The Seventh Seal (1958)


A knight freshly returned from the crusades challenges Death to a game of chess with the life of he and his entourage as the stakes, hoping to buy time to discover the meaning behind life and what follows.

The reputation of a film like The Seventh Seal most certainly precedes it; consistently voted as one of the greatest films ever made, it was far from what I was expecting. It is a modern day Memento Mori and the collection of disparate medieval characters offering their own perspectives on life coloured with broad strokes of bawdy humour reminded me a lot of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales and each obviously represents a different perspective on life and death and how we approach them. Rather than a story driven narrative, the film is more a deeply personal window onto Bergman’s own angst and catharsis on the subject and doesn’t even really invite the audience to muse on the subject themselves; in this way it is very much an artistic piece rather than pure entertainment. This is echoed in the quite astonishing visuals as the film features what must be amongst the very best cinematography I’ve ever seen; there are an amazing number of striking images, especially the death of Raval which Bergman himself claimed was sheer coincidence.

The lack of “plot” per se may disappoint some but as a deeply lyrical work of cinematic art, The Seventh Seal demands to be seen by anyone who claims to be a film lover.



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