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The Seventh Seal: The Criterion Collection

Max von Sydow , Gunnar Björnstrand , Ingmar Bergman    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (118 customer reviews)
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Product Description

After a decade of battling in the Crusades, a knight challenges Death to a fateful game of chess. More than forty years after its initial release, Ingmar Bergman's stunning allegory of man's apocalyptic search for meaning remains a textbook on the art of filmmaking and an essential building block in any collection. Criterion is proud to present The Seventh Seal in a pristine new transfer.


Ingmar Bergman's 1956 film has been parodied by everyone from Woody Allen to Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey, but it remains one of the strangest and richest classics of world cinema. Max Von Sydow plays a knight returning from the Crusades to encounter an apocalyptic scenario inspired by the Book of Genesis. He plays chess with Death (Bengt Ekerot), sees a manacled witch, watches a band of flagellants go by--all of it foretelling an inevitable end to life. Unabashedly allegorical and lyrical and existing in a world unto itself, the film is enormously mesmerizing no matter what one thinks of the weighty meanings Bergman has attached to it all. The DVD release has English subtitles, audio commentary by critic Peter Cowie, theatrical trailer, and Bergman's filmography. --Tom Keogh --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing and thought provoking movie. July 10 2004
By M. M.
This film is absolutely amazing. It is one of the few movies I watch more than once or twice.
It is an achievment in style. The film manages to look amazing by virtue of Bergman's skill with lighting and cinematography alone. Especially compared to the big budget, color Hollywood titles of the time (such as The Ten Commandments) which look plastic despite their "special effects" and use of color (this film is black & white).
The subject of the movie is man's search for the meaning of life and the question of whether or not God exists. The film is both thought-provoking and blunt in its presentation of this subject and the answers which Bergman provides are suprisingly blunt.
The DVD quality is great, as it always is with Criterion Collection DVDs, and Peter Cowie's commentary is particularly good.
However, I will admit that this film is not for everyone. It also seems to require (for me anyway) one to be in a certain "mood" to view it. If you want to simply be entertained then this is not a film for you, but if you want to view a skillfully directed and wonderfully thought-provoking (if a bit dated) film then go for it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The silence of God! July 6 2004
Ingmar Berman(1918) established a challenging premise a chess mate between a knight from the Crusaders and the Death (Bengt Ekrot). If he wins, he'll live ; otherwise the Death will claim him . And this original duel happens after Sydow has left behind the misery, the plague and an unending war. He's deeply dissapointed with God and certainly he concludes that it doesn't exist.
This game will let exchange , scrutinize several ideas concerned with the faith , the silence of God and its own existence. God is a comfortable idea for the mankind ; it keeps them warmth , besides the man can dream with the hope of a celestial Paradise after this journey through this awful and miserable world. The ending sequence with the Dance of the Death is one of the most captivating and fascinating images in all the cinema story.
Many people state this is the Masterpiece : and obviously to me it's one of the three major achievements ; Persona and Cries and Whispers would be the rest .
But I've watched almost forty films of this brilliant swedish film maker and in his particular case ; a minor film from Bergman is above the average . So my advise is try to find out and watch all you can from this outstanding director.
This film won the Special Jury Prize 1957.
A timeless cult movie.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A true masterpiece Sept. 27 2009
Despite what might sound like dark and depressing topic this movie is actually quite entertaining and I even found myself laughing a few times. This classic has received much praise throughout the years and I must agree with it all. Criterion has once again done a phenomenal job with the Blu-ray release. When you consider the age of the film and the even older equipment used to make it, the video quality is impressive. The special features are plentiful, including a feature-length documentary on Ingmar Bergman.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb new edition Nov. 5 2009
By Gary Fuhrman TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This is of course one of the all-time great films, and the new Criterion release gives you an impeccable transfer of it, light and shadow stunningly sharp and clear. The feature-length interview documentary on disc 2 reveals much of the intimate connection between Bergman's life and his art, in his own words (it includes reflections on several films, not just The Seventh Seal). If you're only going to buy one Bergman on DVD, this should be it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When in doubt, play chess with Death... May 6 2004
By isala
The film was produced in a world recovering from the devastation of WWII, and living in fear of the mushrom cloud.
A knight and his squire are returning home from the crusades. Disgusted and desillusionised by what he has experienced, the knight just longs to die. He has just one last wish: to find out why he has lived. Death does not care, but agrees to let him live for as long as they continue their chess game.
They travel through a land ravaged by plague, fear, and banditry. Helpless the knight sees the world falling apart around him. Everything he believed in as a young man has been tainted or proved false.
Death cheats in the chess game. In the end the knight loses, but he gains some solace when he saves a young family from Death. Still, he leaves this world as unknowing as he entered as a child.
This film has a tremendous impact on the mind. It deals with the big questions: Why am I here? Why does evil exist, and why is it so powerful? What can one human do to affect the world? The last question is the only one that is answered: small things, but small things are also important.
The acting is briljant, with Max von Sydow as the knight. The personification of Death has inspired writers as different as Woody Allen and Terry Pratchett.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Release of Bergman's Masterpiece April 4 2008
Crusader, Antonious Block (Max Von Sydow) and his squire Jöns (Gunnar Björnstrand) have returned home after ten years. Unfortunately, thorough chaos and the black plague await them. Block himself comes face to face with a human manifestation of Death (Bengt Ekerot). Death has come for him and during Block's trials over the last ten years he has felt his faith in God diminish. Block challenges Death to a game of chess that plays on throughout the entire film. We wonder if his expectations are to actually outwit Death and survive. During his many interactions with Death he asks for true knowledge of God's existence and therefore some guidance as to his own. He is conflicted and to some degree he views the concept of God as merely an idol created to pacify fear and doom. These are just a few of the many insights that make their confrontation so enticing. Block's squire Jöns seems to acknowledge and exist in this oblivion and acts as humanity's voice of helplessness to Block. Block likely knows his death is forthcoming but is playing his game of chess as a way to delay the inevitable. The delay allows him to reunite with his wife and to further ponder on the existence of God. But most importantly, it is all a way for him to express and examine his utter dissatisfaction with the possibility that life has absolutely no meaning at all.

