Disillusioned knight Antonius Block (Max von Sydow) returning from the crusades in 14th century Sweden, finds his faith has dissipated, despite having fought for Christianity. He searches for God - for some proof of God's existence. When Death (Bengt Ekerot) comes to fetch him, Antonius challenges him to a game of chess. As long as they play, Antonius stays alive, and if he wins, he may live on. Antonius is determined to win, and to use his time to find an irrefutable sign that God exists. But Death follows in his footsteps, no matter what he does.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Uncompromising and bleak, but compelling with its visual power, this film shows how Ingmar Bergman was able to translate the deepest, most fundamental inner processes of humanity into cinema. This apocalyptic allegory is not just about God, but deals with man's eternal and desperate search for meaning. (The title is a reference to The Book of Revelations, which is quoted at the start of the film, in which the apocalypse is foretold.)
The Seventh Seal is unquestionably an Ingmar Bergman milestone work. Nothing less than life and death and god and the devil are the themes, set during a plague in medieval Sweden. The cast includes some of the giants of Swedish cinema, from Max von Sydow and Bibi Andersson to Gunnar Bjornstrand. And Bengt Ekerot plays Death, who agrees to play chess with Block (Max von Sydow), a knight returning from the Crusades, to find the plague and witch hunts devastating his country.
Where is god, he wonders...a universal question to this day, and one that continued to haunt Bergman. The Seventh Seal, with its amazing visual power, will no doubt haunt you.
This welcome release, almost 50 years after the film's release, includes an informed and intelligent commentary track by Peter Cowie - hidden in the audio set up section and unheralded in the press notes. Cowie's delivery may be a tad on the dry side, but it's packed with relevance. Anyone vaguely interested in cinema will want this disc in their collection.
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SEVENTH SEAL,THE:DVD (PG)
Det sjunde inseglet
CAST: Max von Sydow, Gunnar Björnstrand, Bengt Ekerot, Nils Poppe, Bibi Andersson, Inga Landgre
PRODUCER: Allan Ekelund
DIRECTOR: Ingmar Bergman
SCRIPT: Ingmar Bergman
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Gunnar Fischer
EDITOR: Lennart Wallen
MUSIC: Erik Nordgren
PRODUCTION DESIGN: P.A. Lundgren
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
PRESENTATION: 4:3, Dolby AC3
SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary by Peter Cowie; Ingmar Bergman filmography; photo gallery
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch/Roadshow
DVD RELEASE: October 27, 2005