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The Seventh Seal (Criterion Collection) (1957)

Cast: Max Von Sydow, Gunnar Björnstrand, Bengt Ekerot, more...
Director: Ingmar Bergman
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Studio: Criterion
Genre: Classics, Drama, Foreign, Costume Drama/Period Piece, Scandinavia, Classic Drama, Classic Drama, Fantasy, Criterion Collection
Running Time: 96 min.
Languages: English
Subtitles: English
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Endlessly imitated and parodied, Ingmar Bergman's landmark art movie The Seventh Seal (Det Sjunde Inseglet) retains its ability to hold an audience spellbound. Bergman regular Max von Sydow stars as a 14th century knight named Antonius Block, wearily heading home after ten years' worth of combat. Disillusioned by unending war, plague, and misery Block has concluded that God does not exist. As he trudges across the wilderness, Block is visited by Death (Bengt Ekerot), garbed in the traditional black robe. Unwilling to give up the ghost, Block challenges Death to a game of chess. If he wins, he lives -- if not, he'll allow Death to claim him. As they play, the knight and the Grim Reaper get into a spirited discussion over whether or not God exists. To recount all that happens next would diminish the impact of the film itself; we can observe that The Seventh Seal ends with one of the most indelible of all of Bergman's cinematic images: the near-silhouette "Dance of Death." Considered by some as the apotheosis of all Ingmar Bergman films (other likely candidates for that honor include Wild Strawberries and Persona), and certainly one of the most influential European art movies, The Seventh Seal won a multitude of awards, including the Special Jury Prize at the 1957 Cannes Film Festival. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

Special Features:

  • Introduction by Ingmar Bergman, recorded in 2003
  • Audio commentary by Bergman expert Peter Cowie, with a new afterword
  • Archival audio interview with Max von Sydow
  • A 1989 tribute to Bergman by filmmaker Woody Allen
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Optional English-dubbed soundtrack
  • New and improved English subtitle translation

GreenCine Member Reviews

not bad, not the greatest by timh2870 March 4, 2008 - 7:37 AM PST
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful
i rented this movie because it kept popping up on various "top" lists here on greencine, it is part of the criterion collection (always good stuff), and because just about everyone gave it high marks. well, it's an interesting story; halfway decent plot, but it does tend to be a little slow. interesting to see a film from that era that asks the big questions tho, "why are we here," "is there a God," and all that. not something you'd find in american film, anyway.

i found the acting to be so-so; obviously bergman drew a lot of cues from the silent era.

the most interesting part, in my opinion, was seeing a young(er) max von sydow. i guess he's one of those that has "aged like a fine wine." he definitely looks better in his more recent works (check out "what dreams may come.")

all in all, halfway decent. a must see for bergman fans, a "should see" for classic b&w fans, and if you're just curious, flip a coin before you click "rent."

Quintessential European art film by Lastcrackerjack April 3, 2006 - 7:47 PM PDT
3 out of 3 members found this review helpful
Written and directed by Ingmar Bergman, this is perhaps "the" European art film. It has been mimed and parodied repeatedly over the years, mostly in TV cartoons. The existentialist debate and search for the meaning of life that takes place among black and white imagery of medieval Europe is the stuff that has launched many a college term paper. I saw it for the first time my freshman year of college.

The film is deeply involving. Though not an historically accurate portrait of medieval Sweden - the existential debate has much more in common with Swedes of the 1950s than those in the 14th century - Bergman's examination of pastoral life and the fear and loathing that roamed the countryside during the doomsday plague is fascinating. He is extremely critical of the clergy, who convinced villagers to go off and fight in the Crusades and now accuses the people of being responsible for the Plague. Religious figures come off no better than frauds or thieves in Bergman's view.

A soldier's despair and search for meaning is vividly portrayed in Max Von Sydow's eyes. The chess scenes he shares with Death are probably the chief reason to see the film. I was also mesmerized by the two "visions" that apparently, no one but the acrobat can see; one of the Virgin Mary walking a child and the film's seminal climactic shot, Death pulling his latest victims hand by hand across a hillside.

The film was the winner of the Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1957 and opened in the U.S. in October of 1958.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 8.31)
446 Votes
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