The Seventh Seal

The Seventh Seal ★★★★

My first Bergman feature and it proved to be quite an intriguing one. The Seventh Seal poses some of the most pertinent questions known to mankind and that too in a very bare and straight out manner.

It tells the story of Antonious Block, a knight who is returning home after the crusades. He meets Death and challenges him to play a game of chess with him and in turn buys time of respite to reach home and meet his love. The film is a journey toward Block's home, his unending quest to know whether God really exists or not, and his meetings with people of multifarious kinds.

The film is filled with intelligent and contemplative dialogue of both kinds, realistic and allegorical. The film talks about faith, religion, death, love and existence of God. Bergman very cleverly makes Death a walking, talking character which provides for some very interesting conversations rather than just desperate monologues.

The film also shows several kinds of people who all inhabit the world at the time of plague. There are people like Block who reflect on their past deeds, repent for them, whilst barely hanging on to the present where they happen to witness people dying in thousands due to a whim of nature. It is in such desperation that he turns to God's closest friend/foe and asks him for answers. He has long waited for God himself to appear or act to stop him and the humanity from its raging madness fueled by religion. He has now done, commiting an epic proportion of killing and sinning that he wants an answer for all of this. And also it is the time of plague and death as if not satisfied with man's offerings wants more scalps of its own and has started a spree of feeding. This provides for an ideal time for all of Block's desperate questions and Death gives an answer which is simple and less convoluted than expected. He says "I am the Unknowing."

This answer seems straight forward but could mean a lot of things which Bergman leaves the audience to decide for themselves. I thought he meant to say that Death is pure and simple darkness which is the only means of mitigating the greed of living beings especially humans. Memento mori is the only thought which can keep the atheists, the theists, the agnostics, the nihilists and every other kind of human being firmly grounded to reality and give him the incentive to do good in the time that he has been gifted with.

The film also shows the life of a couple and their child who are contented and happy. They are good natured, warm, harmless and their family means the world to them. Bergman concealingly questions the viewer the best way to live and die. Is it to live like Block with all the questions about God and Death tearing his soul apart or live a happy, sweet life like the couple who live and enjoy each day as if it were a gift, hold no fears of the future or no demons from the past and remain thankful with what they have been provided with.

The question Bergman poses is, Who among these would die more satisfactorily? He rightly leaves it unanswered and hands it over to the viewer to decide his own path of life.

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