Monday, August 18, 2008
If you're looking for a feel good movie, this is definitely not for you. The Seventh Seal is a 1957 Swedish film directed by Ingmar Bergman. There is a lot going on in this movie, so I'm writing about some of the main points. You could easily analyze each scene.
A knight and his squire return from the crusades to a plague ravaged Europe. When Death comes to take the knight, he challenges Death to a game of chess, with the stakes being the knight's life. The scene below is taken from the beginning of the movie and sets up the plot of the movie. (In subtitles for those who don't speak Swedish.)
The title of the film comes from the first line of the movie, which is a taken from the book of Revelations. This passage is repeated at the end of the movie. The movie is full of religious references and symbolism, as the knight struggles with death and his belief in God.
The chess game is worked in throughout the movie as the knight travels through the countryside, witnessing the horrors of the plague and how people react with facing their own mortality. Groups of people roam the country whipping themselves in penance and begging for God's mercy. A women accused of being a witch is burned for fear that she brought on the plague. (Did I mention this was a dark movie?)
In the end, the knight distracts death so that others may escape. After the chess match, he asks Death to reveal his secrets. Death responds "I have no secrets...I am unknowing." When death comes back for him, he is welcomed into the knight's home with a mixture of fear and awe (maybe even some happiness) by the knight and his friends.
I see the knight as a man who has essentially just gotten a terminal diagnosis. He makes a wager with Death, bargaining for his own life. He tries to buy more time.
But in the end, no one escapes Death (or death).
So, what are the pieces on our modern day chess board? Are modern medicines just more moves to buy time in a losing chess match? Interesting movie, but it doesn't leave you with the most pleasant thoughts.
As a side note, the painting referred to by the knight in the film clip is one in the Taby Kyrka, a medieval Swedish church, painted by Albertus Pictor in the 1480's. This is said to have inspired Bergman in the making of the film.