Thursday, August 2, 2007

Seventh Seal, The (1957)

3 comments:

  1. On Monday of this week, film director Ingmar Bergman passed away in his native Sweden. With a nod to timing, let's take a look at his most famous work, Det Sjunde Inseglet, which was released 50 years ago (the film was re-released in the UK and Australia a mere 10 days before Bergman's death).

    The Seventh Seal features an intersection of characters exploring life and, ultimately, death. There is a knight and his squire returning from ten years worth of the Crusades, a travelling band of actors and entertainers, a smith and his wife, and others. All around them, black death takes the lives of many people, and the survivors throw themselves into alcohol, religion, and madness to escape the plague.

    The figure of death in the film is incredibly iconic, and thanks to lighting and shading, very ominous and menacing. At first blush it would seem a guy with white face paint in a black cape would make a terrible looking death, but the short-lived actor Bengt Ekerot and Bergman put together quite a heavy presence. Seeing the knight Antonius Block (Max von Sydow) battle Death over a game of chess with the raging ocean in the background is to see one of the finest scenes in all of cinema.

    The two best characters in the film are Block (see von Sydow most recently in Rush Hour 3) and his squire, Jöns (the late Gunnar Björnstrand). Block struggles to understand the meaning of God, desperate to know not faith but knowledge. He continually makes references to God hiding in the darkness, refusing to answer calls. Jöns, on the other hand, believes that life is all we have, and the only thing that awaits us as we leave this earth is a dark, empty void.

    It's a very philosophical ideas with lots to ponder and enjoy. The film is not perfect, most notably being a few historical inaccuracies, but as far as theme, performance, and end result go, The Seventh Seal is a masterpiece and a quality movie. Bergman left an indelible mark on the world.

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  2. I cant help but think of "Bill and ted's bogus journey" when I look at the illustration of a guy dressed as Death playing a game... : )

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  3. Well, that was an homage to this. If only they had Battleship in medieval Sweden...

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