Det sjunde inseglet

Det sjunde inseglet

The seventh seal

DVD - 1998 | Swedish
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In medieval Sweden a knight returns from war only to find a ravaged homeland. He meets up with a group of travelling players and eventually confronts the embodiment of death with whom he engages in a game of chess 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.
Publisher: [Irvington, N.Y.] : Criterion Collection : c1998
ISBN: 9780780020955
Branch Call Number: SWE 791.4372 S497b1
Characteristics: 1 videodisc (96 min.) : sd., b&w ; 4 3/4 in


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May 08, 2015

For many the quintessential Bergman film which has been copied and parodied so many times it has become something of an arthouse icon. After a long, torturous crusade in the Holy Land dispirited knight Antonius Block (Max von Sydow) returns home to a medieval Sweden teeming with fear and superstition. The Plague is claiming victims up and down the coast while an implacable church harangues the frightened masses with tales of Judgement Day. Upset with the apparent meaninglessness of life (and death) as well as God’s unwillingness to show himself (“Why does he hide in a cloud of half-promises and unseen miracles?”) Antonius is undergoing a major crisis of faith when a most unlikely, yet not entirely unexpected, traveler pays him a visit—none other than Death himself, ghostly pale and draped in black. Not wanting to die until he has accomplished something of true value Antonius challenges Death to a game of chess, winner take all. Meanwhile, nearby, a band of jovial actors wend their way towards the nearest town and their own date with destiny. Perhaps one of Bergman’s most personal films, purported to be amongst his favourites, we can hear within Block’s eloquent rails against the Almighty Ingmar’s own spiritual angst as his knight demands proof of God’s existence only to be met with emptiness and Death’s sardonic grin. His troupe of actors, on the other hand, seem unfettered by supernatural concerns and instead approach life with lust and enthusiasm—their leader ironically receiving visions of the Virgin and Child while Block stumbles in darkness. This constant juxtaposition of light and dark (joy and despair, faith and doubt) proves to be a winning combination as Bergman paints the screen with some of cinema’s most memorable scenes: a skeletal shepherd keeps watch over a non-existent flock, a plague victim is bathed in a sudden burst of sunlight, and the Grim Reaper leads a band of dancing souls towards the grave. And, topping the list, Death and the Knight are shown contemplating their chessboard against a darkling sea, their silent musing rendered in gothic black and white. At once distancing and strikingly intimate, "The Seventh Seal" is a triumphant blend of philosophical discourse and pure storytelling wherein the entire world is reduced to a game board with everyone a pawn. Heady stuff.

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