Seventh Seal, the (1957)

June 28, 2011 By Mike B
Movie Review

What Worked?

Once you watch this film it truly never leaves you. The Seventh Seal is about a disillusioned knight, Antonius Block, who finds Sweden in the thick of the plague. On a peaceful beach he finds Death personified, waiting to take him away, but he challenges him to a game of chess in order to stall the inevitable. This is arguably Ingmar Bergman’s most beautiful and thought-provoking film, observing the human condition and trying to find purpose in a world where questions plague the soul.

Bergman paints a beautifully cold picture that’s so visually appealing that the film could be a silent piece. The wintry images, the classic scene of the chess game on a lonely beach, the operatic music, all of it is stunning. The film is simply visual poetry. The script is also amazing, fascinating viewers with intellectual dialogue that sparks one’s own thoughts on the meaning of life, if there’s any at all.

Max Von Sydow plays Antonius Block, the knight looking to beat Death at the game of life. Sydow, as Block, is beaten down by a lack of the divine in life, as his faith is dwindling by the experience of hell on earth, through the war and the plague. Constantly, he is looking for hope, looking for answers to make sense of it all. Sydow does a fantastic job, eyes wandering, eager to reach the answers he seeks. Bengt Ekerot plays Death, and he does so with grace and finesse, mixed with a look of a mysterious power behind his steel gaze. Gunnar Bjornstrand, playing Jons the squire of Antonius Block, is also great as a good-hearted man that acts as a fearless guardian.

Although it has its happy moments and a few humorous parts, the Seventh Seal is a dark film. It influences you ponder over questions of life that can’t be answered, especially about the existence of God and the meaning of life. Perhaps Bergman has answered those questions plainly by taking the time to present them. Maybe the answer to the question “what is the meaning of life?” it to simply ask that very question.

Potential Drawbacks:

For those who don’t like to watch films that make you think, and would rather watch an entertaining flick, give this a try on a day you start questioning the unknowns of life.

Film Recommendations:

8 1/2

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