copyright © Jedo Dre 2011

Seventh Seal doesn't have the strongest cinematography. It was made in black and white in the time when there was color film available. I know it was probably done on purpose but while it may help the message it does not help the visuals. The shots are not grabbing, not on their own.

Also, the sound effects are not synced well. Quality of the recording is average. The music consists more of effects than of actual melody, which again maybe works for the message but definitely not for the aesthetics.

What this movie has going for it are interesting themes, dialogue and good actors to speak it.

The film is raw and direct. Has a feel of movies like Conan the Brabarian (1982), but with realism and intelligence replacing the action. It is about life, death, love, sex and cruelty, all set against the medieval time period. The dialogue consists chiefly out of the discussion of those subjects and has a poetic colour to it but not overly so. However, you must be prepared for a theatrical feel to the whole thing. Indeed many actors in this film are heavy theater performers.

What is really good about Seventh Seal is that it is one of the, unfortunately, rare occasions when art is not pretentious or arrogant. You do not have to wonder hard about the spooky imagery. It does not try to patronize you with its poetry. It is perhaps cliché to even mention the scene that is most remembered about this film, that of the protagonist playing chess with death, but it is a good example. What is a more straight forward metaphor than that? This whole film is that way - straightforward.

The downside of the story is that it does not have a lot happening in it. The storyline is mostly about the characters traveling through the countryside and meeting other people. There isn't one centralized structure to the story. But this does not stop the movie from being interesting.

Max von Sydow is the main protagonist. To start with, this guy has an interesting face. He looks like a medieval knight, in fact almost like a caricature of one, with his underbite and long crudely carved face and short haircut. And he is a good actor on top that.

Bibi Andersson who plays one of the side characters is possibly the prettiest woman I have seen in a very long time. She is conventionally pretty, but that is OK. And the film puts her in such poses and in such dresses and her blond hair shines in such light….in short, I experienced a brief crush on an 80 year old actress.

But Gunnar Björnstrand, whose name I had to copy from IMDb for fear of getting an aneurysm trying to type it, is the true protagonist as he gets the most lines and gives them his best. Max von Sydow is more of an observer, while Gunnar is the workhorse.

Seventh Seal manages to be funny and grim, smart and blunt. It is totally worth the watch, especially if you are afraid of watching it because you got the impression of it being an overly artsy film. It isn't.

The Seventh Seal