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... more » 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.
SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES:
? New, restored high-definition digital transfer
? Introduction by Ingmar Bergman, recorded in 2003
? Audio commentary by Bergman expert Peter Cowie
? A new afterword to the commentary by Cowie
? Bergman Island (2006), an 83-minute documentary on Bergman by Marie Nyreröd, featuring in-depth and revealing interviews with the director
? Archival audio interview with Max von Sydow
? A 1998 tribute to Bergman by filmmaker Woody Allen
? Theatrical trailer
? Bergman 101, a selected video filmography tracing Bergman?s career, narrated by Cowie
? Optional English-dubbed soundtrack
? New and improved English subtitle translation
? PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Gary Giddins
Stills from The Seventh Seal (Click for larger image)« less
Daniel A. (Daniel) from EUGENE, OR Reviewed on 2/8/2010...
Dramatic and intelligent with a retained sense of humor. Even the smallest charactes are crucially well acted. Bergman's questions of fear and uncertainty of dying translates creates an unforgettable theme.
Amazing film, stunning transfer
Stephen Lerch | Elkton, MD United States | 06/19/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For the record, I own the original DVD release of The Seventh Seal along with this new HD transfer Blu Ray release and have done a little spot checking comparisons between the two.
For those that are unaware of what this film is, it has become an icon in the art house circle of film. The film won the Special Jury Prize at the 1957 Cannes Film Festival; a testament to its impact in this arena. I don't pay mind to "Artsy" films and usually don't enjoy them, however I took a chance on the original Criterion DVD release and loved it; thus the need and desire to upgrade to Blu Ray.
The story is one of a knight (Antonius Block) and his squire (Jöns) returning from the Crusades only to find that his homeland is being conquered by the plague. He travels the land towards his goal of being reunited with, what he has stated, is a wife whom he married young and has not seen for the 10 years he spent in the Crusades. In the opening scene Anotonius is greeted by Death. In a sequence that has been parodied in several films (Bill & Ted battling Death at Twister comes to mind), Antonius challenges death to a game of chess. If Anotonius wins, he goes on with his life; if he loses, his life comes to an end. The game is not finished in a first sitting and there are several scenes in which the game takes a role.
As he travels, a rag tag band of people accompany him; a smith, the smith's wife, a woman whom Jöns saves from death and rape and two actors and their child with whom Antonius shares strawberries and milk in a scene where he begins to feel at peace.
Antonius struggles with his lot in life; questioning the existence of God, begging Death to lend him some of evidence of God's existence (to which Death offers none) and eventually accepting his fate and using his reprieve to save the lives of the actors and their child thus giving meaning to a life which he felt meaningless.
To get to the Blu Ray specific details, the video is transferred from a freshly prepared and restored film master. At least one sequence I recall seeing damage in the original DVD, which is shown in Criterion's original "how was it remastered" extra, is no longer damaged in this transfer. In fact, there was no easily apparent damage to be found anywhere and a more pristine print is likely unattainable. Criterion did a marvelous job on the video transfer and have given the video an upgrade it desperately deserved. It is presented on the Blu Ray disc in it's original aspect ratio of 1.37:1 so anyone expecting a cropped, stretched or otherwise molested image will be disappointed. Everyone expecting a movie presented in its original aspect ratio will certainly be pleased.
Not being a huge expert on things like film grain and what formats present more grain than others when transferred to HD, I have to make it known that there IS grain present in this film. I don't know, however, whether this grain is due to the original format of the masters or if Criterion added said grain during their transfer.
On the audio side, you have the original Swedish mono audio remastered and restored in 24 bit LPCM uncompressed format. There isn't a pop, click or crackle to be found, just clear audio free of defects and hiss. Also available, and I'm unaware of the format of it or if it has any damage/hiss/pop/crackle, is an optional English language dubbed sound track which I did not listen to.
Subtitles are improved from the original DVD release as the subtitles are a more literal translation. I admit to not really noticing a huge difference in this arena, but if Criterion claims to have improved them, I will take their word for it.
For extras you have quite a few new ones (and all the old ones, minus one, detailed below):
-Introduction to the movie by Ingmar Burgman (originally intended for presentation prior to playing the film on Swedish TV) -Audio commentary by Peter Cowie (same as the original DVD release) -Afterword on the commentary by Cowie (new) -Bergman Island (set of mini-documentaries merged to form 1- 83 minute documentary w/ interviews of Bergman; first time on any home video format) -Archival audio only interview with Antonius Block actor, Max von Sydow -1989 tribute to Bergman by Woody Allen -Original trailer -Bergman 101 (Peter Cowie gives a selected filmography of Bergman's work)
For packed in extras, you will receive a printed booklet with an essay by film critic Gary Giddins. It's a very high quality printing.
The only extra that doesn't seem to have made the transfer to HD, as it was really specific to the original DVD release, was the Restoration Demonstration. Everything else from the original is included, along with quite a few, very worthy, additions.
