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The Seventh Seal is a 1957 Swedish historical fantasy film written and directed by Ingmar Bergman. An interesting movie about facing death. Considered to be one of the greatest films of all time. 1001
In life we must face death and Antonius Bloch(Max von Sydow) does so while also questioning his faith and whether or not there is a hereafter. Much like Dï¿ 1/2 1/4rer's engraving "The Knight, Death and The Devil", our doomed hero is stoic in his journey home through a plague stricken Scandinavia were Death has dominion.
I really want to like Ingmar Bergman or at least feel something other than boredom when watching his films but after seeing The Seventh Seal I may put watching his films to rest until I enter my twenties and am capable of understanding a true artiste. I have found substance in the films of other European art-house directors like Andrei Tarkovsky and Werner Herzog but this film just seemed pretentious and dreary while wasting a potentially interesting plot and some great actors. I can appreciate that the visual style of this film is stunning and has influenced several future films but that wasn't enough to rescue 96 minutes of self-important dithering.
Antonius Block, Max von Sydow, and Jons, Gunnar Bjornstrand, are knights who have been fighting in the Crusades but who have returned to Sweden as Block encounters Death, Bengt Ekerot, and plays chess with him for his life. Life and death are discussed and interacted with throughout as Block comes to appreciate life as he fails to win the chess games against Death.
I wouldn't recommend spending time with this movie because it is doesn't manage to hold your interest AT ALL. I wanted to care about Block's â~disillusionment' with life but I felt a distance from him as we keep getting portrait shots of von Sydow's face, yes he was a handsome man at this point, as he smiles or frowns but never in response to anything. The interactions between Block and his estranged wife Karin, Inga Landgre, held some interest to me but I wanted to see their relationship get more fleshed out so I could understand why their reconciliation was important. I felt like we met so many characters and spent so little time with each of them while it felt like I had spent hours and hours with the traveling mute girl. Oh, thank goodness for mainstream cinema where plots make sense and characters act logically in some ways.
I don't ask that a film be completely straightforward or handhold me through all of it's plot developments, I like Krzysztof Kieslowski films, but I need something, anything to work off of. I suppose the religious themes alienated me because I am an atheist who fortunately has not been indoctrinated into believing religious nonsense. This film's discussion of faith and the nature of God was the sort of thing you would find in a Terrence Malick film but this film wasn't as beautiful or moving as any of his films. I needed something surrounding that to be incredible in order for the film to overcome how seemingly ponderous it was. If I wanted to watch a film that interacts with religion unnecessarily I would just watch Ben-Hur (1959).
The iconic images from this film are deserving of the acclaim they get as it is haunting watching first a terrifying depiction of death and then a bright, ebullient young girl does send the message I believe Bergman is attempting to send. Harsh black and white creates incredible pictures that stay with you long after seeing the film and if this imagery had supported a stronger film I could have really loved it. Bergman steadfastly refuses to let his film be in any way accessible but forces you to keep watching because his ability as a filmmaker is so clear. I was infuriated, angered by how little of this film I understood even as those around me told me it was â~brilliant' and â~important'. If a filmmaker refuses to let you in to any piece of their art or what it is trying to communicate then it is worth watching?
Having read up on Bergman's filmography I now understand that Scenes from a Marriage (1973) is one of his more accessible films or mini series, depending how you categorize it, so I will try to watch it again. I want to see Bergman's visuals and eye for detail applied to a story without alienating allusions or pretentious jibber jabber. Maybe one day I will be able to say that I am a genuine fan of Swedish arty cinema but for now I'll stick to Kieslowski, John Ford, Woody Allen and Noah Baumabch when I'm looking for a film that I'll like.
The Seventh Seal is a riveting, expertly-filmed, beautifully-written, and wildly intelligent exploration of Catholic and apocalyptic anxiety. Its existential dread and its haunting questions of purpose and the presence of God still feel real and as relevant today. The misogyny demonstrated throughout the film, however does not age well, and is an unfortunate product of both the time of the film's release and the age it seeks to portray. One could argue that the misogyny is intended to show the savagery of men, their sinful nature, and that Bergman was calling out this cruel reality.
