Date: 15 Aug 2000
Review: The Seventh Seal, ( Det aka Sjunde inseglet ), 1957
The Seventh Seal is a flawless Criterion DVD from the classic Art film genre of Ingmar Bergman released in 1956. In the 12th century, a Knight, Antonius Block( Max von Sydow ) and his squire Jons ( Gunnar Bjoernstrand ) are returning home from the Holy Land and the crusades. The Bubonic plague is sweeping across Sweden. As they go through small hamlets towards Block’s castle, Death (Bengt Ekerot) appears and tells him that he has come for the Knight. In calm desperation the brave Antonius challenges Death to a chess game for his life. The Knight and Death play throughout the journey home and Antonius seeks a spiritual closeness that he feels he has lost in his crusade battles and the visions he has seen.
We, the viewer, see how the culture of the times is interpreted through the spread of the Black Death in visitations with representative characters that they meet, and who sometimes join them, along the way. The only group that is spared the escape from Death is a young mother, father and their infant son. They all represent the wide-eyed innocence of parenthood and birth, for the mother and father a rebirth of values. This, almost like and Adam and Eve, is one of the only positive plot turns that we get. Other characters that Antonius and Jons come across are a heartbroken blacksmith seeking and finding his flirtatious and promiscuous wife. In Antonius we see nobility and in Jons, pragmatisms as he renounces God to Antonius and is always prepared to defend and seek justice. Perhaps, his own striving for his masters high rank. Antonius’ wife is waiting home, the ever faithful vigil, perhaps all he was awaiting to see before his death.
Aside from being an Art film, The Seventh Seal is simply an entertaining movie, opening doors to time periods that films rarely venture. There are no glaring errors in Bergman’s historical perspective, which for most, is secondary to the story. The characterizations are straightforward and well acted and the film itself is refreshing and unique with a variety unique shadow and camera angles filled with representations that would be inter-personal to the specific viewer. This film can mean many things to many different people but also very little to some and still be worthwhile watching. As with much Art, it is subjective and multi-faceted. It doesn’t matter what Bergman meant by his various symbols if they have different representations to myself as I watch it. A representations that, in the end, is complete and totally fulfilling, spiritually or non-spiritually, posing questions or answering them, developing value judgments or tearing them down.
4 ½ stars out of 5
Release Information: Studio: Home Vision Cinema Theatrical Release Date: 1956 DVD Release Date: February 2, 1999 Run Time: 96 minutes Production Company: Criterion Collection Package Type: Keep Case Aspect Ratio(s):
Full Screen (Standard) - 1.33:1 Discographic Information: DVD Encoding: Region All Regions Layers: Dual Available Audio Tracks: Swedish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), English (Dubbed) (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono) Available subtitles: English Collector's Edition Edition Details: o Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only) o Black & White o Commentary by noted film historian Peter Cowie o Theatrical trailer(s) o An annotated, illustrated Bergman filmography, featuring excerpts from Wild Strawberries and The Magician with commentary o Improved English subtitles o Restoration demonstration o Original theatrical trailer has optional English subtitles