The Seventh Seal is probably Bergman’s best-known work and the film that most clearly bears the director’s unmistakeable signature. The opening scene sets the tone: a stony beach under a leaden sky, the knight alone with his thoughts, then the approach of black-clad Death, whom the knight invites to play a game of chess. Bergman’s medieval allegory of faith and doubt is dark with the horrors of witch-burnings and the plague.
But it is also shot through with bright flashes of peace and joy, symbolised in the milk and wild strawberries offered to the knight by an innocent family of actors. In his compelling appreciation, Melvyn Bragg describes his own first encounter as a student with this extraordinary film, and how it revealed to him another cinema, quite different from the Hollywood he had grown up with. He recounts too his later meeting with Bergman himself, and how the marks of the director’s powerful personality are everywhere in this troubling and inspiring masterpiece.
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