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9/10
Really weird but worth seeing for the experience
MartinHafer13 June 2005
This is a strange movie--period! However, it is also one of the most parodied films and for that reason alone it is worth seeing! Now, on to explain the part that is parodied: A man is returning from war in the time of the Reformation and the plague is about the countryside. The man meets the Angel of Death and is told it is him time to die. The man asks if he can first challenge him in a game of chess--if the man wins, then his life will be spared. The Grim Reaper, not wanting to be a spoilsport, agrees and they play a game that starts and stops again and again. This exact same contest has been used in Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey, the cartoon series The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, and an experimental film De Düva: The Dove (starring Madeline Kahn among others). In the Bill and Ted movie, they did not play chess but a series of games including Battleship and Twister! In The Dove, it was a badminton game! I can't remember what the game was in the cartoon series, but instead of their deaths, the children played the Grim Reaper over the soul of their pet hamster! Isn't is weird how this art film has appeared again and again and in the silliest of places! Give it a try to see the FIRST death-match and because it is a good film--with excellent performances all around--from Max Von Sydow to all the supporting players. Also, do not give up on the film too quick--I did and only saw it all years later when my sister-in-law convinced me to give it another try!
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10/10
Fully deserves its rep as a masterpiece
TheLittleSongbird31 August 2012
This is one amazing film, and in my view Ingmar Bergman's best. Visually, The Seventh looks wonderful, the bleak scenery adds much to the mood, the cinematography is beautifully composed and skillful and the lighting is atmospheric. It also has many memorable images like with the flagellates, the hawk flying in the cloudless sky, Jof's vision of the Virgin Mary and the milk and strawberries in the dusk. Bergman's direction is superb, Erik Nordgren's score is resolutely haunting and the dialogue is some of the most thought-provoking I've heard with some nice bawdy humour with especially the squire that doesn't feel misplaced. The story is like an allegory and meditation of life, death, love and fear(amongst other things), and it is dealt with in a very intelligent and careful manner. Again there are some timeless scenes like the ending, the scene of the girl about to be burnt, Death being challenged to a game of chess and with the jester. The acting is also exemplary, Max Von Sydow gives one of cinema's finest performances, stoic yet always commanding with a face that speaks volumes about what he's thinking. Bengt Ekerot evokes chills as Death, while Gunner Bjornstrand is suitably dry as the squire. All in all, a really amazing film, fully deserving of its reputation. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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The Seventh Seal
Michael_Elliott11 March 2008
Seventh Seal, The (1957)

**** (out of 4)

The black plague is sweeping through Sweden and a knight (Max Von Sydow) challenges Death to a game of chess so that he can try to understand the meanings of good, evil and who God really is. Another remarkable film from Ingmar Bergman would probably be my second favorite of his behind Persona but this one here would probably get more viewings from me. The film is dark, dirty and downright depressing but that's what makes it rather unique. I guess you could also call the film ugly in its subject matter but Bergman's masterful touch makes it all very poetic.
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9/10
Thought-provoking and profound
Leofwine_draca6 August 2012
Warning: Spoilers
THE SEVENTH SEAL is Ingmar Bergman's meditation on Christianity and death, told through the tableau of a medieval setting and a mixed bunch of players on the stage. Max von Sydow headlines the cast as the Crusader knight who famously challenges Death to a game of chess, and the film follows his ruminations as well as the lives of others caught up in the same time and place.

This is certainly an original film, I can't think of one quite like it, and one that's tough to describe. Stylistically it has the same kind of quality as a Kurosawa film to it, such as RASHOMON. It has an almost episodic feel in places, and there's no real thrust to the narrative; instead it's more of a depiction of everyday life, exploring interactions between various folk. But despite the lack of obvious focus, it's never less than utterly watchable. Melodrama it might be, but it's good melodrama.

Bergman has a way of directing that reminds me of Kurosawa; he doesn't do anything obvious but his film nevertheless looks stylish and carefully composed throughout. The Swedish cast members are all very good and there are lots of powerful moments, from a jester being bulled in a wayside inn to the ultimate fate of a hapless witch. The ending employs a classic bit of imagery that left me feeling chilled. The whole enterprise is dark, morbidly so, and yet the depth and maturity of the insight are what makes it a classic.
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7/10
love Death and Max von Sydow
SnoopyStyle30 January 2015
It's the middle of the 14th Century. Antonius Block (Max von Sydow) is a knight returning to Sweden from the crusade with his squire. The land is ravaged by the black plague. Death approaches him on the beach to take him but he challenges Death to a game of chess. Block can win back his life . He continues on his journey back home playing the game. He is disillusioned and encounters various people.