So glad that I don't have to deal with feudal living, that was quite a messed up time in history. People playing at God back then just proclaimed everyone they hated or feared as devil worshipers and most of the "Christianity" is paganism with a Christ-theme. Block is a very interesting character who struggles with something that many of us do, the idea that we have to have faith because the alternative is worthless to believe in, yet it's incredibly frustrating that we can't see God and still have to rely on faith without ever seeing Him. Block is smart enough that he could have beaten Death even after admitting his original strategy, but sacrifices his chances in order to save Jof's family. Death comes at us no matter our aspirations and potential, and the film definitely shows a very interesting theme of death surrounding everything. Block never does, while alive, get the answers he seeks to the existence of God because even Death can not answer the question for him because even he does not know. However, Jof did see the Virgin Mary and Christ, so it's very interesting that not only is faith required of us, but some people even get the gift of knowledge that we never will, and yet we still need to believe because that is our test. The cinematography is gorgeous, the acting is great, and it has very interesting themes. I should watch this again.
Even with the movies overtones of humor. It may just be the most deeply empowering movie ever made.
A classic, and a classic allegory.
A world cinema masterpiece from Ingmar Bergman which demands repeated viewings
one of the few movies that will still be watched in a hundred years.
A morbid contemplation on death and faith.
The Seventh Seal (1957) is perhaps director Ingmar Bergman's most influential work. It is a slow burn, but pays off in its thoughtful meditations on the reality of God and the value of life. The pacing matches the feudal Swedish setting of the countryside scourged by The Black Plague. As dismal and hopeless as things seem, there is more to Bergman's nightmarish Sweden than appears on the surface.
It may seem depressing and nihilistic, but it exudes with a charming contentment for the joys of living. Bergman's script is actually very funny with his existential ruminations offset with hilarious black humor. The more serious scenes with the conversations with Death are fascinating portraits of man's wish for a confirmation of God's existence.
I think that The Seventh Seal offers a simple truth: that man can only be happy alongside their friends, family, and acquaintances. Rather than seeking paradise in Heaven, we should find solace and enjoyment in the revelries in life.
In regards to Bergman's direction, The Seventh Seal is a masterclass in lighting dreary black and white rooms. Bergman illuminates the faces with a tender affection for their painful moments and pensive solitude. His eyes for wide shots of the Swedish countryside are as stunning and memorable as the dance with Death or the chess game on the beach with Death. I think Bergman particularly shined his directorial prowess in the confessional with the knight confessing his disbelief to Death. That entire sequence in the church pits the knight begging and feeling behind bars while the passive Death listens on to trick the knight in a genius stroke of cinematic intrigue and careful technique.
Speaking of the knight, Max von Sydow delivers a moving and subtle performance as Antonius Block. His empathetic face for the women being burned alive or the unhappy wife of the joker proves Sydow's mastery of expressive facial acting. Sydow acts with a confidence and thoughtful care well beyond his years in The Seventh Seal. I was impressed with every scene that focuses on him. I especially loved the chess sequences and his calm playful attitude next to Death.
Then Death himself, Bengt Ekerot, kills it as the grim reaper. His Death is pale white, but displays a colorful character of delightful measure. His watchful observations of the living as well as his grim forbearance all speak volumes while his character just stands there. His clever wordplay and mirthless banter with Sydow make the chess scenes all the more bitter and entertaining. I loved Ekerot all the more by the end of The Seventh Seal.
I simply must mention the stunning Swedish actress Bibi Andersson as Mia. Her affectionate performance as the wife of the fool is very captivating. Her conversation with Sydow and the wild strawberries was particularly mesmerizing. You could feel how much sadness and hopefulness her character Mia contains.
I should also like to give commendations to Nils Poppe as Jof. His foolish actor is a miserable jester of meager talent and you pity his simplistic wishes all the more for it. Poppe makes you feel for the fool, while laughing at his dismay and visions. I thought he played the part to perfection.
Similarly, Gunnar Bjornstrand is excellent as the nihilistic squire Jons. His allegiance to Sydow's knight is interesting, but his dire interjections into the film are both funny and sorrowful. His critique of The Crusades is as astonishing as his performance protecting those around him. Bjornstrand is a fascinating actor to watch.
Lastly, Erik Nordgren's score to The Seventh Seal is magnificent Gothic classical music that is frightening when it chimes in a few times. The silence sounds so scary and deadly on its own merits for the majority of The Seventh Seal, but the occasional blaring sounds of an orchestra do a great deal for unnerving the audience. The Seventh Seal sounds wonderful.
I just really left The Seventh Seal respecting Ingmar Bergman's craftsmanship as a director. He certainly earned the title of auteur with his uniquely depressing and beautiful direction. I think you should enter The Seventh Seal ready to think and feel about life and death. It is an experience altogether unlike any other movie viewing I have undergone. I am still thinking about it now.