The Seventh Seal (Det sjunde inseglet) (1957)
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Writer: Ingmar Bergman, from his play Tramalning
The Middle Ages has always fascinated me: I studied its history and literature at university, and even did a year of Latin, thinking I might become a historian. That clearly did not happen. However, my interest still exists, and I always look out for films that depict the era. Unfortunately (for me, at least), most films about the era are unsatisfying; one day I shall go into why I think that. But having seen other Bergman films, and knowing The Seventh Seal's reputation, I felt that I could expect an interesting portrayal of the era. I was not disappointed.
This film is famous for the scene of Death and the knight playing chess; the scene looks grim and depressing. The existential crisis at the film's centre also creates expectations of dark reflections from Bergman. So imagine my surprise when there were moments of humour and levity, even joy in the film. The whole story blended theology, humour, death and sex, and used metaphor, in a way reminiscent of Chaucer, one of my favourite writers.
Gunnar Fischer's black-and-white cinematography is wonderful, complementing Bengt Ekerot's Death. Max Von Sydow is good as the knight desperately wanting to know if God really exists. For me this ranks up high with Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev, another thoughtful depiction of the Medieval period. This is going on my Favourite Films list.