The Seventh Seal (1957)

Genres - Drama, Fantasy  |   Sub-Genres - Period Film, Psychological Drama  |   Run Time - 96 min.  |   Countries - Sweden  |  
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For filmgoers of a certain age (baby boomers who attended college between the late '50s and late '60s), The Seventh Seal was their first exposure to the films of Ingmar Bergman. And indeed, the film has been referenced by other directors, from Woody Allen to Barry Levinson, as well as becoming the subject of a popular parody short, Dove. Although other filmmakers, such as Jean Cocteau in Orpheus, had dealt with similar concerns, Bergman made them more accessible. The Seventh Seal is a skillful blend of realistic drama (the disillusioned knight returning from the Crusades in a land wracked by plague and madness) and the allegorical (most famously, the chess game and further encounters with a black-robed figure representing Death). The historical setting provides a convenient vehicle for Bergman to deal with issues of death and spirituality that are ultimately timeless. The film also gave major exposure to actors Max von Sydow and Bibi Andersson, who both had small roles in Bergman's Wild Strawberries.