Review: Det sjunde inseglet (The Seventh Seal, 1957)

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Playing chess with death is probably not the smartest of ideas. Then again, neither were the Crusades, so what the heck!

Screenplay By: Ingmar Bergman
Directed By: Ingmar Bergman

Allegory is nothing new in film, nor was it new in 1957. However allegory can be handled with deft skill or it can be a heavy handed exercise in preaching. I look at something like the TV show True Blood and see allegories that are both painfully obvious and handled in such heavy handed fashion that my head is numb after repeatedly being hit with clubbing allegory after clubbing allegory. If one wants a lesson on how to handle allegories then all you need to do is watch Ingmar Bergman’s work, such as Det sjunde inseglet. The allegories are still straight forward and obvious, but they are handled like the creation of a fine wine. Humor is used to create a real world setting, we aren’t in a fantasy art house world, people laugh, they live, and they love. That type of realism makes the allegories all the more powerful. Jesus is in the film, God is present, Death is along for the ride and they are accompanied by widespread death (not the person), the question of mortality, and what really is the difference between good and evil? The answer isn’t given, nor is the presence of any omnipotent beings explained, and they don’t need to be. They exist to show us why life is precious and why for as much as we may fear it, death is a part of life, no more, no less. I was wrong, Det sjunde inseglet does answer some questions, but those answers lead to even more questions. And isn’t that the sign of a great movie, one that answers questions and creates new ones in the process?

Max von Sydow is a terrific actor, and Det sjunde inseglet was my first real exposure to him in his prime. His performance in Det sjunde inseglet is perfect for the type of film that Det sjunde inseglet wants to be. He is inquisitive, hard, open, caring, he is everything that man who questions his very existence should be. I look forward to traversing more of Herr von Sydow’s career, especially his further pairings with Herr Bergman. However, there were some bits in Det sjunde inseglet that left me cold. The death of Raval was a bit on the melodramatic side, and I didn’t quite like the pacing at times. But, small complaints that don’t amount to much in the grand scheme of things.

Det sjunde inseglet is a terrific film, it will make you think. I have no doubt that it will confound some people, and even those who understand it on some level will still be left with many confusing moments. But, it all works, the confusion, the odd moments, the strength of the characters, the settings, the scenarios set up, etc.. Det sjunde inseglet is one of the all-time classic films on mortality and is a great jumping off point for any venture into the spectrum of film, or into film in general.

Rating:

***1/2

Cheers,
Bill Thompson

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3 responses to “Review: Det sjunde inseglet (The Seventh Seal, 1957)

  1. Wonderfully crafted review! The Seventh Seal does pose some serious questions, some of which are obliquely answered; the answers, as you have rightly suggested, give rise to more questions, much more serious and alarming in nature. That’s the beauty of art, it gives so less and hides so much and yet it is able to satiate the deepest desires of humans. Allegory, in my personal opinion, is one of the essential, pillars of art that bridge the gap between the real and the surreal.

    Please do take some time out to check out my review of The Seventh Seal:

    http://www.apotpourriofvestiges.com/2012/06/seventh-seal-1957-legendary-swedish.html

  2. I do love allegories when they are well done, as is the case with The Seventh Seal. Thanks for the feedback, I’ll have to give your review a look sometime.

  3. Pingback: Review: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) | Bill's Movie Emporium

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