The Seventh Seal
No, Ingmar Bergman's "The Seventh Seal" (1957) isn't a sci-fi film by any stretch—and yet thanks to Bergman's masterly direction, it's the kind of movie that settles into the imagination and launches the viewer's mind into the delightfully disturbed state many of us look to achieve through sci-fi.
The allegorical plot begins with Antonius Block, a war-weary knight heading home to Sweden from the Crusades with his squire, Jon. Death appears, wearing the white face and dark, hooded cloak that Bergman made iconic. Block convinces the angel to play a game of chess, sparing his life at least until the conclusion of the match. Death agrees (hey, he's got time, right?) and Block continues his journey, encountering plague victims, villagers and a traveling band of minstrels along the way.
Deep, existential silence—and how people respond to it—is a concern that appears in several of Bergman's films. It's God's silence that serves as the central theme of "The Seventh Seal," which evokes a passage from the Bible's Book of Revelation at the beginning and end: "And when the Lamb had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour" (8:1). Block agonizes over what he has done in the name of belief, including abandoning a beloved wife to fight for a cause he now questions, and he yearns for a sign of God's existence. For him, faith is a burden, alleviated only by simple pleasures such as a fresh-air supper of strawberries and milk given to him by Mia and Jof, a happy, innocent pair of minstrels who travel with their infant son and call to mind a famous Biblical trio. It's this family, the film suggests, that may be the most certain sign of faith redeemed that Block—or anyone—may ever receive.
Todd C. GreyTodd C. Grey, Chief Medical Examiner for the State of Utah, discusses the science of death and the film “The Seventh Seal.”
Katherine SupianoKatherine Supiano of the University of Utah’s College of Nursing discusses how people respond to the process of death and the film “The Seventh Seal.”
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