If you grew up around the same time I did,Then you most likely remember The Animaniacs as well as Bill And Ted’s Bogus Journey.You also might remember scenes of a character trying to cheat their mortality by playing a game with the grim reaper.What you probably didn’t know is what this concept came from, Ingmar Bergman’s 1957 masterpiece “The Seventh Seal”, Without a doubt one of the greatest films ever made.
For those of you unfamiliar with Bergman,Shame on you.He was without a doubt one the greatest filmmakers of all time.His use of camerawork and deep focus photography is second to none, A style very similar to that of Orson Welles.The film also features one of the early performances of Max Von Sydow, Who is one of my favorite actors. Sydow is without a doubt one of the greatest character actors since Laurence Olivier.I would even go so far as to say his talents have surpassed the latter. Sydow himself, was mentored heavily by Bergman, And after seeing several of his performances over the years, I can only say that the results speak for themselves.
So what makes this film so great? Why is it so revered by so many including filmmakers like Woody Allen as a definitive work ? A lot of it has to do with the overall theme of the film, What is the purpose of existence? Set in a time period where the majority of Europe was ravaged by the bubonic plague, more commonly known as the “Black Death.”The film tackles a heavy existential theme without being thick and pretentious.Anyone could sit down with this film and appreciate all it has to offer.
The theme of someone playing chess with death was a very common theme in many paintings in the middle ages.Bergman depicted life in this time period with absolute perfection.Many of the films scenes depict the celebration of life alongside with the reality of death.Showcasing these themes right alongside one another provides a very realistic view of life in a time period long gone.
The film itself was released in a very unique period in history.This was a time when many began to start questioning the existence of God, and the purpose of life.Adapted from Bergman’s own play “Wood Painting,” It’s absolutely amazing how a product could be adapted from the stage to screen with perfection.And also tackle a topic that many in Europe, as well as all over the world were beginning to question; The absence of God.
In short; It’s one of the greatest films ever made.