As everyone knows, The Seventh Seal is a masterpiece. It’s been the subject of countless parodies (e.g. French and Saunders, Monty Python or even in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, where the boys play Battleship instead of Chess and win, thus cheating Death, an outcome possible in comedy but never in Bergman, despite his work being funnier than his reputation admits to). But in spite of their number, they have yet to diminish the film’s power. In fact The Seventh Seal‘s seriousness, its humour, its meaning and its beauty seem only to grow with repeated viewings.
I have a particular love for the moment excerpted below: Antonious Block (Max von Sydow) has returned from the Crusades. He’s seen enough horror to make him doubt the existence of God, he’s already playing a game of chess with Death and fears his life has been pointless. Death is ever present; God has yet to answer his prayers or to make himself known. He’s trying to find meaning in life and to make his life meaningful. This moment of community in the face of plague and death, the sharing with friends, an appreciation of the music, the beauty of the light, the sensuousness of the strawberries and fresh milk, the promise of the young baby; all ending with the drinking of the milk, which is in itself an act of communion but with a loving community instead of the blood of Christ, is what will spur him to a later act of generosity and goodness that will end the search to that which he sought. It’s a gorgeous moment in which people of all faiths or even adherents of therapy such as mindfulness will find in Bergman’s dramatisation of that which is holy in nature and in community a reverberating reflection of their own best beliefs.