Det sjunde inseglet

(Das siebente Siegel)

Svenska 1957

by Ingmar Bergman

with: Max von Sydow (Antonius Blok), Gunnar Björnstrand (Jöns), Bibi Andersson (Mia), Bengt Ekerot (Death), Nils Poppe (Jof), Inga Gill (Lisa), Maud Hansson (Witch), Inga Landgré (Block's Wife), Gunnel Lindblom (Girl), Bertil Anderberg (Raval), Anders Ek (The Monk), Åke Fridell (Blacksmith Plog), Gunnar Olsson (Church Painter), Erik Strandmark (Jonas)

Endlessly imitated and parodied, Ingmar Bergman's landmark art movie The Seventh Seal retains its ability to hold an audience spellbound. Bergman regular Max Von Sydow stars as a 14th-century knight, wearily heading home after ten years' worth of combat. Disillusioned by unending war, plague, and misery Von Sydow has concluded that God does not exist. As he trudges across the wilderness, Von Sydow is visited by Death (Bengt Ekrot), garbed in the traditional black robe. Unwilling to give up the ghost, Von Sydow challenges Death to a game of chess. If he wins, he lives—if not, he'll allow Death to claim him. As they play, the knight and the Grim Reaper get into a spirited discussion over whether or not God exists. Having lost the game, Death truculently wanders around the countryside, spreading disease and misery wherever he goes. Von Sydow joins Death in his journey, determined to continue their theological discussion. En route, they make the acquaintance of a variety of people, both good and bad, representing every aspect of humanity—including, thematically, religious persecution. To recount all that happens next would diminish the impact of the film itself; we can observe that The Seventh Seal ends with one of the most indelible of all of Bergman's cinematic images: the near-silhouette Dance of Death. Considered by some as the apotheosis of all Ingmar Bergman films (other likely candidates for that honor include Wild Strawberries and Persona), and certainly one of the most influential European art movies, The Seventh Seal won a multitude of awards, including the Cannes Film Festival prize.

Hal Erickson, All-Movie Guide

Im Rückgriff auf die Tradition mittelalterlicher Mysterienspiele meditiert der mit großer künstlerischer Kraft gestaltete Film über den Verlust von Sinnbezügen und die Suche nach Haltepunkten in einer neuzeitlichen Welt. Eine symbolträchtige Allegorie, geprägt von bitterer Skepsis.

Lexikon des Internationalen Films

Arguably Bergman's most famous flim, The Seventh Seal firmly established both him and Max Von Sydow and greatly enlarged potential audiences for films from other foreign directors. The highly symbolic medieval allegory appealed to cinema audiences around the world with content far more intellectual and less dependent on plot than the standard Hollywood movies.
... The symbolism is rampant in this film; Religion, Death, Metaphysics, juxtaposing frivolity and terror to confuse moments of jest and threat, 20th century existentialist themes - these are all fair game for Bergman. Many of the images are now legendary, especially one near the end of six figures led a dance by Death silhouetted against a dark stormy sky, arguably the most famous single image in world cinema. Many of these images have been copied and hence run the risk of seeming clichéd, but the film still has inimense power, through Bergman's ability to mix literary allegory into an atmospheric cinematic context.
The Seventh Seal operates on many levels, from a strong narrative and good characterisation to the many leitmotifs and metaphors holding up the film's symbolic nature, all of which work together to produce a film of emphatic strength.

Mark Radice, Edinburgh University Film Society

It may be folly to think that life and thus death hold any secrets. In The Seventh Seal Bergman spoke to this modern query in a medieval setting rendered at once awesome and intimate in chiaroscuro. A knight, Antonius Block (Max von Sydow), and his squire Jöns (Gunnar Björnstrand) return disillusioned from the Crusades to a plague-infested, hysterical fourteenth-century Sweden. On the shore, Block encounters Death and, in one of the most effective reverse-angle exchanges ever filmed, challenges him to a game of chess, playing for time to perform one significant act in life. What is timeless about this existential passion play is the humanity of its characters, who seem to shun allegory like a kind of narrative death: Block, whom the Crusades took away from the real-the only proof of God-to the abstract, and torment; Jöns, cynical sensualist who articulates the void; Death himself, a picture of inconclusiveness; and the dreamer Jof and his wild-strawberry wife (Bibi Andersson), actors traveling into the light.