I really love the idea of Death as a character. Max von Sydow has superior presence that elevates his character. The strict Christianity and the intense stuff are very compelling. I'm not as interested in the other characters and I wish the movie stays with Block. It's a bit uneven and slow at times. Nevertheless, it has some fascinating aspects.
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10/10
Ah, the Middle Ages!
Hitchcoc21 October 2009
This is such a compelling film. First of all, we have the backdrop around the time of the Crusades and the Black Death. People must live their lives in constant fear. Of course, the ones flourishing are those connected to the church. When people are desperate, that's where they end up. There is no moral sense at work in the land because death is literally around the corner, played by a round faced character in a black cowl. Max Van Sydow's knight is a fine character who manages to play a game of chess with Death and put off the inevitable. During that time he encounters a group of scoundrels and some very nice people who don't deserve their fate. Bergman's images are incredible. He does more with black and white film than darn near anyone. There is a preponderance of religious symbolism. Most of what I remember is that amazing power generated by the church, the burnings and the fear tactics. When Death comes, after the fear has been exhausted, there seems to be a comfortable acceptance because the life on earth is certainly not worth much.
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chess play
Kirpianuscus14 July 2018
Maybe, a parable. dark, bitter, fascinating. but, from childhood, when I saw it for the first time, to present, I discovered it as a sort of revelation of the roots of life. remembering the traits of Middle Age , the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch and Peter Bruegel, the themes of Bergman's cinema. and the right perspective about life, choices, expectations and the true answer to the near reality. for long time, the scene of chess play was the only who I considered significant. not exactly as a game between Death and Knight but as the build of the fundamental answer of old fears. a film who could be reduced at a long chain of symbols, cultural references, myths, legends. in fact, only a question. about life and faith and fear and happiness and decisions.
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6/10
Haunting as well as entertaining, even if I did not see true greatness
Horst_In_Translation3 September 2020
Warning: Spoilers
"Det sjunde inseglet" or "The Seventh Seal" is a Swedish movie from 1957, so this one is already way over half a century old, and it is also in the Swedish language, even if there is some Latin in here too, but really not too much. It runs for slightly over 1.5 hours, but stays under the 100-minute mark, so it is definitely not among the longest films out there. The director is of course Ingmar Bergman, considered by absolutely everybody Sweden's finest filmmaker ever, considered by many Europe's finest filmmaker ever and considered by some the world's finest filmmaker ever. He is also once again the writer. The writer of the play this is based on and also the writer of the specific screenplay. As you can see from the pretty cool poster this is a black-and-white movie, which is not a given for mid/late 1950s, but also not to be taken for granted. Bergman was still under the age of 40 when he made this movie that received a great deal of awards recognition, for example at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. Sadly, he is of course long gone now and same is true for almost all the cast members in here. Lindblom is still alive I see, but I must say there are only two names here that I recognize and Bergman fans will certainly recognize a lot more.

These two would be Bibi Andersson and Max von Sydow. She died in spring last year at a relatively old age and he died in spring this year at an even older age, so he has been dead for approximately half a year now. His character (if not Death) is also the most memorable from the movie we have here I'd say. So von Sydow was easily under 30 at that point, which means not even a third of his life was over then. And even if this is a black-and-white film as I wrote earlier, his bright blonde hair is so easy to recognize that it almost felt like a color movie at times. Or this little snippet of the screen that included his hair. von Sydow went on to become one of Sweden's finest actors of all time, maybe even a contender for Sweden's most popular actor with his breakthrough in Hollywood and Oscar nominations as on the male side I think there was nobody really that reached a star level like Ingrid Bergman. But okay, let's not drift away too far from this film here. It is in the imdb top250, pretty comfortably actually being at 159 right now, so it will stay inside for a long, long time. I cannot really support this inclusion. It is a good movie for sure, even if it needed a little while to get going for me, but with everything after the half-hour mark, there is no hesitation for me in giving this one a thumbs-up. It delivered mostly in terms of being a supernatural drama with the two characters you see on the photo here, but there are also some slightly funny moments.

