A Knight and his squire are home from the crusades. Black Death is sweeping their country. As they approach home, Death appears to the knight and tells him it is his time. The knight challenges Death to a chess game for his life. The Knight and Death play as the cultural turmoil envelopes the people around them as they try, in different ways, to deal with the upheaval the plague has caused.Written by
John Vogel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Antonius Block: "I met Death today. We are playing chess."
Dark, beautiful, meaningful, exploring the most serious themes of faith and searching for God, "The Seventh Seal" is known as one of the landmark Bergman's movies. One of the film's inspirations was a painting that Bergman saw as a young boy and was transfixed by: "There was everything that one's imagination could desire. Angels, saints, dragons, prophets, devils, humans. There were very frightening animals: serpents in paradise, Balaam's ass, Jonah's whale, the eagle of Revelation. All this was surrounded by heavenly, earthly and subterranean landscapes of strange yet familiar beauty. I remember Death playing chess with a Crusader, Death sawing at a tree to a branch of which clung a naked man with staring eyes, and across a gentle hill Death leading the final dance towards the dark lands" (Bergman in Hart). The film follows the journey of a knight Antonius Block (Max Von Sydow) returning from Crusades through Sweden ravaged by plague. The knight has lost his faith in the blood and horrors of the battlefield, "Faith is a torment. It is like loving someone who is out there in the darkness but never appears, no matter how loudly you call." On his way home, he encountered people dying from starvation and disease, being burnt as witches as well as Mr. Death himself who challenged him to play a game of chess and the family of a happy juggler, his wife, and their infant son. This family is happy because they love each other. They represent the simple joys and hopes of ordinary life.
Everything about "The Seventh Seal" is extra-ordinary including acting. I especially liked Jöns, Antonius Block's misogynist squire - the best performance in the movie by Gunnar Björnstrand. His quotes about love are hilarious:
"Love is the blackest of all plagues... if one could die of it, there would be some pleasure in love, but you don't die of it." "Love is as contagious as a cold. It eats away at your strength, morale... If everything is imperfect in this world, love is perfect in its imperfection."
I know the film's reputation and I enjoyed watching it but it did not click with me completely the way the others Bergman's films did ("Fanny and Alexander", "Persona", "Smiles of a Summer Night") and I found myself bored few times. I keep thinking why? It seems to me that the movie is slightly overdone and overheated with its attacking images, abstractions and discursive dialog. I understand that it is a very serious film but while watching it, I could not help thinking how funny its images and dialog would look and sound in parodies. (Not as anything is wrong with that). Woody Allen obviously thought the same. :)
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