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Criterion Collection: Seventh Seal [Blu-ray] [1957] [US Import]

3.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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  • Criterion Collection: Seventh Seal [Blu-ray] [1957] [US Import]
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Product details

  • Language: Swedish
  • Subtitles: English
  • Dubbed: English
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: NR (Not Rated) (US MPAA rating. See details.)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001WLMOG4
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 71,754 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Product Description

Returning from a Crusade with his squire, a weary knight plays chess with Death. Directed by Ingmar Bergman.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Blu-ray
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.

I appreciate it, with it's stark, lovely photography, attention to
detail, marvelous performances, and sly dark sense of humor that
balances the portentousness of the subject matter, and makes the film
much easier to watch than my teen film-class memories of it.

On the other hand, while I appreciate the film's importance in cinema
history, and the bravery with which it tackles the biggest of issues in
a head-on, intellectual way, I find it just that - a very intellectual
experience, devoid of much in the way of emotion. I also find some of
the writing painfully preachy and on the nose.

Yet, in the end, I admire what it accomplished in its time, and how
well it holds up 53 years later.

And seeing as I went from not liking it at all, to liking it quite a
bit on my 2nd viewing, I'm open to what a third seeing might bring.

As almost goes without saying, the Criterion blu-ray transfer
is stunning, and worth buying for the strength of the images,
even if you struggle with the film. I'm glad I got it.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Don't let this review put you off from the movie, the movie is fantastic and is a must see. However my problem is the seller. The DVD arrived without much delay and the price is fair, but the packaging the DVD was sent in was so poor that the case is broken and the discs are scratched. Luckily the discs work. But when paying over £15 for a DVD I want a bit better packaging really. I have ordered DVDs from the US to the UK before and had no trouble, I am very disappointed.
Still the film was excellent and the special features were amazing!!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars 86 reviews
40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remastered and Loaded Up with New Extras! 22 Jun. 2009
By Cubist - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
It's safe to say that The Seventh Seal is Ingmar Bergman's most famous film judging by how firmly entrenched it has become in popular culture over the years. Key images and scenes from it, including Death, the chess game, and the Dance of Death, have been emulated and parodied countless times over the years. On a historical level, it has also been credited with helping launch art-house cinema in the 1950s, along with the films Akira Kurosawa and Federico Fellini. However, this has done little to diminish what a powerful meditation on man's search for purpose in the universe it is.

The first disc starts off with an audio commentary from the previous edition by film scholar Peter Cowie. He briefly talks about the impact that the first time he saw The Seventh Seal had on him. He points out where Bergman drew his inspiration for the look of Death. Cowie populates this track with production anecdotes along with an analysis of what we are watching as well as the film's themes.

"Afterword" is a follow-up by Cowie to the 1987 commentary he did for the Criterion Collection. He points out the film's rich humor, despite its reputation as a dark, brooding film about death. This extra gives him a chance to mention things that he failed to when he originally recorded the commentary.

"Max von Sydow Audio Interview" features excerpts of interviews Cowie conducted with the veteran actor in 1988 for a book about the man. He talks about his upbringing and his parents. He recounts his first experience with the theater and how it led to him becoming an actor.

"Woody Allen on Bergman" features a wonderful short film from Turner Classic Movies with Allen talking about his love for Bergman's films over a montage of clips from them. He says that The Seventh Seal is his favorite Bergman film. This is an eloquent tribute to the man and his films.

Also included is a trailer.

The second disc includes "Bergman Island," an impressive feature-length documentary about Bergman that was released in 2006. Bergman reflects on his life and career, coming across as a modest and humble man who tells all kinds of engaging anecdotes from his life. There are many clips from his films and excellent behind-the-scenes footage.

Finally, there is "Bergman 101," a crash course on the life and career of Bergman by Cowie. He narrates over stills and clips from the man's films. This is an excellent primer that traces Bergman's career arc and touches upon many of his films while also providing factoids and analysis.
31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good film, reference-quality Blu-Ray 27 Jun. 2009
By Matthew T. Weflen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Blu-ray
The film:

Bergman is one of those things. He won't appeal to everyone. It's arty, yes. It's high concept. But really, when you get down to it, many of his movies are not hard to watch at all. This one might be the most accessible. Max Von Sydow plays a crusading knight returning home wearily after a long campaign. With his servant, he encounters a country besieged by plague and despair. Against this backdrop, he encounters Death, whom he challenges to a chess match. Does he want to live forever? No. He wants answers to his soul-chilling skepticism about God and life.