I think that people with major focus on gender equality and female rights will not enjoy this movie a lot. But it is justified. It is set during the days of the Crusades when brave knights were around and millions being killed by the Plague. You could actually say that Death, the man you see in the background of this imdb photo, not von Sydow, is symbolic for the Plague and not just for death in general. After all, the Plague is called Black Death too as far as I remember which would fit the man's suit's color. Anyway, what I wanted to say is that there was one scene specifically that was pretty harsh on females. We have the guy who comes closest to being an antagonist being about to steal from corpses, a pretty despicable act, even if not uncommon back then, not only because of the act of theft, but also despicable because he exposes himself at risk to the Plague and also those people he may infect later on when being close to them. It's no coinciende at all that we see him die eventually from the Plague. But now really, during this scene we have a woman approach him and ask what he is doing and next up he is about to kill her, maybe with the intention to rape her before that, but another guy (one of the good guys, yep) shows up and protects the woman from the villain. Quickly afterwards, he talks to her and says something like she can be glad that he did not rape her himself. Pretty charming. Honestly, I could feel that we could get a wave of political correctness there too, just like we did with "Gone with the Wind" lately telling us this is no way to speak to a woman. Don't do it, Netflix! Please.

Anyway, the humor in here is pretty dark at times for sure. Like in the exact same scene, the man (Jöns I think) says something like he has not been home for a long time and hopefully his wife is dead by now, again not very female-friendly there. So probably a movie like this could not have been made anymore today without being ousted by censorship and white knights, which is pretty sad, but hey, at least they can't (completely) alter those old movies. Another thing here I felt was that the female characters are pretty stunning. Well, not all of them, but several. At least two and that includes also von Sydow's character's wife/partner whom we meet at the very end. Also a pretty haunting final shot as we see the characters being led to death by Death himself from afar, but hey at least those that are observing this scenario seem to have survived. Okay, what else is there to say? Oh yeah, the chess game between the knight and Death is an interesting one. It was almost a bit funny honestly when Death accepted the challenge to play chess and even accepted the offer that as long as the knight does not lose, he may stay alive. Towards the end, it seemed like a smart move because this way, perhaps he saved the lives of the others as they get away, but nobody can get away from Death as we find out and he probably knew exactly what was going on. Still, you may wonder if the knight's getting together with all of them wasn't a bit on the selfish side either as he may have led Death to them this way, so by trying to have them leave secretly, he tried to make up for it. Or actually those who got away were the ones watching the group in the end? I am not sure.

One final thing I want to say is that there is some violence in here, but never too graphic. For example we have the villain dying from the Plague, many other people dying from the Plague as well. Or the guy dying up there on the tree. Or the villain getting the mark on his head or wherever else. We know all these things happen and they are haunting enough for sure and we do not need to see them to know that they are indeed happening. Bergman's writing and direction are certainly strong enough to get the message across. So yeah, all in all I give this film a thumbs-up. I have not seen too much from the filmmaker (I know, my loss), so there is not really any point in saying this is among my (least) favorite films from the man, but, like I said earlier already I think, no hesitation for me in giving this one here a positive recommendation. Go check it out, preferrably on a big screen where it is certainly more memorable than on a small computer screen or so and I am glad I got the chance to check this one out today at my local theater. Hope you will be equally lucky. Don't miss out then!
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6/10
The endgame
Prismark1025 November 2016
The Seventh Seal has been influential to many filmmakers. Parodied in Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, inspired Roger Corman's version of The Masque of the Red Death.

However I have always been put off by Ingmar Bergman films. Maybe those serious, somewhat dull Woody Allen films where he would try to emulate his idol Bergman; he would even get Sven Nykvist to be the cinematographer sort of put me off.

However I felt it was time to enter the stark monochrome world of Ingmar Bergman and his most celebrated film, The Seventh Seal starring Max von Sydow as the medieval knight Antonius Block.

Von Sydow looks as young as I have ever seen him before, he is an actor who has always looked old. I find it hard to believe that I am older than he was in films such as The Three Days of the Condor and he looked old in that movie.

Block has returned with his squire from the Crusades to find Sweden ravaged with the plague. Death surrounds them and pretty soon Death comes for Block but he holds him back by challenging him to a game of chess in the hope that if he beats Death, he cheats death by being reprieved.

However Death has few tricks up his dark sleeves and they are non chess moves as he fools Block in revealing his strategy. However Block also has motives of his own, an endgame where he wishes not to save himself but someone else.

The story introduces other characters such as the blacksmith and his cheating wife, a lustful theatre manager, a band of actors including a resilient married couple. We have vignettes some comic, some tragic such as a girl being burned on the stake as a witch.

The film is episodic and existentialist. It is thought provoking with stark symbolism. I admit I never fathomed what it was all about but to me it was Block trying to do one good deed by cheating Death so others could live.
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7/10
To chess or not to chess
kosmasp8 September 2011
A road unlike any other road movie, I guess. An infamous scene that you have heard a lot about (I'm guessing, especially if you like and have seen quite a few movies). Characters that are weird (to put that mildly) and strange religious tones that I'm quite sure didn't fare well with the church ...

