The Seventh Seal (1957) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

The Seventh Seal (1957) Directed By Ingmar Bergman. With Max Von Sydow, Bengt Ekerot and Nils Poppe.

Man’s fear of death and his struggle with the existence of God. Subjects for your consideration in Ingmar Bergman’s art house cinematic milestone, The Seventh Seal.

Did I think it was any good, though? Well, not at first. I almost feel guilty admitting it, but in some cases, and in order to form a well rounded opinion – a film needs time to be digested and this symbolism-heavy experience is a perfect case-in-point. A knight (Max Von Sydow) returning from the crusades is visited by Death (Bengt Ekerot). As a last request, the knight challenges Death to a game of chess, the deal being if the knight wins he gets to keep his life. Death accepts and the film begins.

In many ways it’s a fascinating study on the evolution of film. There’s the iconic visual imagery that has been referenced by artists such as Woody Allen, and in popular culture like Bill And Ted’s Bogus Journey. It’s an unsettling film that aims to get under your skin by questioning the fragility of life and mysteries beyond it. The knight desperately questions the existence of God, “How can we believe in the faithful when we lack faith? What will happen to us who want to believe, but can not? ” while Jof, a local villager and family man, is accepting in a child-like way of his visions of angels.

At no point did I feel as though the film was stating any rights or wrongs – simply asking questions to which we have no logical answer and how within that, there exists a sense of creeping loss. For any serious film buff, it’s essential viewing. It might not be to everyone’s taste as it’s grim with an uneasy sense of foreboding and doom hanging over it, but there’s no denying its striking, symbolic imagery and its overall importance in the history of cinema. 4/5

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About garethrhodes

Full-time lover of all things creative.
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