.