Pacific Film Archive

Director: Ingmar Bergman
Screenplay: Ingmar Bergman (nach seinem Theaterstück "Trämalning")
Producer: Allan Ekelund
Director of Photography: Gunnar Fischer (b/w)
Original Music: Erik Nordgren
Musical Director: Sixten Ehrling
Film Editor: Lennart Wallén
Sound: Lennart Wallén, Aaby Wedin, Evald Andersson (sound effects)
First Assistant Director: Lennart Olsson
Choreography: Else Fischer
Production Design: P.A. Lundgren
Costume Design: Manne Lindholm
Makeup: Carl M. Lundh, Nila Nittle
Special Effects: Evald Andersson
Production Companies: A/B Svensk Filmindustri
Distributor: Janus Films (USA) / Constantin (BRD)

Runtime: 96 min (2620 m, Sweden) 92 min (USA)
Cinematographic process: Black & White, 35 mm Spherical, Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1 / Laboratory: Film-Teknik, Stockholm
Sound Mix: Mono
Budget: $150,000
Filming Locations: Hovs Hallar, Båstad, Kristianstads län, Sweden / Production Dates 2 July 1956 – 24 August 1956
Release dates: 16 February 1957 (Sweden) / 14 February 1962 (BRD)

Awards: Cannes Film Festival 1957 Jury Special Prize Ingmar Bergman - Tied with Kanal (1957) // Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists 1961 Silver Ribbon Regista del Miglior Film Straniero Ingmar Bergman

The film master used, above mentioned interpositive, is in good shape. The digital clean up has removed a lot of speckles, scratches and the like (there is a demonstration clip on the DVD with before/after comparisons). There remain some minor problems, though. Not all speckles and scratches are gone. A couple of shots show stationary hairs, some others slight banding (negative damage). But these are minor points. The film element looks gorgeous for a film this age. Image steadiness is good.
Contrast rendition is first rate and exemplary for a reissue of a classic movie of any vintage. It rivals good 35 mm prints. The new digital transfer has worked wonders here. Sharpness is also very good and close to optimal in many shots. The noise and grain level is mostly low. A couple of shots (especially sky shots at the beginning) are a bit too grainy for my taste, but I was never distracted. Video artifacts are minimal. There are no over-enhanced edges, no objectionable aliasing and no noise suppression artifacts. There is a minor problem with slightly flickering fine image detail that is visible on high resolution progressive display systems. I'm not sure if it's a compression problem, a problem with the film scanning in the teleciné or a noise processing problem. I'm rating it as a compression problem for now. The average bit rate of about 8.0 MBit/s is high and takes full advantage of dual layer technology. There are no compression glitches. If there are visible artifacts it's the fine image detail problem mentioned above.
My overall verdict for this DVD is very positive. It looks significantly better than many current DVDs of much more recent films taken from the archives and hurried to the market the cheap way. ... This DVD has been created from carefully restored suitable film elements and mastered to high quality standards. The resulting image quality is eye popping and will please on any kind of display system. High marks to Criterion! I can recommend this DVD without hesitation. Avoid the dreadful English soundtrack though. It's almost unlistenable compared to the Swedish original. Use the English subtitles instead if you don't understand Swedish. The commentary by Bergman biographer Peter Cowie is insightful and competent and an asset to this DVD edition. Don't miss it.

Michel Hafner, International Movie Database

The Seventh Seal
The Criterion Collection, # 100
Runtime: 97:01 min
Video: 1.33:1/4:3 FullScreen
Audio: Swedish Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono • English dubbed Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono • Audio commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
Subtitles: English
Features: Audio commentary by Ingmar Bergman-biographer Peter Cowie • An annotated Bergman filmography, featuring clips with commentary • Theatrical trailer
DVD Release Date: 2 February 1999 • Keep Case • Chapter stops: 15 • DVD Encoding: NTSC Region Free 0 • SS-DL/DVD-9 • Average bitrate: 8.0