Title – The Seventh Seal (1957)
Director – Ingmar Bergman (Persona)
Cast – Max von Sydow, Gunnar Björnstrand, Bengt Ekerot, Nils Poppe
Plot – During the Black Plague era, Antonius Block (Sydow) returns to his home in Europe after years away fighting in the crusades where he finds the world in turmoil and himself in chess battle with Death (Ekerot) where he can win his freedom.
“We must make an idol of our fear, and call it god”
Review by Eddie on 04/02/2021
One of the most well known and talked about films of Swedish director Ingmar Bergman’s famed career, The Seventh Seal is a contemplative and intriguing musing on life, death and faith as the filmmaker and son of a priest explores his own questions and thoughts around a fascinating battle of wills between Max Von Sydow’s knight Antonius and Bengt Ekerot as death himself.
A fantastical take on the age old question of life and death, as death decides to verse Antonius in a battle of chess that turns into an examination of many more components when Antonius and his offsider Jons find the land they once knew well changed for the worse after they have battled for years in the vicious holy wars of the era, Seal is a unique beast and one that never ceases to enthrall as we are taken on a cross country journey into the heart and minds of those battling their issues of faith.
Most well known to modern audiences for his parts in The Exorcist, Ghostbusters 2 and Flash Gordon, Seal provides the late Von Sydow with his best singular acting performance with the well-liked performer able to provide Antonius with the exact right amount of vulnerability and smarts as he comes to terms with his fears and troubles headfirst during his dalliance’s with Death.
In one key scene Antonius is confessing his thoughts and feelings to what he believes is a priest only to find out he has been confessing to death, trying to outsmart him and understand his strategy at beating him in their life or death game of chess, its a fabulous scene, brilliantly shot by Bergman but its Von Sydow’s performance here that will stick with you long after the film has concluded.
As is to be expected from a Bergman film, Seal looks wonderful in its black and white aesthetic and the way in which it captures the Black Plague era in which the film is set makes this a moddy and atmospheric piece of cinema that has failed to be affected by age as its ageless themes and explorations remain so relevant still to this day.
Final Say –
A film that is served best by multiple viewings, The Seventh Seal is a powerful piece of cinema that is deservedly recognized as one of Bergman’s greatest singular feats.
4 1/2 crows out of 5