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The Seventh Seal [DVD] [1957]

4.4 out of 5 stars 63 customer reviews

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  • The Seventh Seal [DVD] [1957]
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Product details

  • Actors: Max von Sydow, Gunnar Björnstrand, Bengt Ekerot, Nils Poppe, Bibi Andersson
  • Directors: Ingmar Bergman
  • Writers: Ingmar Bergman
  • Producers: Allan Ekelund
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: Latin, Swedish
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: PG
  • Studio: Tartan
  • DVD Release Date: 24 Sept. 2001
  • Run Time: 92 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005B5YF
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 19,657 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)
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Product description

Product Description

DVD Special Features:

Star and Director Filmographies
Scene Selection
Film Notes
The Bergman Collection Trailer
Original Academy Aspect Ratio
Swedish Language with English Subtitles

From Amazon.co.uk

Ingmar Bergman's best-known film and deservedly so, 1957's The Seventh Seal is an allegorical study of death, God and the meaning, if any, of human existence. It is a film that every human being should see, addressing as it does our deepest hopes, anxieties, curiosities and fears. Yet it's also a magical and captivating experience, close to the state of a lucid dream. Max Von Sydow plays Antonius Block, the knight who has returned, gaunt, weathered and disillusioned, from the crusades, to find his home country in the grip of the plague. He is met by Death, in the pallid, hooded form of Bengt Ekerot, whom he challenges to a game of chess. The longer he can stave off defeat, the longer he can prolong the existence of himself and his own entourage, whom Block acquires in the form of his cynical squire a young family and a band of travelling players.

Block's oft-expressed doubts and fears about his mortality and what lies beyond (hence the biblical Seventh Seal, which reveals this final secret to mankind) were especially relevant in the late 1950s, when the threat of the Bomb hung over mankind as did the threat of the plague many centuries before. The concluding Dance of Death image is, like the movie as a whole, harrowing, yet strangely enchanting.

On the DVD: Presented in the original academy ratio, this is an excellent restoration, emphasising the cinematic use of light to contrast the carefree young players with the austere shades used to convey Block's anxiety-ridden ruminations. Notes from Bergman's memoirs discuss how the "Dance of Death" image came from wood carvings in a country church he frequented as a child, as well as the influence of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana on the film. Critic Ronald Bergan's additional notes largely echo Bergman's own. --David Stubbs

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Bob Salter TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 30 Aug. 2009
Format: DVD
The true power of a film can be measured in the way its images remain with you many years later. This is very true in my case with "The Seventh Seal", its images having engraved themselves in my subconscious. The films seemingly bleak vision of mans destiny makes for uncomfortable viewing. It is a film that forces you to examine your own beliefs, something that few films have dared to do. As we are all so different our conclusions will vary. I for one see optimism in the films ending, which many might not.

In the film Max Von Sydow plays Antonius Block a medieval knight returning to Sweden from the Crusades. He returns to a land ravaged by the Black Death. It is a journey through a haunted wasteland inhabited by demented monks and a cult for self-flagellation. It is a glimpse into the very jaws of hell and one is reminded of Dante's inferno. As the knight progresses through this horrifying and devastated land he treats his journey as an opportunity to gain a knowledge of the nature of God and his relationship with man. What little that is left of his faith is sorely tested. In the film he meets death in a game of chess. It is a contest that can ultimately have only one winner. Block is of mere flesh and blood like us, and his fate is sealed at birth. But he stalls for time as he tries to understand God. The knight takes a varied group of characters under his protection as the game is played out. He is now playing for other lives in addition to his own.

The film is clearly influenced by early medieval paintings which were not shy in showing the consequences of unbelief. Sinners being disposed of in a myriad of grisly ways. Something that would have no doubt preyed on the simple minds of the peasant population of the time. It was a roughshod way of keeping the pleb's in line.
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Format: DVD
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.

The Tartan DVD transfer is quite good, but, 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
I'm writing this review having just learned of the death of Ingmar Bergman at the age of 89. It's fitting then that I should now return to a particular work that the legendary filmmaker wrote and directed fifty years ago, which expresses in explicit and philosophical detail, his overriding fear of death, and how this particular fear is one that is has been used and exploited for centuries by the Church for it's personal and ideological gain. As a result, The Seventh Seal can be described as an abstract allegory pertaining to the notion of life and death, as an expressionist horror film rife with iconic imagery and a foreboding atmosphere of Medieval torment and savage, plague-ridden doom, or as an almost sardonic satire on the catholic church, on war, and on organised religion in general.

I suppose at this point in time the film is most famous for it's central motif, in which a noble knight returning home from the crusades plays a series of chess games with the black-clad figure of death in an attempt to win back his life and return to his family. The games appear at different intervals throughout the film, which is structured episodically, taking in a scene of tranquil reflection and eventual performance from a group of travelling actors, the appearance of a religious procession marking a disease ridden town as unclean, and a scene in which a young woman is burned at the stake as a heretic. Thusly, the film is structured to become darker and more foreboding as our central character and his assistant make their way closer to home; taking the travelling actors along with them and trying to cheat death at every single turn.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I have enjoyed this series of novels.
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One of the classic films of all time, The Seventh Seal is set in plague-ravaged Sweden in the Middle Ages and follows the knight Antonius Block who has returned from 10 years fighting in the Crusades. In the famous opening scene, Block encounters Death on the beach and challenges him to a game of chess in which he is playing for his life. Block's heartfelt search for meaning in the face of death and his struggle with the question of God's existence helped to show that cinema was a genuine art form that could be used to tackle deep existential and philosophical questions. This is a profound, challenging and beautifully executed film.
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