While dialogue is a strong point (as has been said by other reviewers already), it's also the imagery that Bergman puts on display. Not really an easy film to follow (though might still be considered as pretty straight forward), this really has quite a lot going for it. Even if it is only the idea itself you like, there is undeniable attraction to this film. And something you should watch (despite how you might feel afterward about it) ...
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9/10
"I live now in a world of phantoms, a prisoner of my own dreams."
classicsoncall26 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
On the Criterion Collection interview with Ingmar Bergman, he relates that he wrote the chess scene over his own fear of dying. This would have been an immensely interesting idea to explore, but after he mentions it, the interview is practically over. That left me rather frustrated.

The film itself may also leave one rather frustrated, as it explores the principal character agonizing over God's unwillingness to show His face and answer his existential questions about the meaning of life and the certainty of death. When Death (Bengt Ekerot) makes his entrance to claim him a victim, Antonius Block (Max von Sydow) challenges the Grim Reaper to a game of chess, the winner to exact his own reward. The Knight must quickly readjust his game plan after he unwittingly reveals his strategy to the black clad harvester of souls.

The film is set during the time of the Black Plague, following a 'worthless' crusade of ten years that the Knight and his Squire Jons (Gunnar Bjornstrand) participated in. All around them are wanderers half crazed with fear at the thought of the Plague approaching. All the time Death appropriates his victims, he claims to know nothing and hold no secrets. Fearing his own demise, Block (Bergman?) disrupts the chess board, intent on prolonging his existence in a world full of uncertainty.

"The Seventh Seal" is Bergman's stunning allegory of man's search for meaning, but what I've come to understand after many years is that each person must come to terms with himself from within. Attempting to extract answers from a single source is bound to end in disappointment, trapped if you will in a Knight's world of phantoms and dreams more like nightmares. This is the kind of film that presents more questions than answers, as I'm sure Bergman understood and intended.
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10/10
seven is the lucky number for film buffs
lee_eisenberg25 June 2005
"Det sjunde inseglet" (or, as the English-speaking world knows it, "The Seventh Seal") is one of those movies that doesn't have any clear purpose; in a way, it's not supposed to. More than anything else, it looks at the questions that surround people in their lives, and shows that they don't necessarily have clear-cut answers. The ever-imposing Max Von Sydow plays Antonius Block, a Swedish knight returning home after having fought in the Crusades. He and his squire Jons (Gunnar Bjornstrand) meet Death (Bengt Ekerot). The not-so-Grim Reaper is of course planning to take the men to the afterlife, but the knight makes a most unusual deal: he and Death will play chess, and he will get to stay alive as long as he wins.

Whether or not Antonius wins is not the point. The movie is a philosophical look not only at how the Bubonic Plague was affecting Europe, but probably also at how certain things are always creeping up on us. The final scene affirms this, and the movie affirms Ingmar Bergman as a director unlike any other.
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8/10
Widely Considered the Greatest Bergman Film
gavin694224 April 2010
A story set in medieval times (presumably Sweden), with a knight who faces death (literally), a young couple, and some other characters. Fate is coming for them, as they live in the time of the plague.

Film historian Ivan Butler sees elements of horror here (as he does in much of Bergman's work), pointing to the instances of "death, plague, religious fanaticism, intolerance, torture" and singling out the scene with Joseph is "forced at knife point to stand on his head, to climb on the table and dance like a bear." How much this is horror and how much it is everyday life in medieval Sweden, I really could not say.

Ebert, meanwhile, says this film "has more in common with the silent film than with the modern films that followed it", and that "All of Bergman's mature films, except the comedies, are about his discontent with the ways that God has chosen to reveal himself." On that first point, this is decidedly so; Bergman has strong, stark visuals almost needing no sound at all to carry them. As for the latter point, this is an interesting interpretation and I do not know Bergman's work well enough to comment.