If you own the original DVD release and want to own the definitive edition of the movie, you shouldn't hesitate to pick up this Blu Ray disc.
If you own the original and don't really care for the film or don't feel the need to upgrade, then nothing on this release will change your mind.
If you don't own the previous release and want to see what all the "fuss" is about and want it in as perfect a presentation as is possible, buy this on Blu Ray.
As a note, the new DVD release is "matted" in order to ensure every TV/display shows off as much of the release as possible. Only the Blu Ray disc retains the original 1.37:1 ratio."
Remastered and Loaded Up with New Extras!
Cubist | United States | 06/22/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It's safe to say that The Seventh Seal is Ingmar Bergman's most famous film judging by how firmly entrenched it has become in popular culture over the years. Key images and scenes from it, including Death, the chess game, and the Dance of Death, have been emulated and parodied countless times over the years. On a historical level, it has also been credited with helping launch art-house cinema in the 1950s, along with the films Akira Kurosawa and Federico Fellini. However, this has done little to diminish what a powerful meditation on man's search for purpose in the universe it is.
The first disc starts off with an audio commentary from the previous edition by film scholar Peter Cowie. He briefly talks about the impact that the first time he saw The Seventh Seal had on him. He points out where Bergman drew his inspiration for the look of Death. Cowie populates this track with production anecdotes along with an analysis of what we are watching as well as the film's themes.
"Afterword" is a follow-up by Cowie to the 1987 commentary he did for the Criterion Collection. He points out the film's rich humor, despite its reputation as a dark, brooding film about death. This extra gives him a chance to mention things that he failed to when he originally recorded the commentary.
"Max von Sydow Audio Interview" features excerpts of interviews Cowie conducted with the veteran actor in 1988 for a book about the man. He talks about his upbringing and his parents. He recounts his first experience with the theater and how it led to him becoming an actor.
"Woody Allen on Bergman" features a wonderful short film from Turner Classic Movies with Allen talking about his love for Bergman's films over a montage of clips from them. He says that The Seventh Seal is his favorite Bergman film. This is an eloquent tribute to the man and his films.
Also included is a trailer.
The second disc includes "Bergman Island," an impressive feature-length documentary about Bergman that was released in 2006. Bergman reflects on his life and career, coming across as a modest and humble man who tells all kinds of engaging anecdotes from his life. There are many clips from his films and excellent behind-the-scenes footage.
Finally, there is "Bergman 101," a crash course on the life and career of Bergman by Cowie. He narrates over stills and clips from the man's films. This is an excellent primer that traces Bergman's career arc and touches upon many of his films while also providing factoids and analysis."
Very good film, reference-quality Blu-Ray
Matthew T. Weflen | Chicago, IL | 06/27/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
Bergman is one of those things. He won't appeal to everyone. It's arty, yes. It's high concept. But really, when you get down to it, many of his movies are not hard to watch at all. This one might be the most accessible. Max Von Sydow plays a crusading knight returning home wearily after a long campaign. With his servant, he encounters a country besieged by plague and despair. Against this backdrop, he encounters Death, whom he challenges to a chess match. Does he want to live forever? No. He wants answers to his soul-chilling skepticism about God and life.
The performances are all very good, especially Von Sydow and Gunnar Björnstrand as his squire. Dialogue is clipped and spare, but evocative. Sydow has some particularly good scenes in the chapel, confessing his doubts.
Overall, it's easy to see why this film is hailed as a classic. It's deep, but also brief enough and paced well enough to be enjoyable. The ending is a bit cryptic, but not in an off-putting way. It should definitely be viewed by anyone with an open mind for "world cinema."
This is a great transfer. This is what I'm sure we all hoped "Dr. Strangelove" would be. There is a fine, regular grain structure which allows us to see terrific detail, especially in foliage, facial features, and cloth textures. Black levels are solid and consistent, so objects in the shadows are always well delineated.
You MUST make sure your gamma and brightness are set well! This is a film in which a lot of stuff can be lost in the shadows - it is very high contrast. In the opening shot, if your display is crushing blacks, the mountains will look like one black blob, when in fact there is a huge amount of detail and shading on rocks. SO: if you do not have a disc like Digital Video Essentials, at the very least pop in a Lucasfilm disc to use the "THX Calibrator." It has a contrast/brightness pattern that should get you set right.
Extras include a LONG documentary/interview piece with Bergman in his later life, presented in 1080i. Commentary is provided by a film scholar.
If you are a fan of Bergman or this film, this is a no-brainer. There is detail here you'd never see on a DVD, and the black levels (so important on a b/w film like this) are much deeper and more consistent than any SD presentation could allow. Extras are a nice complement, and for the price, you really can't beat this, especially compared to what Criterion releases cost just a few short years ago.
