“A skull is more interesting than a naked woman” is a quote that describes human interest in both death and lust and that when faced with a choice between the two, death dominates. “The Seventh Seal,” a 1957 Ingmar Bergman classic opens with Antonius Block, a knight who is worn out and fatigued after fighting in the crusades for the past ten years. He is accompanied by Jöns the Squire, who is an intelligent and well-versed man who writes his own music and whose speech is as smooth as silk.
It is on a beach that Death approaches Block and reveals that his time has come. Block, desiring to perform one last meaningful task, asks Death if he would play him in a game of chess in order to prolong his stay on Earth. If victorious, Block will no longer be tormented by Death.
On his journey, Block meets Jof and Mia, a young theatrical couple who have only pure intentions in raising their child to do the impossible. Though only a baby, Mickael is expected by his parents to do the extraordinary. Jof has an amazing ability to see the supernatural, but his amazing abilities are overlooked and often hidden by Mia’s intentions. Such an ability would fill the emptiness that haunts Block while he tries to perform one last great task with his life.
Knowledge of the existence of God is Block’s greatest desire. He even goes as far to attempt a discussion with a girl who is said to be possessed by the devil, just so he can discuss God with the devil. He believes that if anyone is to know about God, it would be Satan himself. This act of desperation shows the fragile constitution of human nature.
Bergman does an amazing job of giving villains a horrible and gruesome fate, whether that fate is death or eternal torment. People who are unfaithful to their spouses in committing adultery, or even murder, all receive just endings that fit their lifestyles. The same can be said for those who commit no crimes. They, in turn, receive no punishment for their life choices. Interestingly, those who have small roles in the film receive the same fate as their spouses. Bergman pushes the fact that though husband and wife are two separate people who make their own choices, they receive the same punishment as if they were one person. The fate of Block and Jöns the Squire is for the viewer to discover when watching the film.
In “The Seventh Seal,” Bergman developed a film that questioned the existence of God and the afterlife with one character and silently answered that question with another character. Old films never cease to be classics when the lessons they teach are as important as life after death. The Seventh Seal receives a remarkable 9.8 out of 10.
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