Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Seventh Seal

[This is our 700th film reviewed]
Ingmar Bergman, Sweden, 1957, bw (9.2*)
Though not particularly pleasant viewing as it deals with a dying world amid a plague, this is probably Bergman's masterpiece, and a film that generally goes beyond cinema and into the realm of mythic art. Max Von Sydow plays a medieval knight returning home, who is trying to escape the bubonic plague with his family.

He is constantly shadowed by death, the Grim Reaper (Bengt Ekerot, as the most compelling character in the film) who tells him its time - a pale faced figure in a black cloak with whom he plays an ongoing game of chess for his life [see photo below], with whom he discusses life and death and God. Full of moody, gothic, yet beautiful black and white images, the film almost seems to be medieval paintings in motion. The overfall effect of this film is hypnotic; Bergman was at the height of his directing eye in composing these frames. I'm not usually a Bergman fan (his films are sometimes more painful than a trip to the dentist, and often longer, without the same positive result), but this film is easy to recommend. I'm just rating it down a notch from perfect because it's just so grim a story.

This is one of just three films that Woody Allen said went "beyond cinema and became art" - the other two being Antonioni's L'avventura (1960) and Renoir's La Grande Illusion (1937).


The famous chess match with the Grim Reaper

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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.



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