After a decade of battling in the Crusades, a knight challenges Death to a fateful game of chess. More than forty years after its initial release, Ingmar Bergman's stunning allegory of man's apocalyptic search for meaning ... more »remains a textbook on the art of filmmaking and an essential building block in any collection. Criterion is proud to present The Seventh Seal in a pristine new transfer.« less
"Ingmar Bergman's THE SEVENTH SEAL is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest films ever made, which may scare away some viewers. The film is also a meditation on death and religion, which may also make some people hesitant to watch it. I know I avoided it for some time, but the film is really pretty enjoyable. If you consider yourself to be a true film buff, you really have to see this movie. Max von Sydow, in the role that made him famous, stars as a disillusioned knight returning from the crusades in the 14th century. He is travelling with his squire, and they meet a number of people along the way, including an acting troop and a blacksmith and his wife. One of these visitors is Death, and the Knight tries to bargain for his life. Death accepts the knight's offer of a game of chess. As long as the game continues, the knight can live. The movie is laden with symbolism, often of a religious nature, and filmed in stark black and white. Although the movie is serious and cerebral in tone, there is also a surprising element of humor and lightness. If you approach this film with an open mind, you will probably end up enjoying it, although it isn't for all audiences. Highly recommended for discerning film fans.EXTRAS: The DVD includes such extras as the original trailer and a written narrative of Bergman's career. The best feature is the audiotrack recorded by film historian, Peter Cowie. He walks the viewer through the film, pointing out relevant symbolism as well as Bergman's directorial touches. Fascinating!"
One of the greatest films on the meaning of life.
Marmez1@aol.com | Los Angeles, CA USA | 02/18/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is the film that transformed me from a fan of movies to a lover of cinema. I have probably seen this film more than any other single one - certainly over a dozen times over the years. Some of the Amazon customer reviewers felt the film moved too slowly, or was not stimulating enough in black and white. For such moviegoers this film is definitely not for you. However, for those who enjoy films that speak on many different levels and provoke thoughts that linger with the viewer, this is a masterpiece.The action takes place in Europe after the crusades. A knight, Antonius Bloch, is returning to his home in Denmark. He is accompanied by his squire. Block is an idealist who joined the crusades because he wanted to do something significant in his life. However the crusades turned out to be completely disillusioning. On his journey he notes that the plague is sweeping across the land. Superstition reigns, along with a severe version of religion. His squire is not as bothered by what he has seen, having been much more cynical all along. Still, the squire has a strong sense of justice that is demonstrated when he saves a girl from an attack. Along the way a number of people join with the knight for protection. These include a troupe of actors, a blacksmith and his faithless wife, and the woman the squire rescued. Death is lurking, and confronts the knight, informing him that his time has expired. The knight protests that he cannot die before having accomplished something significant. Death says, "They all say that," but the knight insists, and successfully challenges Death to a chess match. This gives the knight additional time to make his life worthwhile.The knight has tried to accomplish the BIG act based on a profound sense of life and of God. The juggler and his wife have a much simpler idea of life, God, and goodness. As Death is on the verge of winning the chess match and taking everyone in the knight's party, the juggler wakes his wife and child to flee. The knight recognizes that the juggler has seen Death, and upsets the chessboard to distract his opponent. This gives the juggler just enough time to escape. Death asks the knight whether the delay was worth it, and the knight gives an enigmatic smile. He has accomplished his worthy act, not by saving the world, but by saving just one family.Everything about this fine film is outstanding, from the acting to the cinematography to the direction. The Criterion transfer restores the film to the best possible condition. The commentary tracks are very informative. Many movies have parodied The Seventh Seal, including Woody Allen and Bill and Ted's Adventure series. None of that has taken away from its greatness. I give this film the highest recommendation."
