The Seventh Seal

Rated: NR

       I’d like to tell you about the 1957 Ingmar Bergman classic The Seventh Seal. A few years ago, after my car accident, is when I really started utilizing my local library, and when I started my “must see” list. At the time the list had mostly older movies with actors such as Humphrey Bogart, Katharine and Audrey Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart, Carey Grant and the like. I’d seen a few of their movies here and there, but knew there were so many more that I’d not yet discovered. I spent hours on looking up as many titles as possible and adding them to “the list”. Then, a few times a week, I’d head to the library and scour the shelves, searching for them like a hunter searching for prey. Of course the library doesn’t have them all; how could they? Lucky for me though, they have more than enough to keep me busy for hours on end.
        It was during one such hunt that I one day discovered Ingmar Bergman. I’m sure you’re going to laugh, but I thought I’d grabbed some arcane and unknown title starring Ingrid Bergman. I couldn’t have been more mistaken! When I got home with my find I quickly put it in and settled down for a cozy afternoon. What appeared on my TV screen couldn’t possibly have been further from an Ingrid Bergman film. There were flashes of close up eyeballs and other odd images. I watched for a few minutes, confused by what I was seeing. I tried fast forwarding by a few minutes and the “artistic symbolism” we’ll call it only got worse. I popped the movie out and examined it more closely. To my surprise it wasn’t an Ingrid Bergman film, it was an Ingmar Bergman film. I can’t remember the title, but I decided right then to avoid anything else by him, and to be more careful when grabbing things off the shelf at the library.
         My second encounter with Ingmar came during the winter. I was flipping through the selections available on the on-demand when I happened upon a title I’d never heard of before,
The Seventh Seal. I read the description and was fascinated, but then I saw that the writer/director was Ingmar. That made me hesitate. My first experience with any of his movies had gone so badly. What if this one was just as weird? I decided to give it a go anyways. The worst that could happen was for me to waste a few minutes before choosing something else instead. And in the best case I would be happily entertained for an hour and a half. So after giving it far too much thought, I hit “play” on the remote.
The Seventh Seal is about Knight Antonius Block and his squire, Jons. After waging war in the crusades, the two return to medieval Sweden to find their homeland ravaged by the plague. Soon after their return, Antonius encounters the personification of death, who has come to collect him. Thinking that he can stall his demise, Antonius challenges Death to a game of chess. Death agrees that as long as the game goes on Antonius shall live.
        Despite my reservations about this movie in the beginning, I am absolutely thrilled that I saw it. It did contain a great deal of the metaphorical and artistic symbolism Ingmar Bergman is known for, but it wasn’t to the point where I felt confused or strangled by it.
The Seventh Seal, despite being a deep and thought provoking film, is straightforward enough to be accessible to and enjoyed by almost anyone. Although the essence of the subject matter is dark and desperate, there are plenty of comedic moments to rescue us from the pit of despair.
The Seventh Seal left me with such a strong impression. There is plenty more I’d like to say about it, for example: I’d love to get into how this film broke Bergman out of Sweden and onto the world stage, or how, while not his first film, this was also the break out film for actor Max von Sydow, or how Bergman was in a relationship with actress Bibi Andersson at the time and that’s why she was the star in so many of his films. But, I’ll have to save all of that for another time since this review is so long already. I wouldn’t say that The Seventh Seal totally changed my mind about Ingmar Bergman’s films, ( I know there are still plenty of odd ones to be seen), but it has opened my eyes to the fact that there are some good ones at least, and perhaps I should check out a few more.

The Seventh Seal  is not rated, was written and directed by Ingmar Bergman and stars Max von Sydow, Gunnar Bjornstrand, Nils Poppe, Bibi Andersson and Bengt Ekerot. It’s available now on Blu Ray, DVD and digital download.