The performances are all very good, especially Von Sydow and Gunnar Björnstrand as his squire. Dialogue is clipped and spare, but evocative. Sydow has some particularly good scenes in the chapel, confessing his doubts.

Overall, it's easy to see why this film is hailed as a classic. It's deep, but also brief enough and paced well enough to be enjoyable. The ending is a bit cryptic, but not in an off-putting way. It should definitely be viewed by anyone with an open mind for "world cinema."

The Blu-Ray:

This is a great transfer. This is what I'm sure we all hoped "Dr. Strangelove" would be. There is a fine, regular grain structure which allows us to see terrific detail, especially in foliage, facial features, and cloth textures. Black levels are solid and consistent, so objects in the shadows are always well delineated.

You MUST make sure your gamma and brightness are set well! This is a film in which a lot of stuff can be lost in the shadows - it is very high contrast. In the opening shot, if your display is crushing blacks, the mountains will look like one black blob, when in fact there is a huge amount of detail and shading on rocks. SO: if you do not have a disc like Digital Video Essentials, at the very least pop in a Lucasfilm disc to use the "THX Calibrator." It has a contrast/brightness pattern that should get you set right.

Extras include a LONG documentary/interview piece with Bergman in his later life, presented in 1080i. Commentary is provided by a film scholar.

***********

If you are a fan of Bergman or this film, this is a no-brainer. There is detail here you'd never see on a DVD, and the black levels (so important on a b/w film like this) are much deeper and more consistent than any SD presentation could allow. Extras are a nice complement, and for the price, you really can't beat this, especially compared to what Criterion releases cost just a few short years ago.

If you're more of a neophyte to this kind of cinema, you should rent first. See if you like this sort of thing. Don't be daunted by the reputation of this and other Criterion releases. Give it a good honest try. You might be pleasantly surprised.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A staple for any lover of cinema... 20 Oct. 2009
By Andrew Ellington - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
1957 was one of my favorite years for film, and `Det Sjunde Inseglet' is one of the many reasons why. One of Ingmar Bergman's finest films (and that is saying a lot, since he is one of the greatest directors of all time), `Det Sjunde Inseglet' is a startling glimpse at death and religion and the impact those two very important subjects have on life. With stunning performances (Gunnar Bjornstrand gives perhaps my favorite supporting male performance of all time) as well as crisp and engrossing black and white photography, `Det Sjunde Inseglet' is nearly as beautiful as it is powerful.

The films core is found on a desolate beach where Antonius Block meets Death and challenges him to a game of chess.

This game represents the game we all play, that of life. Death is an inevitable end, a course we cannot cheat (for there is no way that Block can actually `beat' Death), but one has the opportunity to give the game their best effort. Thus, one has the chance to embrace life while they have it. Block has seen a lot in his lifetime (war and plague to mention just two) and so his faith has begun to waver; his doubts surfacing about God and his concern for humanity. This theme of religion (or better yet, spirituality) is touched upon in the majority of Bergman's films, but the poignancy and emotional relevance has never been stronger than it is in `Det Sjunde Inseglet'.

I find hesitation in really explaining much more of the film, for it is an experience that one should walk into blind almost. There is so much to uncover here, but what is so wonderful about filmmakers like Bergman is that they present a message one has to really uncover themselves. There are many ways to interpret this film, and no which way is really correct. It all depends on how the film touches and or moves you. If I really elaborate on my own personal findings it could unfairly influence your interpretation of the film, and so I'll reserve my thoughts on the matter for those who have already developed their own opinions.

So watch the movie!

The acting, like I mentioned, is sublime. I easily fill my Best Supporting Actor ballot with almost everyone in this film. Like I mentioned, Bjornstrand is my favorite supporting male performance of all time, so he takes this in a cakewalk; but Bengt Ekerot is extremely effective as Death himself, and Nils Poppe is marvelously entertaining as Jof. All three are leagues above any other performance that said year; and 1957 is a stunning year in nearly every category (Lead Actress is also jam packed). I really enjoyed Max von Sydow's detachment here, but he is clearly out-acted by the supporting cast.

