H D - S E N S E I

 

A view on Blu-rays by Gary W. Tooze

 

   

 

 

 

The Seventh Seal [Blu-rays]

 

(Ingmar Bergman, 1957)

Comparison by Gary W. Tooze
 

Video

Package:

Criterion

(2-disc) DVD

Tartan

Blu-ray

Criterion

Blu-ray

Region

1

FREE

'A'-locked

Runtime: 1:37:30

1:36:13.392

1:37:38.894
Disc Size: 7,162,519,552 bytes

22,550,087,928 bytes

48,693,969,438 bytes
Feature Size:

6.66 GB

16,988,663,808 bytes

28,593,420,288 bytes
Encode: MPEG-2 MPEG-4 AVC MPEG-4 AVC Video
Video Bitrate: 7.4 Mbps 21.93 Mbps 34.49 Mbps
y

All 3 editions have optional English subtitles.

Video resolution: 1080p for Blu-rays, 480P anamorphic/progressive for SD-DVD
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1 (matted on 1.78 for Blu-rays)

 

Audio:

Criterion DVD:

Original Swedish, English DUB and 1.0 commentary in Dolby Digital mono 1.0

 

Tartan Blu-ray:

DUB: Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Swedish 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps
 

Criterion Blu-ray: LPCM Audio Swedish 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
DUB: Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps

 

Supplements:

Tartan Blu-ray:

• Original Trailer (2:36).
• Karin's Face (1984) - 13:42
• Onset Footage (1958) - 14:11

 

Criterion DVD and Blu-ray:

• Introduction by Ingmar Bergman, recorded in 2003 (2:56)
• 87' audio commentary by Bergman expert Peter Cowie, with a new afterword (10:33)
• Bergman Island (2006), a documentary on Bergman by Marie Nyreröd, featuring in-depth and revealing interviews with the director (1:23:18 16X9)
• Archival audio interview with Max von Sydow (19:49)
• A 1989 tribute to Bergman by filmmaker Woody Allen (7:14)
• Theatrical trailer (2:35)
• Bergman 101, a selected video filmography tracing Bergman’s career, narrated by Cowie (35:18)
• Optional English-dubbed soundtrack
• 26-page booklet featuring an essay by critic Gary Giddins

 

1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC DVD TOP

2) Tartan - Region - FREE Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

Tartan Blu-ray Released: December 3rd, 2007

Criterion Blu-ray and DVD Released: June 16th, 2009
Standard Blu-ray cases, Transparent Keep case

 

Synopsis:

Antonius Block (Max Von Sydow), a knight, returns from a 10-year crusade with his squire, Jons (Gunnar Bjornstrand), to find his homeland ravaged by the plague. When the black-cloaked figure of Death (Bengt Ekerot) appears to claim them, Block, whose war experiences have left him cynical about the existence of God and the afterlife, challenges Death to a game of chess to stall for time and gain some insight into the meaning of life before passing on. The game is intermittently paused and resumed during the journey home while Block and Jons meet several traveling companions, including a mute girl (Gunnel Lindblom) whom they save from a bandit, and a family of poor traveling players--Jof, a gentle visionary (Nils Poppe); his wife, Mia (Bibi Andersson); and their infant daughter. Block witnesses much suffering and anguish along the way (an encounter with a woman accused of witchcraft who is about to be burned at the stake is especially jarring) but also finds evidence of human kindness and love, prompting him to realize that even a single gesture of goodwill might make the long struggle of his existence worthwhile. The title of Ingmar Bergman's highly acclaimed allegorical film stems from the Book of Revelation.

 

Disillusioned and exhausted after a decade of battling in the Crusades, a knight (Max von Sydow) encounters Death on a desolate beach and challenges him to a fateful game of chess. Much studied, imitated, even parodied, but never outdone, Bergman’s stunning allegory of man’s search for meaning, The Seventh Seal (Det sjunde inseglet), was one of the benchmark foreign imports of America’s 1950s art-house heyday, pushing cinema’s boundaries and ushering in a new era of moviegoing.

 

 

NOTE:

Probably from the same Svensk Filmindustri source all three editions show only the "Seventh Seal" portion of the title as if someone blacked out the "The" (or "Det"). There is even a space there.

 

 

The Film:

The late twentieth century’s defining anxiety – nuclear catastrophe –inspired film masterworks in a variety of genres, from noir (‘Kiss Me Deadly’) to essay (‘Hiroshima, Mon Amour’), faux documentary (‘The War Game’) to horror (‘Godzilla’). But it found possibly its greatest cinematic expression in Ingmar Bergman’s doom-laden medieval allegory, a film that re-imagines a previous period of existential angst and primal fear: the plague-ridden thirteenth century. ‘The Seventh Seal’ has the courage to give fear a face. You could say of its most famous image – returned crusader Max von Sydow’s desperate chess game with Death (Bengt Ekerot), shot in superb high-Gothic relief by cinematographer Gunnar Fischer in homage to an image Bergman remembered from a childhood church visit – that it has lost none of its power to impress. But, it seems to me, 50 years of relentless quotation and parody have taken some toll, as they have on the climactic improvised ‘dance of death’.

Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE

 


Video: NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

The Criterion DVD is pictureboxed (see our full description of 'pictureboxing' in our Kind Hearts and Coronets review). NOTE: The Criterion captures below have been put in their own table to indicate the amount of the pictureboxing (indicated by the black border circumventing the edge). Where this may benefit systems that produce overscan (ex. on production made cathode ray tubes) - it detracts from systems that do not requite it (ex. HTPC). It's easy to see by both the technical details above and the sample screen grabs that the DVD is not at the visual level, specifically contrast and detail. I admit I haven't watched the entire DVD, but perused selective scenes to establish that conclusion - that is well supported by the screen captures below.

 

What separates the two Blu-rays regarding the image quality is that the Criterion shows more grain and a noticeably higher level of detail at times. The Tartan is marginally brighter in certain segments and can look occasionally blocky. That's about it - they are from the same restored source with the same softened damage marks. I didn't find one had more information in the frame than the other. Both are incredibly impressive but the Criterion, with more than 10Gig more for the feature, loses the occasional macro-blocking and compression present in the background of the Tartan 'scape' scenes (samples below). I should mention that while the Criterion is certainly better I'm unclear how strong a system or how picky one would be to notice it. I, honestly was able to, as I was looking for it. the Criterion appears a little smoother in motion without as much contrast fluctuation. This film in 1080P, though, is absolutely stunning. The film's textures are preserved so well - you can't help but wish all film's of this similar age could be reproduced so distinctly on digital for home theater enjoyment.    

Screen Captures

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURES TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC DVD TOP

2) Tartan - Region - FREE Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC DVD TOP

2) Tartan - Region - FREE Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC DVD TOP

2) Tartan - Region - FREE Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC DVD TOP

2) Tartan - Region - FREE Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC DVD TOP

2) Tartan - Region - FREE Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC DVD TOP

2) Tartan - Region - FREE Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC DVD TOP

2) Tartan - Region - FREE Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

Audio: Criterion advances technically here with a linear PCM track for the original monaural Swedish track. I have no quantitative way of proving it but the Criterion audio seemed better balanced and 'deeper' to my ears.  The Blu-rays both reproduce the audio very well - clear and concise but the Criterion may be marginally crisper - notably in the music. All three editions offer and, untested , English DUB and optional English subtitles.  

Extras: Firstly, the Tartan package includes an SD-DVD edition with duplicate supplements - We now have Bergman's 14 minute short Karin's Face (Karins ansikte) from 1984 with optional English subtitles. It is a film based on the pictures from Ingmar Bergman's personal photo album, especially the pictures of his mother Karin. This might be enticing for completists. Also we have 14 minutes of narrated 'Onset Footage" from the filming of The Seventh Seal. Interesting to see Ingmar as a young filmmaker.

The Criterion DVD and Blu-ray have the same extra features. The Blu-ray has them in HD and all accessible on one disc.

We start with a 3-minute introduction to the film by Ingmar Bergman. It is hosted by Marie Nyreröd, recorded in 2003 as part of a series of introductions of the director's films when they were shown on Swedish television. It was shot in Bergman's screening room on Faro island and has optional English subtitles. We have the 87' audio commentary by Peter Cowie (the same as found on all past Criterion DVD editions - excepting the bare bones Janus 50 year Essential Art package), with a 10-minute new afterward, shot in 2008, by the Bergman expert. There is an archival audio interview with Max von Sydow running, excerpted, about 20-minutes conducted by Cowie for his book on Max von Sydow: From The Seventh Seal to Pelle the Conqueror. There is a 7-minute 1989 TCM tribute to Bergman by filmmaker Woody Allen where he discusses his passion for the director and Bergman's influence on his career.  Bergman Island (2006) - also available separately HERE - is a documentary on Bergman by Marie Nyreröd, featuring in-depth and revealing interviews with the director. It's almost an hour and a half in 1:78 color with optional English subtitles. It's quite revealing and very much worth watching. Bergman 101, a selected 35-minute video filmography tracing Bergman’s career, narrated by Cowie with behind-the-scenes photos and clips from many of the director's films and television work. There is also a 26-page booklet featuring an essay by critic Gary Giddins. A colossal selection of extra features that Bergman fans will be eager to indulge in.  

Tartan Menus

Criterion DVD and Blu-ray extras

BOTTOM LINE: The Criterion Blu-ray is the hands-down winner on every front and this package should be a heavy contender for Blu-ray of the Year. It looks unbelievable - possibly the best transfer of a film over 50 years old (yes, including Casablanca) in existence. The grain is thick and consistent giving the presentation a wholly authentic look. the audio as close to perfect as one might expect and the extra are extensive and educational. I can't say much more. This has our highest recommendation.

NOTE: As many are already aware the Criterion Blu-ray and DVD (2-disc) are very close in price. 

Gary Tooze
June 4th, 2008

   

 

 

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About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 7500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction. So be it, but film will always be my first love and I list my favorites on the old YMdb site now accessible HERE.  

Gary's Home Theatre:

Samsung HPR4272 42" Plasma HDTV
Toshiba HD-A2 HD-DVD player (firmware upgraded)

Sony BDP-S300 1080p Blu-ray Disc Player (firmware upgraded)
Sony DVP NS5ODH SD-DVD player (region-free and HDMI)

Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

Gary W. Tooze

 

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