I actually first came across this film indirectly, having seen "Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey" and not being aware of the reference. Next, I came across it in "Last Action Hero". Those may not be high culture, but the fact that this film touched such remote genres really gives support to the strength of the work.
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8/10
The Seventh Seal
jboothmillard24 June 2010
Warning: Spoilers
The iconic image from this film is Max Von Sydow playing chess against Death, or The Grim Reaper, it is spoofed in Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, so I was most looking forward to seeing the whole thing, from director Ingmar Bergman (Smiles of a Summer Night, Persona). Basically knight Antonius Block (Sydow) and his squire Jöns (Gunnar Björnstrand) have returned home from the crusades, where the Black Death is spreading. Antonius comes face to face with Death (Bengt Ekerot), literally, who tells him his number is up, but the knight challenges the dark figure to a game of chess for his life. This game continues throughout the film as cultural turmoil ensues around Antonius, and there are quite a few dark references to the existence of God and the Devil, and the very essence of faith. Through the film, you see travelling actors doing some weird voodoo play looking as though their praising the Devil, a Witch (Maud Hansson) is burned alive, violence is used to stabilise order and a few other dark occurrences. But the dark stuff is balanced out by a few light hearted and spiritual events, you can see Jof / Joseph (Nils Poppe) and his young wife Mia / Mary - Jof's wife (Bibi Andersson) with their infant son Mikael are meant to represent the Holy family. As far as I remember, Antonius gives away his idea for a winning move, as he knows he is most likely to lose the chess game anyway, and I'm guessing he does. Also starring Anders Ek as The Monk and Erik Strandmark as Jonas Skat. Being a Swedish film, it wasn't easy to understand most of what was going on, but looking back I can understand the religious messages that director Bergman (father of Ingrid) was trying to get across, and it is a most watchable classic period drama. It was number 70 on The 100 Greatest Films. Very good!
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2/10
Another Favorite Of The Pseudo-Intellectuals
ccthemovieman-118 May 2007
I just laugh out loud when I read national critics gushing over Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman and his films, particularly this one which they love to label "his greatest work." Do you know why? It's because Bergman liked to show God and Bible believers in a negative light. Since almost all critics are Liberals, they love this kind of thought so, like Martin Scorcese, he can do no wrong. It's as simple as that.

Basically, this story is nothing but one man's diatribe against faith, and why the man lost it. He lost it - get this - because God didn't audibly answer his prayers. Since he didn't hear a booming voice from a burning bush answering his prayers then, he surmises, there must be no God.

Unbelievable.

Anyway, all of this sounds good to atheist/agnostic film critics. However, I believe Bergman might have been more of a believer than he let on because God was a topic in a number of his films. At least, he was wrestling about His existence, and that's not unusual. Too bad that in none of his films does he come up with a pro-God answer.

Even if all the "religious" talks means nothing to you, I think most people would find this film way too boring so the entertainment value is not going to be there. For honest questioners of Faith and those who would find the visuals and direction intriguing, I have no problem with it. I just think it's overrated because of the reasons I stated above, and the fact it IS a boring movie with unappealing characters.
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10/10
Eat, Drink, and Be Merry.
rmax3048236 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I remember seeing this for the first time in Los Angeles and emerging from the theater shocked, scared, and thrilled, as if I'd just viewed my first autopsy. There had never been anything like this allegory before, although there have been imitations and parodies since -- Monty Python, Woody Allen.

A thoughtful knight (Max von Sydow) and his tough, cynical squire (Gunnar Bjornstrand) return from the Crusades to find their Scandinavian state in a terrible mess. The plague is sweeping the land. The plagues all seem far away now, but one of them knocked off about a third of the population of Europe. That would be more than a hundred million Americans today. The deaths were horrible.

Death comes for the knight and squire, dressed in a black cloak and hood, with a pasty white face. (Only Ingmar Bergman could pull of a cliché like that.) Death is proud of his talent at playing chess and agrees to the knight's challenge to play a game over the next couple of days. If the knight wins, he goes free, and if Death wins, the knight goes with him. Of course, at the end of the game of life, the same player always wins. Or, as Walsh McDermott put it in a slightly different context, "the dice of the gods are loaded."

Along the way, the knight and squire pick up some fellow travelers, including a family of cheerful itinerant players, a blacksmith and his unfaithful wife, and a young lady of the village who may or may not be retarded. They witness flagellants parading through a village lashing themselves and lugging crosses made of heavy logs, smothered in smoke from swinging iron censers. They watch an insane girl burned at the stake for a witch. Some of the incidents are comic, some are violent, all are revelatory. You know, kind of like real life.

What a movie. It begins with a vulture almost stationary against an overcast, and it ends with a dance of death. In between Death saws down a tree in which a man is trying to hide. We see the trunk fall and the camera fixes on the raw white stump, then a squirrel with hairy ears leaps onto the stump and begins to chatter. I can't imagine that you'll ever forget some of these images.