I wanted to take a few moments to really expound on my love for Bjornstrand here. He is utter perfection; quite possibly the most complete supporting performance ever recorded on film. He is witty, charming, genuine, engaging, stern, desperate, depressed, concerned, focused, heroic, dashing and even a bit scary. He covers all of the bases with effortless balance and not a single ounce of awkwardness. He is stunning here, no ifs ands or buts about it.

I am a huge fan of Bergman, and while `Det Sjunde Inseglet' is not my favorite of his films (I reserve that honor for `Scener ur ett Aktenskap') it is certainly one of his finest moments and one of the best films of all time. At the price listed here it is a steal, so for once you don't have to splurge to experience something special!
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful. 10 Aug. 2009
By Brian Lange. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
Yes, the BD version definitely delivers.

As for the film itself, most of you probably have seen this film or some of his other work... so I won't comment much on the film, but rather the technical aspects of this film. I mean, a knight plays chess with Death, what's not to like about that?

Stunning image quality and sound. It's actually been a while since I've seen an older version, though I think it wasn't even the old Criterion edition. What I can attest to is that, like "Repulsion", the transfer is simply incredible. There is absolutely no way short of a projection of the film itself that will deliver like this one. The subtitles appear to have been modified a little, being translated probably better for today's modern age. The extras are not extensive, but a nice addition to the BD version of the film. Also included is a nice booklet with the film. It could be considered a "collectors" booklet, as it is nicely put together and informative... but to me it's just something that Criterion added as a bonus. Very nice, though.

Bergman's exposures and lighting come through so beautifully in every frame. There are some scenes that come across as "flat" but that has nothing to do with the Criterion transfer and was more than likely on the master print itself. I think this could have been adjusted slightly to get rid of the prominent grays, but it could have been Bergman's intention as well... that I'm not sure about, but it was certainly in the original film. What's gone from the original is a hissy, poppy audio track and there's not a single hint of dust or scratches anywhere. Amazing what Criterion has been doing with these old prints!

Keep in mind the aspect ratio is 4:3, (the ratio of what was previously the standard for TVs), not 16:9. It was common for films of that era to be presented in it's full frame form... if you have a projector setup or large enough widescreen television, don't worry it hardly distracts at all.

Also, you'll be glad to know that Criterion was smart enough to eliminate those ugly blue cases that most BDs are packed in. They have more specially made cases that are clear and just a couple millimeters deeper (the spine, presumably to make more room for the booklets). Much more attractive on your DVD case than a row of neon-blue cases.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Recently Watched ~ Amazing! 8 Sept. 2010
By Christopher Barrett - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Blu-ray
I happened upon this great film (in the Criterion, 2 disc release) at my local library, and thought I would give it a go. Lately I have been into Kurosawa, Goddard, and other icons of the 50s and 60s; so Bergman was on my short list of directors to delve into (their works).

For being filmed in 1957, this was amazing and truly breathtaking. I won't bore you with the details as included in dozens of other reviews. I will just point out some of the things I found interesting.

First, the two disc DVD set has a ton of great features, and these are well worth viewing. Second, the Criterion transfer was great. I don't think that the Blu-Ray will be able to improve upon it, but the picture is clear and the sound is masterfully restored. For purists, they might complain that the film lacks some of the roughness of the original (which was filmed with 10-20 year old equipment even then!); but I think that Bergman would approve of the purity and clarity of this version.

The backdrops are dramatic, even more so when realizing 95% was shot in the studio or on the backlot in Solna (with mid rise buildings just behind the trees). The acting is stellar, and the language really seems to mesh well with the theme and storytelling.

For those who are very religious, I might understand a little hesitancy to watch this; but note that the film never questions religion outright... Bergman makes a point that the film is questioning the 'silence of God'. Read some reviews, wikipedia, watch the extras, etc... before you make a rash judgement.

This is a film that rewards the view with multiple viewings. This was one of the original 'art house' films. Bergman was a film icon and deserves to be spoken of in the same breath as Kurosawa, Fellini, Truffaut, Kubrick and Goddard.

If you enjoy dramatic, intelligent movies from the 50s that eschew the Hollywood norms and take risks; then this is a must see.
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