- Jöns (Gunnar Björnstrand) to Plog the blacksmith (Ake Fridell)
"No one escapes me."
- Death (Bengt Ekerot) to Antonius Block (Max Von Sydow)
Cannes 1957 -
USA Today - 02/19/1999
"...Bergman's early masterpiece about a 14th century chess game with Death..."
Entertainment Weekly - 01/11/2002
"...Its metaphysical themes still retain their power..."
Empire - 01/01/2008 5 stars out of 5 -- "Bergman raised the status of post-War cinema as an art form -- he made it as serious as literature or painting or theatre -- and THE SEVENTH SEAL is arguably his finest work."
Uncut - 02/01/2008 4 stars out of 5 -- "[The film] still works as a compelling dramatisation of a philosophical symposium."
Antonius Block (Max Von Sydow), a knight, returns from a 10-year crusade with his squire, Jöns (Gunnar Björnstrand), 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 Jöns 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.
Few films have had as large a cultural impact as Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal (Det sjunde inseglet). 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 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.
Ingmar Bergman's best-known movie, THE SEVENTH SEAL is a masterfully executed medieval morality play in which a knight, disillusioned after his return from the Crusades, challenges Death to a game of chess in an effort to delay the hour of his demise. As the game progresses and the knight and his squire journey toward home, the former is reassured of the existence of human decency and spirituality in an often brutal world through his encounter with a family of traveling players. This highly symbolic elegy on mortality and religion is one of the most respected classics of contemporary cinema.
Filmed on location at Östanå, Viby, Skevik, Gustafsberg, Skytteholm, and Hovs hallar (Sweden); and at Råsunda Studios.
Winner of Special Jury Prize at the 1957 Cannes Film Festival.
Winner of the 1958 Grand Prix International du Film d'Avant-garde.
Winner of 1959 Finnish Film Journalists Award.
Awarded Nastro d'Argento (silver ribbon) for Best Director of a foreign film by the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists in 1961.
The film was based on Bergman's play TRÄMÅLNING ("Wood Painting").
THE SEVENTH SEAL was shot in only 35 days, hence Bergman was often forced to rely on his film team's flexibility and improvisation. The famous iconographic closing scene of the film was spontaneously shot within a few minutes, using stand-ins for the actors (who had already left the set for the day), because Bergman was trying to capture a compelling cloud configuration in the evening sky.
Nils Poppe, who had been a popular comedic stage actor in Sweden for many years, is seen here (at age 50) in his first dramatic role as Jof, the traveling player.