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Monday, July 29, 2013

The Seventh Seal (1957) d. Ingmar Bergman

Playing Chess with Death.

Movie Review
The Seventh Seal (1957)
 d. Ingmar Bergman
Criterion Collection #11

   Finally, a Criterion Collection title streaming on Hulu Plus that comes with one the featurettes that are a hallmark of the Criterion Collection.  The extra is an afterword by Bergman expert Peter Cowie- about ten minutes long.  The Seventh Seal is one of those titles without which the Criterion Collection itself likely wouldn't exist.  Like The 400 Blows, The Seventh Seal helped to create the Audience for Art House Cinema in the United States.
Ingmar Bergman, Criterion Collection stalwart

  The idea of the a knight playing chess with death on a beach has been so deeply disseminated in American popular culture that I would bet there are tons of people who would be able to recognize that image and not know from whence it came.  This chess match opens the movie and throughout we see the Antonious Block (Max Von Sydow) dueling with Death on the chess board during quiet moments during his journey homeward.

  Cowie's video afterword notes that within Sweden Bergman was not as popular as he was outside Sweden because Swedes could actually understand the dialogue, and the dialogue was terrible.  Watching The Seventh Seal for the third or fourth time I tried to listen to the Swedish language dialogue to see I could hear what Cowie was talking about, but of course, I couldn't.

  Bergman is often stereotyped as being pretencious and dull but there is plenty going on in the Seventh Seal to keep the viewer interested.  In fact, I'd rather watch a Bergman films then a Fellini any day.  There, I said it.

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