Friday, January 20, 2012

316. Det sjunde inseglet/The Seventh Seal (1957)

Running Time: 96 minutes
Directed By: Ingmar Bergman
Written By: Ingmar Bergman, from the play Tramalning by Ingmar Bergman
Main Cast: Max von Sydow, Bengt Ekerot, Gunnar Bjornstrand, Nils Poppe, Bibi Andersson
Click here to view the trailer


As I mentioned in the "Smiles of a Summer Night" review, I had seen "The Seventh Seal" once before and I wasn't crazy about it. Well, I'm here to announce that when it comes to "The Seventh Seal", I'm still sane.

The plot of "The Seventh Seal" can be summed up in a sentence: A knight (von Sydow) searches for the meaning of life & death and the existence of God, all the while playing a game of chess with Death himself. There's more to it than that, but really that's the main idea behind this film. The knight is Antonius Block, who has just spent ten years fighting in the Crusades and is returning home, through a plague ridden land, sometime in the 13th Century. He is accompanied by his squire Jons (Bjornstrand), a man who is certain that there is no God and that man is all alone in the universe. Antonius isn't sure about all that - he wants to believe in something, he wants to have faith in God, but simply can't bring himself to believe. Meanwhile, there's also a troupe of traveling actors, which include Jof (Poppe), his wife Mia (Andersson) and their infant son. Jof is a carefree type, happy to be alive and thankful for his family. Jof is also prone to visions - visions that Mia discredits almost as soon as he announces them. The visions are usually of a religious nature, as when Jof sees the virgin Mary. Eventually Antonius and Jons meet up with Jof and his family and together the group travel together through this land, where the future seems uncertain.

My dislike for "The Seventh Seal", I'm sure, can be chalked up to a conflict of personal taste. There's absolutely nothing about it that appeals to me. Take, for starters, the setting and basic layout of the picture. You have a knight and his squire traveling together in the 13th Century. I almost always hate films that are set this far back. Sure, it's just me being close-minded and stubborn, but I can never get into films that deal with knights and the such. So you'll say, "Well that's just the basic blueprint of the story, there's MUCH more to it than that!" - and you'd be right. Beyond that we take a closer look at the meaning of life, death, whether or not God exists and similar themes. Again, these are ideas that I have no interest in. Bergman cites in the introduction to this movie (on the Criterion Collection DVD) that he was always afraid of dying and that fact was one of the driving forces behind this picture. I don't think about death that much, myself. I'm not afraid to die, nor do I really care to know the meaning of life - I'm not that deep of a thinker.

I'll give Bergman a little credit for this picture, in the form of two notes: 1) He kept it short. Before I even saw this movie, years ago, and I had simply heard about it's premise, I would have bet money that it would have been an epic three plus hour event. That's not the case. The film is just slightly over ninety minutes and that's a credit to Bergman. Honestly, I think he knew that any longer and he'd be really getting into a more boring territory, so kudos to him for wrapping it up quickly. 2) Despite the basic ideas of the film and the setting that I griped about above, Bergman actually does give us a fairly mediocre story (I mean that as a compliment). It's not a movie where I played the part of the clock watcher, but one where I could watch the story unfold and then form my sour opinion at the conclusion. Actually, the film uses it's time nicely, never really dragging or boring the audience, but rather, presents us with characters that are interesting enough and a story that isn't terrible.

However, when it's all said and done, this just isn't my movie. I just DO NOT (and probably never will) understand the appeal of it. I see the artistic element, the photography is sublime and the ideas are well thought out. Unfortunately, they're not ideas that I share or ones that I am as interested in pondering, as Bergman apparently was. The film doesn't bore me, it's simply one that I do not GET and if I don't GET IT, I can't condone it.

RATING: 4/10 Well, I tried to be as fair as I could, but that's about as good as it gets for "The Seventh Seal". Bergman has eight pictures left, but as of now I'd say he's 0-2. Next up: "Wild Strawberries".


January 20, 2012 8:01pm


  1. Doesn't sound very good to me! I do not think i will be checking this one out anytime soon!

  2. Bergman is a bit of an aquired taste.. you perhaps have to be of a certain temprement to get along with him. Perhaps it needs to be Northern european.. or, if you want to be a tad disparaging, a gloomy git!
    I'm never totaly sure exactly what Mr. B. is saying (other than human existance is miserable) (gross over-simplification, I'm sorry), but I rather like the way he says it.


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