I was first exposed to some of Ingmar Bergman's work when I was in my teens. Back then I only thought I understood Bergman. I was wrong; with Bergman there is always some new guidance to provide further appreciation for life. Unfortunately, this outstanding director passed away in July of 2007. I felt obligated to buy Criterion's release of Bergman's masterpiece The Seventh Seal. I've seen the Seventh Seal three times.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great!
Great film that has never been outdone. Thought provoking and beautiful.
Published 2 months ago by Freddy
4.0 out of 5 stars I admire and appreciate it. I just wish I could love it more.
I feel like a fool for not loving this classic examination of the
existence (or lack thereof) of both God and the meaning of life more. Read more
Published on April 14 2012 by K. Gordon
4.0 out of 5 stars I admire and appreciate it. I just wish I could love it more.
I feel like a fool for not loving this classic examination of the
existence (or lack thereof) of both God and the meaning of life more. Read more
Published on April 14 2012 by K. Gordon
5.0 out of 5 stars A Blu-ray Winner
There was never a better showcase for black and white photography than Ingmar Bergman's "The Seventh Seal" with its stark contrasts and heavy symbolism. Read more
Published on Feb. 15 2012 by Argus
5.0 out of 5 stars The Seventh Seal
The Seventh Seal is one of the few movies that can be labelled: a Masterpiece. All its components fuse into a homgeneous whole. It does not date and remains visually vivid. Read more
Published on June 27 2011 by Claude Aubanel
4.0 out of 5 stars Great film
More people have given excellent, intelligent reviews. Excellent disc and a great film. I'll leave it at that.
Published on Aug. 13 2009 by nobody
4.0 out of 5 stars Knight challenges "Death" to chess match for his life
this is the first Ingmar Bergman i have seen.Bergman is a very revered
Swedish director.i wasn't sure what to expect with this film,but i had
wanted to see it for some... Read more
Published on Oct. 1 2007 by falcon
2.0 out of 5 stars Overrated
The Seventh Seal put me to sleep. I guess Woody Allen saw this one fifty times and the critics thought it was deep man, but I had a hard time keeping my lids from falling. Read more
Published on June 16 2004 by R. A Rubin
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