Starring: Max von Sydow, Gunnar Björnstrand, Bengt Ekerot
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Running Time: 96 mins
The Seventh Seal (Det sjunde inseglet) is a Swedish film about a knight who searches for answers about life, death and faith, while playing a game of chess with Death himself.
There are few films out there with a reputation as long-lasting and as seemingly daunting as Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal. Famed for its legendarily deep and reflective look at all of life’s big questions, furthered by a complex and abstract style, it’s not a film that’s necessarily perfect for the average cinemagoer, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have moments that everyone can appreciate.
First things first, I think it’s fair to say that upon first viewing of the film, I’ve barely scratched the surface of what it’s really talking about. Of course, its story follows a knight looking for meaning in life before he gives in to death, however this is far from an easy film to really get to grips with, particularly for more casual viewers like myself.
So, if you’re looking for a deep analysis of The Seventh Seal, this isn’t the place to be. However, if you want to know whether it’s a film that casual viewers would be able to watch, then stick around.
Above all, the complex and abstract nature of the film is its biggest barrier to full enjoyment and appreciation. There were numerous moments where I appreciated Bergman’s ideology, and understood the depth and profundity of what was being said, but I can’t truthfully say that I was taken aback by the dramatic and emotional power of the film’s reflective story.
It seems like that’s something that will come to me with time, through more personal experience as well as more viewings, which means that The Seventh Seal definitely isn’t a bad film, but it isn’t one that’s easily to get a good hold of.
With that said, there are still a lot of things about the film that anyone can appreciate and enjoy, the best of which comes in the form of the movie’s dark humour. The Swedes have been long-renowned for their ingeniously dark meta humour, and that’s evident in this film as much as any other, with a handful of moments featuring devillishly funny jokes and commentaries that made me grin, and even laugh out loud on a couple of occasions.
The knight’s game of chess with Death is the standout piece of the whole movie, and along with its deeper significance, there’s something brilliantly and hilariously surreal about the portrayal of such a high-stakes showdown through much more mundane and simplistic means, something that caught my attention right from the start of the film.
Furthermore, the film’s visuals are striking and impressively dynamic for the time period. In an age where Akira Kurosawa was transforming the way movies were shot, Bergman was doing the same in Europe, something that’s clear as day in The Seventh Seal, a film that looks a whole lot more modern than many of its contemporary Hollywood counterparts, and as such features quite a lot more eye-catching and dynamic set-pieces that really impress throughout.
Overall, then, my verdict for The Seventh Seal is as abstract as the movie itself. More dependent on your filmgoing tastes, patience and personal experience than most other films, it’s by no means an easy-going or light-hearted watch, and it proves particularly difficult to really get to grips with for casual viewers. With that said, however, there are still elements of the film that anyone can enjoy, ranging from its excellent dark comedy to its striking visuals, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.4.