If you're more of a neophyte to this kind of cinema, you should rent first. See if you like this sort of thing. Don't be daunted by the reputation of this and other Criterion releases. Give it a good honest try. You might be pleasantly surprised."
A staple for any lover of cinema...
Andrew Ellington | I'm kind of everywhere | 10/20/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"1957 was one of my favorite years for film, and `Det Sjunde Inseglet' is one of the many reasons why. One of Ingmar Bergman's finest films (and that is saying a lot, since he is one of the greatest directors of all time), `Det Sjunde Inseglet' is a startling glimpse at death and religion and the impact those two very important subjects have on life. With stunning performances (Gunnar Bjornstrand gives perhaps my favorite supporting male performance of all time) as well as crisp and engrossing black and white photography, `Det Sjunde Inseglet' is nearly as beautiful as it is powerful.
The films core is found on a desolate beach where Antonius Block meets Death and challenges him to a game of chess.
This game represents the game we all play, that of life. Death is an inevitable end, a course we cannot cheat (for there is no way that Block can actually `beat' Death), but one has the opportunity to give the game their best effort. Thus, one has the chance to embrace life while they have it. Block has seen a lot in his lifetime (war and plague to mention just two) and so his faith has begun to waver; his doubts surfacing about God and his concern for humanity. This theme of religion (or better yet, spirituality) is touched upon in the majority of Bergman's films, but the poignancy and emotional relevance has never been stronger than it is in `Det Sjunde Inseglet'.
I find hesitation in really explaining much more of the film, for it is an experience that one should walk into blind almost. There is so much to uncover here, but what is so wonderful about filmmakers like Bergman is that they present a message one has to really uncover themselves. There are many ways to interpret this film, and no which way is really correct. It all depends on how the film touches and or moves you. If I really elaborate on my own personal findings it could unfairly influence your interpretation of the film, and so I'll reserve my thoughts on the matter for those who have already developed their own opinions.
So watch the movie!
The acting, like I mentioned, is sublime. I easily fill my Best Supporting Actor ballot with almost everyone in this film. Like I mentioned, Bjornstrand is my favorite supporting male performance of all time, so he takes this in a cakewalk; but Bengt Ekerot is extremely effective as Death himself, and Nils Poppe is marvelously entertaining as Jof. All three are leagues above any other performance that said year; and 1957 is a stunning year in nearly every category (Lead Actress is also jam packed). I really enjoyed Max von Sydow's detachment here, but he is clearly out-acted by the supporting cast.
I wanted to take a few moments to really expound on my love for Bjornstrand here. He is utter perfection; quite possibly the most complete supporting performance ever recorded on film. He is witty, charming, genuine, engaging, stern, desperate, depressed, concerned, focused, heroic, dashing and even a bit scary. He covers all of the bases with effortless balance and not a single ounce of awkwardness. He is stunning here, no ifs ands or buts about it.
I am a huge fan of Bergman, and while `Det Sjunde Inseglet' is not my favorite of his films (I reserve that honor for `Scener ur ett Aktenskap') it is certainly one of his finest moments and one of the best films of all time. At the price listed here it is a steal, so for once you don't have to splurge to experience something special!"
Brian Lange | Chicago, IL | 08/10/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Yes, the BD version definitely delivers.
As for the film itself, most of you probably have seen this film or some of his other work... so I won't comment much on the film, but rather the technical aspects of this film. I mean, a knight plays chess with Death, what's not to like about that?
Stunning image quality and sound. It's actually been a while since I've seen an older version, though I think it wasn't even the old Criterion edition. What I can attest to is that, like "Repulsion", the transfer is simply incredible. There is absolutely no way short of a projection of the film itself that will deliver like this one. The subtitles appear to have been modified a little, being translated probably better for today's modern age. The extras are not extensive, but a nice addition to the BD version of the film. Also included is a nice booklet with the film. It could be considered a "collectors" booklet, as it is nicely put together and informative... but to me it's just something that Criterion added as a bonus. Very nice, though.
Bergman's exposures and lighting come through so beautifully in every frame. There are some scenes that come across as "flat" but that has nothing to do with the Criterion transfer and was more than likely on the master print itself. I think this could have been adjusted slightly to get rid of the prominent grays, but it could have been Bergman's intention as well... that I'm not sure about, but it was certainly in the original film. What's gone from the original is a hissy, poppy audio track and there's not a single hint of dust or scratches anywhere. Amazing what Criterion has been doing with these old prints!
Keep in mind the aspect ratio is 4:3, (the ratio of what was previously the standard for TVs), not 16:9. It was common for films of that era to be presented in it's full frame form... if you have a projector setup or large enough widescreen television, don't worry it hardly distracts at all.
Also, you'll be glad to know that Criterion was smart enough to eliminate those ugly blue cases that most BDs are packed in. They have more specially made cases that are clear and just a couple millimeters deeper (the spine, presumably to make more room for the booklets). Much more attractive on your DVD case than a row of neon-blue cases."