"The Seventh Seal" (1957) | Sam Gall Movie Review Issue #58 Gem Mint 10.0
“The Seventh Seal“ aka "Det sjunde inseglet" (1957)
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Writer: Ingmar Bergman (play), Ingmar Bergman (screenplay)
Starring: Max von Sydow, Bibi Andersson, Bengt Ekerot, Gunnar Björnstrand, Nills Poppe, Inga Gill
Rated: Not Rated but I'd give it a PG-13 maybe even PG. Some mild violence but more dramatic themes.
Runtime: 1h 36min
Genre: Drama, Fantasy
Language: Swedish | Latin
“A man seeks answers about life, death, and the existence of God as he plays chess against the Grim Reaper during the Black Plague.”
You might like this if you like: Ingmar Bergman('s work), Max von Sydow, Bibi Andersson, Bengt Ekerot, Gunnar Björnstrand, Nills Poppe, Inga Gill, Swedish Films, Black & White Films, Theater, Shakespeare, Medieval period, History, Historical Fantasy, Knights, Life/Death Themes, Classic Films, Foreign Films, European Films, Black Plague, Religion, God, Grim Reaper
Bengt Ekerot as 'Death' in "The Seventh Seal" (1957)
Saw this film awhile back in college but upon recently re-watching "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" (1989) & “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Adventure” (1991), in anticipation for “Bill & Ted Face The Music” (2020), they pay lovely homage to “The Seventh Seal” (1957) in 'Bogus Adventure' (1991) and made me want to go back and watch it again.
Max von Sydow is wonderful. He’s really the only actor I knew going into the film mainly due to being a big “Exorcist” (1973) fan. The film is a fascinating look at humans, our fear of death, and the silence between man and God. At the same time it has surprisingly light and humorous moments in particularly with the juggling/acting act trio. I remember when people would tell me about the film they would make it out to be one of the darkest things ever and honestly not appealing to me at all. A guy plays chess with Death didn't sound like a riveting 2 hours to me but if I had known a little more, maybe heard someone talk about the scenes that didn't include chess which is like 85% of the movie, I would've jumped at it sooner.
Max von Sydow in "The Seventh Seal" (1957)
Those murals of the Danse Macabre they have painted throughout the film are incredible pieces of work! On the walls of the church, the skin of the wagons. One of my favorite background details I noticed. Much like the painter says in the film about why “people like looking at skulls more than a naked woman. It makes them think."
It becomes so interesting in its characters and lighter center, in terms of drama, that I forget that death is hot on our characters trail.. but that only adds more to the films’ points and themes. Exploring the way God (in this film) communicates was another unique theme. The silence shared between prayer and prayered. I recently watched "The Devil All The Time" (2020) in which I found similar themes of 'the silence between man and God'. Both explore it wonderfully.
"The Seventh Seal" (1957)
Filled with gorgeous black and white imagery I felt like I had been taken right into Sweden during the Black Death. It felt hauntingly documentary-like at times but still was surprisingly funny and hopeful throughout. The locations alone are mesmerizing to watch. They're truly alien to a California R-Asian like me. I will mention that I mistakenly started watching this film in English dub and immediately switched to its original language of Swedish and it completely added a whole new effect. Mind you, I was only 5 minutes in but I started over with the Swedish subs/audio and I felt immensely more immersed in the story and characters than before.
Bibi Andersson in "The Seventh Seal" (1957)
Overall "The Seventh Seal" (1957) is a strangely hopeful film about Death and God than you might expect. I certainly consider it one of the great foundations of today's cinema and throughout.
Written by Sam Gall on 09/27/20
CGC Grading: Gem Mint 10.0
"I was worried memories of Death playing games with Bill and Ted would sour my first watch. Luckily this cinematic tour de force has the physical beauty and philosophical heft to rise above such trivial pursuits (see what I did there). Darkly funny." - Sarah Cartland, Caution Spoilers
"You can hunt about in the history of the cinema and bring up a distant cousin or two for Bergman's great work. Yet, when all the delving is done, this film remains something quite distinct, a wonderful film which is not quite like any other." - Guardian
"The movie is an unbending breakdown of the human soul, and perhaps one of the finest - and most confrontational - ever made." - David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org
"90 minutes of iconic imagery, some deep questions and a surprising amount of humor. 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." - Scott Nash, Three Movie Buffs
Available on various VOD platforms
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