The Seventh Seal (1957)

Film and Plot Synopsis

In The Seventh Seal, a knight returns exhausted from the Crusades to find the Plague has gripped medieval Sweden. When he suddenly comes face-to-face with the hooded figure of Death, Death challenges him to a game of chess. As the fateful game progresses, and the knight and his squire encounter a number of outcasts from a society in despair.

‘The Seventh Seal’ Movie Summary

The summary below contains spoilers.
The Seventh Seal (1957)The Seventh Seal begins with a disillusioned knight, Antonius Block (Max von Sydow), and his squire Jöns (Gunnar Björnstrand) lying on a rocky shore pondering life and death. The two are recently back from the Crusades, and they have returned to find Sweden in the grips of a deadly plague. Death (Bengt Ekerot) approaches the knight, who does not fear the specter. The knight challenges Death to a chess match, believing he can delay his passing as long as the game continues. The game is revisited throughout the film.

As the knight and squire continue their journey, they pass a caravan of actors. Jof (Nils Poppe) and his wife Mia (Bibi Andersson) discuss Jof’s vision of the Virgin May and an infant Jesus Christ, before the pair, along with their infant son Mikael and their manager Jonas Skat (Erik Strandmark) head into the village.

The knight and the squire visit a church where an artist is the process of painting a fresco of the Danse Macabre (Dance of Death) on the inside of the church. Jöns lectures the artist for feeding into the ideological fervor that led to the bloody crusade. Meanwhile, Block proceeds to the confessional and attempts to cleanse his soul. He admits to a priest that he wants to perform one meaningful deed in his life before he dies and discusses his lack of faith. He also reveals the ongoing chess match that he has engaged in with Death, even going as far as revealing his strategy for delay.

However, the priest is actually Death, who reveals himself. Block leaves the church after Death states that their game will continue. The knight tries to speak to a young woman (Maud Hansson) in stocks outside the church. The woman is to be burned at the stake for consorting with the devil, and Block believes she will tell him about life beyond death. However, he is dismayed to learn that she is in fact insane and cannot provide any answers to him.

Block and Jöns come upon a deserted village. The squire stops to fill his water skin and interrupts an attempted rape of a mute servant girl (Gunnel Lindblom) by a thief named Raval (Bertil Anderberg). Jöns recognizes Raval as one of the theologians who convinced Block to join the Crusades ten years earlier. The squire vows to destroy the thief’s face if he ever sees him again. The mute girl leaves with Jöns, who offers her a job as his servant girl.

The threesome then proceed into a town where the actors are performing. Skat, the actor’s manager, is lured away from the performance for a sexual tryst with Lisa (Inga Gill), the wife of the blacksmith Plog (Åke Frindell). Jof and Mia’s performance is interrupted by a procession of religious zealots who flog themselves and who are led by a preacher who chastises the townspeople. After the zealots leave, Plog approaches Jöns and asks if he has seen his wife. The squire tells him to go to tavern to see if she is there.

At the tavern, Plog asks Jof if he has seen his wife, having heard from others that she ran off with an actor. When Raval reveals that Jof is an actor himself, he and Plog begin to threaten the frightened thespian into dancing to their command. Jöns shows up and saves Jof and keeps his promise to Raval when he slashes the thieves face.

Meanwhile, Block waits in the countryside for Death to continue their game. He sees Mia and Mikael playing on a blanket and approaches. Jof returns, and Mia makes a meal of strawberries and milk for the foursome. Soon, Jöns joins them with the mute girl. Block shares a moment of happiness with the group and states that the meal with all of them is a treasured memory. The knight invites the actors to join him at his castle to shelter from the plague, and they accept the invitation.

Block then walks away from the party and continues his game with Death. Death implies that he maybe looking for more than just Block on the journey to the castle. Plog joins the group the next day after making amends with Jof. On the way to the castle, they encounter Skat and Lisa in the forest. Lisa returns to Plog, while Skat fakes his own death to avoid being killed by Plog. However, when the rest of the group continues on, Death comes for Skat.

Along the roadside, the group runs into the execution party for the young woman outside the church. Block once again tries to converse with her about the devil. The knight asks her to summon Satan so that he can question him about the existence of God. The girl claims she has done so, but Block only sees her terror. Feeling pity on the girl, the knight gives her some herbs to take away her pain just before she is placed on the pyre.

That night, the group encounters Raval who has been stricken by the plague. The thief begs for them to give him some water to relieve his pain. The servant girl runs to give him a drink, but she is stopped by Jöns. Raval dies alone just outside their camp. Death returns to continue the game with Block. While the two play their game, Jof notices Death with the knight.

Fearful, he convinces Mia they need to leave right then. Block is aware of their departure, and continues to play the game in order to keep Death distracted. Death wins the game and tells Block that the next time they meet will be the last time for the knight and anyone with him. Death asks Block if he has accomplished the meaningful deed that he wished for, and the knight solemnly says that he has.

On the forest road, Jof and Mia battle a furious storm, fearful that Death is chasing after them. When the storm becomes to intensify, they stop for the night and take shelter in their covered wagon. The next day, Block brings the remaining members of the group to his castle, where he finds his wife Karin (Inga Landgré) waiting for them. Karin makes dinner for the group, but during the meal there comes a loud pounding on the door. Death interrupts their last supper. Everyone is accepting of the reaper with the exception of Block, who begins to pray in the background. The mute girl greets Death and states “It is finished.”

The next morning, Jof and Mia awaken to a blue sky near the sea. The couple attributes the storm to Death passing them by. As they begin to get back on the road, Jof tells Mia that he can see the knight and his followers on the distant hillside being led away by Death. He tells Mia that they are doing a strange Dance of Death (Danse Macabre).

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Janus Films released The Seventh Seal on February 16, 1957. Ingmar Bergman directed the film starring Max von Sydow, Gunnar Björnstrand, and Bengt Ekerot.

User Rating: 3.05 ( 2 votes)
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