#131: The Seventh Seal (1957)

When and how did I watch this?

May 24th, 2016, on Hulu Plus.

Had I seen this film already?


What did I know about the movie before watching it?

Yet another Bergman film I was unaware of.  The title had something to do with the Bible, and the premise was a showdown with the devil of a sort.  I expected something haunting or odd for sure, especially after the previous Bergman film, released the same year (Wild Strawberries).

What do I know about it now?

While it effectively follows a stream of consciousness form, the film ventures into sort of an erratic pattern which can prove difficult for the viewer to follow.  The imagery, like other films from this director, is stirring. The setting is a plague-riddled Western Europe, the inhabitants of the land desperate to survive, though they don’t understand how it is one can do so other than by the mercy of God.  One of the knight’s followers is more cynical than all of his peers, yet it is the humble folks that survive. The horror of what seems to be a random selection of death is very present, despite seeing only one plague victim in the film.  This is further emphasized in a terrific and ghastly scene of a parade of self-mutilating folks following a preacher who announces the coming doom and implores his listeners to repent.  The dialogue is snappy and often philosophical.  The diciest aspect is the plot — it omits what might be important scenes and sometimes forgets to develop some characters while others are overexplained and ultimately boring and useless. I think Bergman has a bad habit of doing this in all the films we’ve seen — you have to kind of fill in the blanks in the end, which one might perceive as profound but is really just confusing.

What are some themes in the film?

Fate, God, death, agnosticism/cynicism, trust

Did this affect me personally?

Yes.  The devil is haunting, and the final scene really rattles you. The demise of the plague victim is hard to deal with as well.

Why is this ranked #131?

Dare I say, this one is ranked up here simply because of the director.  While I was previously unfamiliar with Bergman, it seems movie buffs know and admire this guy. I think they have this ranking all backwards. This is the weakest of the four.

Did my wife watch/like it?

She saw most of it, and she had a lower opinion of it than I did.

Would I watch it again?

No.  Some moments are worthwhile, but most of it felt like a waste of time.

Would I recommend it to a friend?

It might be worth a look if you’re a fan of the director and of obscure plots and motifs.  The imagery is nice; you won’t soon forget it.

Does it deserve to be on this list as one of the greatest films of all time?

I don’t think so.  It might be an unprecedented type of film, and it certainly has strange and haunting moments, but plenty of movies do this more effectively with a clearer story. You can say with certainty that Ingrid Bergman is one of the all-time great directors, but that doesn’t qualify any random films of his to be on here (see Hitchcock’s Notorious). Especially this high on the list, it’d better be something spectacular.

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