But then, I don't know. "The Seventh Seal", like the Bergman films that flooded the theaters in the following years, was a product of its time. I'm not at all sure that many of today's viewers would have the patience to sit through a black-and-white movie with subtitles. In the 1960s Stanley Kaufman wrote an article predicting that future students would know the history of film the way that they had always known literary history. Twenty years later, he took it back. Maybe too much MTV, too much immediate gratification, too low a threshold for boredom. In another comment, the complaint was made that Bergman didn't supply any answers, just questions. That's an example of what I'm getting at.
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8/10
The SEVENTH SEAL is a breathtaking masterpiece with great international impact by the genius Bergman
ma-cortes30 January 2007
The film is developed in the Dark Ages , when a plague of pest sweeps throughout Europe , raging all around . A dreary , sad and disappointed knight (Max Von Sidow) is returning from the Crusades along with his squire (Gunnar Bjornstrand) . Meanwhile , he meets Death (Ekerot) who challenges him and they play a chess game . The stakes result to be the followings : If the knights wins , his life and his companies will be spared . Death offers him a reprieve where he deals with discussion of religion , God , his existence and personal demons . Besides , he knows a troupe of minstrels formed by a marriage called Joseph (Nils Poppe) and Mia(Bibi Andersson), among others .

This classy picture contains powerful and haunting images . It is plenty of scenes that stay in mind , such as the appearance of Death , the flagellants parade , the torture and execution by means of a burning pole of an allegedly witch , and , specially , the ending sequence . Stunning casting by Bergman's usual actors : Gunnarn Bjornstrand , Bibi Andersson , Gunnel Lindblon and an awesome Max Von Sidow as the disillusioned knight in his first international great success . Wonderfully directed is all strongest for being brilliantly photographed in an excellent black and white by Gunnar Fischer . It is a masterpiece who made his major impact gaining international acclaim . His realization is during a spellbinding golden period from 1957-1968 when Bergman made memorable masterpieces : ¨Wild strawberries¨ , ¨Virgen Spring¨ , ¨Persona¨ , ¨The communicants¨ , ¨The silence¨ , and ¨Hour of Wolf¨ . Rating : Above average , it is deemed by many to be the Bergman's best .
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7/10
"You are black." .. "It suits me well."
moonspinner552 January 2017
Ingmar Bergman's career of brooding cinematic successes was practically borne here, in an amazing study of doomsday travelers in 14th century Sweden confronting their mortality. In the age of the Black Plague, the streets are filled with pagans, drunks, artisans, performers, religious zealots and volunteer witch-burners; a knight and his squire, home from the Crusades, stop at the ocean, where a most benign Grim Reaper tells the knight he has been at his side for a long while. They engage in a winner-take-all game of chess, though the knight is just biding time to save the friends he has made from Death's clutches. The barbarism and cruelty aside, writer-director Bergman does show a streak of pithy black humor, resulting in some amazing sequences (such as the juggler cut down from a tree by Death and his scythe). The overlay of brutality in the name of Christianity, the torment of faith and the heavy symbolism are often tough to wade through, while the metaphor of the chess game has left the picture open for parody. Still, "The Seventh Seal" is a must-see film, matching its iconic imagery with themes of the eternal struggle. *** from ****
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10/10
The Quintessential Bergman Picture
Quinoa198425 July 2002
One thing that can be certain after watching the Seventh Seal, outside of being thankful for living in this century, is that Bergman knows his film-making- and imagery. He uses subliminal and not so subliminal techniques to convey a dying, frightened world, where making a living is almost impossible and the debate of god's control over life is discussed like un-rhyming yet fascinating poetry.

The result is beautiful cinema, capturing the always foreboding fear and allure of the almighty and for the waiting death, appropriately staged in post-crusades, mid dark age Europe. Max Von Sydow gives an excellent showing as the opponent of Death (in a clever and meticulous chess game), yet the character of Death, played by Bengt Ekerot with chilling conviction, steals the show, if only for the alluring quality of the character.

Even if the story veers it veers in good and interesting territory, focusing on people who convey Bergman's point and or style. I can't reveal what the bottom line point is (many newcomers to Bergman's work won't either, especially if you're not in the mood for soul searching), but one thing is for certain, an allegory on life and death is shown perfectly in the second to last shot of the reaper and his minions following in a dance across the field. This is one of the most pure of cinema's masterpieces and certainly Bergman's best cine. A++
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8/10
Death Becomes Him
wes-connors28 September 2008
In middle of the 14th century, knightly Max von Sydow (as Antonius Block) and squire Gunnar Björnstrand (as Jöns), "after long years as Crusaders in the Holy Land, have at last returned to their native Sweden, a land ravaged by the Black Plague." Mr. von Sydow is immediately confronted by creepy, black-cloaked Bengt Ekerot (as the Personification of Death), who has appeared to claim von Sydow's soul. Instead of going quietly into the final night, von Sydow challenges Mr. Ekerot to a game of chess. "Death" is in a playful mood, and accepts the contest; if von Sydow wins, he and his friends may avoid the Plague.

