5 Stars Movies Vintage

The Seventh Seal (1957)

In the book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, (the 7th one, which, considering this review, is rather ironic), there is a story entitled “The Tale of the Three brothers”.

Basically, the story shows how three brothers respond to death. Each gets three items from death: the elder wand (which wins ever battle), a stone to talk to the deceased, and a cloak to become invisible (the invisibility cloak). In the end, each brother meets death (albeit in different ways).

This was just one of a few things that ran through my head while watching Ingmar Bergman’s masterpiece of art, The Seventh Seal (another of note was from a late great elder of my church, Jeff Balsom, who once said “the mortality rate is 100%”.)

The (not so) simple story is of a knight, Antonius Block (the late Max Von Sydow), returning with his squire (Gunnar Bjornstrand) from the crusades during the raging of the black plague. On his way, he meets Death (Bengt Ekerot). Block is not ready to except his fate, not because he is afraid, but because he has so many questions he wishes to be answered. To buy himself time, he challenges death to a game of chess, keeping his life in the process if he is to win the game.

The title, of course, comes from the book of Revelation, where (in Chapter 8) the final seal is opened to a half an hour of silence in heaven. Yet it is here I should mention that the film is not a Christian movie so much as it is a spiritual one (though Christian films are spiritual, spiritual films are not always Christian films).

I have mentioned many a time how “Christian” films are normally not always that good because they try to preach the message over being artful and entertaining (for every The Passion of the Christ & biblical epic of the 1950s, we have a Kirk Cameron movie, not to mention Nicolas Cage in Left Behind). Spiritual movies are almost always artful, but require us to reflect on ourselves and life in general.

Some films (such as The Seventh Seal and other films by Ingmar Bergman) are easily seen as being “spiritual”: Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927), It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and many works by Akira Kurosawa, Yasujiro Ozu, and Terrence Malick. Then there are other films that are more subtle in their “spirituality”, like Superman (1978), Groundhog Day (1993), The Matrix (1999), and Boyhood (2014).

This does not mean to scare you into thinking the film may be boring. On the contrary, for there are many moments of light humor with the characters we meet, such as the traveling act of husband and wife actors Jof (Nils Poppe) and Mia (Bibi Andersson) with their one year old son Mikael. Even during the dark ages, Ingmar Bergman (who not only directed the film but did the screenplay as well) is able to bring dialogue and a realism to make an authentic feeling of every day life (which he has done in all the movies I have seen of his to this point).

Parents, the movie is more than likely too deep for kids, while also being a film from Sweden in the 1950s. High School and above.

Of course, The Seventh Seal is not entirely accurate when it comes to Christianity (especially relating to what happens after we die). However, when it comes to our occasional emotions with our spirituality, it is one of the most factual films in that aspect I have ever seen.


Rating: 5 out of 5.

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