The Seventh Seal

“Det sjunde inseglet”, 1957 Sweden

The Swedish drama from 1957 is a production which manages to take a step out of the ordinary, but remain in the history of cinematography as “one of the classics”. The entire film is based on a common allegory (the game of life and death), originally outlined with the use of symbols and motifs.

The synopsis of the film is far from being simple and unfolds on several narrative plans. The spiritual struggle of Antonius Block, a knight, who desperately tries to find a meaning of his life and doubts the existence of God is one of the plots. This inner battle reveals the human inclination to spiritual and divine that time, in a world highly tormented by misfortunes (plague, poverty, war).

On the other side, there is the “negative” character, Death, the supreme judge, ruthless and ever feared. However, surprisingly, He (the role is performed by a man) does not appear to match the description, and even accepts the challenge risen by a mortal, to let him fight for his life and win a chess game.      

This is, in my opinion, the most powerful scene of the movie. Showing both characters, one in front of the other, playing life, ironically unfolded on an ordinary chess board suggests the idea of gamble, hazard, where any decision can be fatal or which can lead to the supreme success.

During the game the knight finds his meaning in life and ultimately gives himself a purpose to fiercely fight for his own existence. The family is the one which keeps him alive and which leads him to try and trick Death, by knocking the chess pieces over in order to win more time.

“You are mated on the next move, Antonius Block” says Death. “That’s true” says the knight. “Did you enjoy your reprieve?” “Yes, I did” Block replies.”

The end is revealing. Death cannot be fooled or tricked in any ways. Sooner or later, It will come. The only thing Man can do is to fight during the game (life), try and find the best moves to gain advantage and distract Death for a short period of time.

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