Director Ingmar Bergman had an amazing 1957 (in Sweden, anyway), book-ended with "Det sjunde inseglet" ("The Seventh Seal") and "Smultronstället" ("Wild Strawberries"). The latter film definitely has the edge, story-wise. Still, the former is full of beautifully morbid images, killer camera-work from Bergman and Gunnar Fischer, accompanying a thought-provoking script. Von Sydow and the cast, including Bibi Andersson (as Mia) and Nils Poppe (as Jof) are great. Ms. Andersson's preparation of some "wild strawberries" seems to portend the next film.

Death is not too subtle.

Your move.

******** Det sjunde inseglet (2/16/57) Ingmar Bergman ~ Max von Sydow, Bengt Ekerot, Bibi Andersson
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10/10
Symbolism-filled Classic Film
sunwarrior1326 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Endlessly imitated and parodied, writer/director Ingmar Bergman's landmark art movie The Seventh Seal retains its ability to hold an audience spellbound.The film features Gunnar Björnstrand,Bengt Ekerot,Nils Poppe,Max von Sydow,Bibi Andersson,Inga Landgré and Åke Fridell. Set during the Black Death, it tells of the journey of a medieval knight and a game of chess he plays with the personification of Death, who has come to take his life. Bergman developed the film from his own play Wood Painting. Here the motif of silence refers to the "silence of God" which is a major theme of the film.

A knight named Antonius Block is wearily heading home after ten years' worth of combat. Disillusioned by unending war, plague, and misery Block has concluded that God does not exist. As he trudges across the wilderness, Block is visited by Death, garbed in the traditional black robe. Unwilling to give up the ghost, Block challenges Death to a game of chess. If he wins, he lives and if not, he'll allow Death to claim him. As they play, the knight and the Grim Reaper get into a spirited discussion over whether or not God exists. To recount all that happens next would diminish the impact of the film itself; we can observe that The movie ends with one of the most indelible of all of Bergman's cinematic images: the near-silhouette "Dance of Death."

This is an uncompromising film, regarding good and evil with the same simplicity and faith as its hero.Essentially intellectual, yet emotionally stimulating, too, it is as tough and rewarding a screen challenge as the viewer will face when watching it as it is consist mainly of 90 minutes of iconic imagery, some deep questions and a surprising amount of humor.But nevertheless,this is Art with a capital A, but that doesn't mean it's not entertaining at the same time, which only makes its artistry even greater.A symbolism-filled classic film indeed.
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Folded Narrative Folding
tedg30 April 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

Bergman is much loved because of his sheer passion, its intimate rawness and the ability to present it visually. He was able to sustain that uncomfortable ability for decades, but this film also has something else -- unique in his work -- a particularly complex narrative architecture.

Ordinary stories are just there, with no recognition of being told: but those are remarkably uninteresting. Nearly everything worth reading, hearing or seeing has some sort of the recognition of telling, often by putting the telling explicitly in the story as in `Hamlet.' Sometimes it gets turned on its head when the telling element becomes the focus, as in `Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.'

But here that notion of one fold in space becomes seven. The story we see is: a game, a collection of visions, a mural, a book of the Bible, a performance by players, an obsessive religious ritual, and the movie itself (the seventh seal). Each encapsulates the other. We have seven characters that advocate or represent each of these, apart from the `crusade' of real life.

This is so complex and so finely woven it changed the entire world. Everything that came after sees it as perhaps an unwelcome spectral visitor, perhaps a template (see `Ninth Gate'), perhaps as a stack of parts from which one borrows. But everyone sees it and is changed.

My favorite working filmmaker is Greenaway. He says of this, that when he saw it, he knew he had to be a filmmaker. I believe most of us who actually see this will be similarly changed.

Bergman was never able to weave as fine a narrative lace again.
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6/10
Death never takes a holiday...
Doylenf5 September 2006
While I'm not going overboard in extolling the virtues of THE SEVENTH SEAL, I do think it has some striking imagery and had the potential to be the ultimate work of art Ingmar Bergman was obviously striving for. But do I think he achieved it? No...for the simple reason that it leaves us unenlightened on the subject with no new knowledge.

Bergman really has no answers to the age old questions we all have about life and death and what happens in the hereafter. And giving Death a human face seems to me the wrong decision on Bergman's part. He should have kept him a hooded spectre and nothing more--faceless and unknown within the shadows of his hood. Humanizing him doesn't work, at least not for me.

