This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Drake’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal is both right up my alley, yet just as abhorrently far from it as I originally preferred it to be for the longest time until watching. Even the smallest notion of a discussion on mortality and the unanswered questions of what happens post-mortem terrifies me to no end...but in actually watching the thing I have surprisingly come to find it is not just littered in religious doubt and nihilism, but full on dark comedy, blacker than the plague that called forth Death in all his bald-headed, black-robed infamy centuries before he graced a far better film involving some time-traveling phone booth.
I noticed this deathly divine comedy immediately. Max Von Sydow sees Death incarnated on the sandy shores and instantly, nonchalantly asks to play chess TO WHICH the all-powerful reaper agrees! Based on what? Religious paintings commissioned by the churches and empty hearsay from the meek who praise the false deity his very existence disproves? Why does Death bend down on his hands and knees to the whims of mere mortals crafting stories in superfluous attempts to double down on immortality? With a hair selection in the main crew of plague escapees comprised of a bowl cut, buzzcut, and receded curls, you could've honestly had Medieval Three Stooges strike a knuckleheaded gamble against Death itself if that's how Bergman was shooting to play it. There is also actual comedy too though, mostly in the form of Sydow's squire, Jöns; but even then each instance even remotely resembling a comedic tone is still coated in the toxic grip of death.
On a far more serious tone, the film does hold something special. You can feel the power it held through Bergman's direction, and the influence it brought to cinema. Riddled in Bergman's own childhood ponderings on death and religion from his days as a chaplain's son, the film does take on such a grimdark topic, yet still shines forth some semblance of light in it's closing minutes that examine what it is to live and what it is to die; people may try as hard as they might to scheme and finesse Death in their tug-of-war game of chess, but it is always he who wins no matter the slight. All that really matters when your game is lost, is a reflection on the good you've brought forth in the world as you depart...toward just whatever it is that's actually out there, I suppose!
I also noticed quite literally the beats taken from the film's namesake, The Seventh Seal, of apocalyptic infamy from the Book of Revelations and hearsay of John, from Patmos. The seal is obviously the seventh one, but each of the seven seals play a part in the story in sequential, numerical order. As the film begins, the first four seals are unleashed as War, Conquest, and Famine beckon Death forth into the plot and an unfortunate beachside Von Sydow. As the plague wrecks havoc upon humanity, the fifth seal brings martyrs for the pain its seals hath wrought in the form of the sacrificial devil-worshipping woman burned in the name of God's wrath as the sixth seal brings forth cataclysmic storms upon our ragtag group. Finally, the film and the seals have reached their predestined conclusion as the seventh seal heralds our seven characters toward the castle to be judged by Death himself, whom they greet with open arms..or something like that? I am not really a religious person, but the mythos and stories are pretty interesting to me, so I love tackling films that delve into them like this, I had a pretty nice time.