The truth about life...
aelwen | 12/16/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There is no god, there is only man.THE SEVENTH SEAL (1957) remains to this day one of the most profound and enigmatic explorations through man's eternal yearning for the meaning of life. Directed by acclaimed Swedish director Ingmar Bergman, THE SEVENTH SEAL tells the story of Antonius Block (Max von Sydow) a knight on his way back to Sweden after having spent 10 years fighting in the crusades.I should make clear that this is only the initial setting of the story, and that in fact the film is populated by a flurry of wonderful characters. Indeed it seems that throughout the film we meet all sorts of beings: Jöns (Gunnar Björnstrand) the just and valiant squire, Jof (Nils Poppe) and Mia (Bibi Andersson) who perfectly capture the innocence and purity of love, a dying young witch (Maud Hansson) who kept remainding me of Joan of Arc, a young girl who follows the squire (Gunnel Lindblom) and who barely says a word throughout the movie, but whose eyes are so alive and expressive; and perhaps the most daunting and chilling performance of all, Death itself (Bengt Ekerot).It is said that war can break a man and drive him into madness and solitude. In the SEVENTH SEAL Antonius seems to have lost all his faith and desperately seeks to find the answer to the one question that haunts him the most: does God exist? Death meets Antonious at the start, Antonious realizes that perhaps the end is near and in an effort to redeem himself he challenges Death to a game of chess. The end result is one the most fulfilling (and awkwardly bizarre) conclusions I have seen in a movie.The Criterion Collection DVD is simply by far the best option for anyone interested in the movie. With a wonderful and insightful commentary by film historian Peter Cowie and a well presented filmography on Bergman, the DVD edition can satisfy even the most rabid Bergman fan, or prove an excellent starting point for those who are not familiar with Bergman's work (like myself). The movie is presented in it's original 1.33:1 (full frame) aspect ratio in black and white, in Swedish (option English) language track and English subtitles. I highly recommend this film."
A simply PERFECT movie...unlike its presentation
Patrik Lemberg | Tammisaari Finland | 04/08/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This movie is a milestone in cinema history - no need to question its directing, cinematography, or content - it's genius. Criterion's restoration of the picture is stunning. There's a restoration presentation feature which proves that they've certainly done a great job. A LOT of work has been put into the Bergman filmography as well - excerpts from other movies are included - it took me close to an hour to watch and read through it ...HOWEVER: these things seem quite indifferent when one actually tries to enjoy the main feature, the movie, where the audio and the picture constantly are out of sync. There are a few minutes at 45 minutes into the movie, and at 75 minutes into the movie where it looks OK, but for the most part there is, at least, a 0.25-0.5 second delay on either the audio or the film (it varies - in the first half of the movie the audio is late). It's really irritating to see someone speak a word or two (in silence) before the line in audio enters - especially for me, since my first language is Swedish. I'm highly disappointed in this - 11th - DVD production of Criterion. On some of Tartan's presentations of Bergman's films there are out-of-sync dilemmas, too, but not through whole movies. Another star is lost by Criterion's subtitles; they're very inaccurate when it comes to swearing and sarcasm. If a Swede says "jävla(r)", "helvete", "satan", or "fan" (which are the strongest curse-words), SOME of them HAVE to mean either "f--k", "devil", "damn", "bloody" or even "AWFUL", but nope...the subtitles here are as "clean" as the language in the bible. If you want to see an incredibly PERFECT presentation of a Bergman film on Criterion, I suggest buying "Wild Strawberries", where the restoration, sound, SYNCHRONIZATION, subtitles, commentary, and 90-minute documentary are perfectly presented and displayed. I'm not a very proud owner of this edition of "The Seventh Seal"."
Bergmans' Dark Masterpiece
Michael H. Siegel | Austin, TX | 07/29/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I came into this film with possibly unrealistic expectations. I had heard so much about it, that I thought there was no way it could live up to the hype.It did.The Seventh Seal is an amazing movie. It concerns a disillusioned Swedish knight (von Sydow) who returns from the Crusades to find his home being ravaged by the plague. On the shore, he meets a masked robed figure who claims to be Death. Rather than running in terror, the world-weary knight challenges him to a game of chess. The game is played over several days, during which Bloc gets a look at how the townspeople are reacting in religious terror to the plague.There are two parts of the film to be addressed. Bergman's writing is anything but subtle. It is the writing of a young artist just finding his voice. He is trying to answer question life, God and morality. The film asks how one can maintain faith when God is silent. In this respect, the film is powerful in its bluntness. Consider the masterful scene in which von Sydow confesses his questioning of faith to a man he thinks is a priest. How he manages to find life, hope and possibly meaning amidst the rubble of his home in the family of entertainers. The movie becomes a dark comedy in the late stages, including one of my favorite all-time movie lines as an actor begs for his life.
Bergman's directing is also excellent. The aforementioned confession scence is remarkable. The closing scene justifiably famous. This is one of those films where the black and white medium is perfect.This movie is well worth your time, even with he hefty price tag."