A cruel streak runs through some of the more boisterous moments, such as when one of the actors is put through some hazing by a sadistic man who later gets his comeuppance. Everyone laughs and applauds as the man is humiliated beyond the endurance of this spectator for the sake of bawdy humor which seems forced and contrived, as does much of the clowning by the group of actors.

But there are so many good things about the richly photographed film, that I don't want to give this review an entirely negative impression. But the truth is it offers no new insights into the age old questions of life and death. It's all presented as an allegory with religious symbols (flagellation, the cross, the witch burning) and we suspect that among the many utterances we hear from The Devil will be something to ponder and think about.

But no. There's only the hopelessness that Death offers when the plague is rampant over the land and is something which cannot be avoided by man, no matter how clever he thinks he is. The chess game that the Black Knight proposes is a ruse that the Devil sees through from the start. And we suspect near the end that he knows the young couple with the infant have escaped since he says that he knows all that is happening, even behind his back. The young couple will be doomed too, eventually. Death will consume all.

But Max van Sydow is excellent as The Knight questioning his reason for being and his reason for dying. The B&W cinematography evokes the Middle Ages with striking scenes that stay in the mind afterwards and the film, while bleak and disturbing, is always riveting to watch.

It's a very engrossing film, but there are many weaknesses. I don't consider it the masterpiece that so many others label it.
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8/10
Righters Block
writers_reign20 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I don't know about you but there are still several films that everyone and his Uncle Max seems to have seen but me. On the other hand I am gradually making headway via DVD, revivals, festivals, etc. Time was I felt deprived because I hadn't seen Citizen Kane, Casablanca, It's A Wonderful Life, The Wizard Of Oz, for God's sake but like I say they're all now safely under my belt and I feel the better for having caught up with them eventually. In the case of Bergman it's not just The Seventh Seal but practically everything he ever made that, for one reason or another, I haven't seen; in fact off the top of my head I can recall seeing only Smiles Of A Summer Night and Autumn Sonata. Nor, if I'm honest, have I made any great attempt to watch him, most of the films are now available on DVD but I'm not exactly breaking a leg rushing to Virgin, FNAC or HMV but now The Seventh Seal has just opened commercially in London so, along with 8 other people I checked it out, exactly 50 years after it was released. The first thing I noticed was that it's not quite as grim as I had supposed and nor is the celebrated chess game given that much screen time - from all I'd read over the years I'd imagined a fairly static movie with these two symbolic characters trading moves for 90 minutes. Taint, so, honey, taint so. Following some portentous music we find ourselves on a craggy beach where the knight, Antonius Block, is resting. Beside him on a piece of fairly flat rock a chess board has been set up. This is a pretty unrealistic image with which to kick off a non-comedy film because no normal person would set out a chessboard in such an inhospitable place where the more or less constant wind would scatter the pieces every which way in nothing flat. So now Bergman has to get us past this incongruity and I guess that having 'Death' appear in human form and accepting a challenge from Block - who can forestall his date with Death for the duration of the game and even cancel it altogether should he win - is as good a way as any. We then accompany Block and his squire as he returns home after ten years away from his wife - he's been to the Crusades if anybody asks you - which immediately reminds us of Agammemnon returning home to HIS wife after ten tough years in Troy and the Fall of the House of Atreus is as nought compared to the angst that visits Block. The images are striking at times, the acting is more than accomplished and in fact the only jarring note is just that, in fact not just one note but the several that make up the score which has a habit of SHOUTING at us when it wants to underline something instead of employing a more subtle approach. It's nice to be able to cross it off my list but I won't be breaking my neck to see it again and nor am I likely to buy the DVD.
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10/10
We must make an idol of our fear, and call it god.
lastliberal16 November 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Oh, the contrast of it all. The Knight (Max von Sydow) constantly looks for answers that are not there and, at the end, falls to his knees pleading as the most simple supplicant.

Ingmar Bergman has crafted an extraordinary tale of faith and superstition that causes one to reflect deeply into their own knowledge and belief. It is a magnificent allegory set in strikingly beautiful locations with splendid lighting and effects that dare you to take your eyes from the screen for a brief moment to blink. I dare say that I could not. I was captivated by the sights and sounds like nothing before or since.

Gunnar Björnstrand was magnificent as the squire who provided the framework for what was happening all around him. Nils Poppe was a joy to watch in his simple innocence. Bibi Andersson, who has been acting almost as long as I have been alive, and is still doing so, was pitch perfect as Poppe's wife.

Summaries of the film are available in many places so I will not go into that, but suffice it to say that it is one film that everyone should see.
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