The scythe and the chessboard, the scorched earth and the pestilence of doubt: "Oh, you and your visions..." Ingmar Bergman at once engraves his modern inquiry in medieval stone, a post-Hiroshima brooder in a Grünewald canvas comprises the allegory, unbearably bleak and comical... In Bergman’s most iconic expression of existential yoke, life is an unwinnable game postponed long enough to discover we know nothing.
Whenever I revisit THE SEVENTH SEAL, what hits me hardest isn’t the heavy symbolism or the theological discourse, but rather the material involving the traveling players. Along with the romance in SUMMER WITH MONIKA, these passages epitomize the earthiness and sensuality that course through the first decade or so of Ingmar Bergman’s filmmaking career, communicating not just fascination with but also enthusiastic love for other people.
A man forestalls his death by challenging the reaper to a game—Scream, but with chess instead of chit chat. The stage is a deathbed, making The Seventh Seal the quintessential Ingmar Bergman movie. Suspended between the realms, it’s concerned with the big questions, resolved only in surrender, and given to visions from the other side, like when Death (Bengt Enkerot) first materializes—in a dissolve.