Throughout his extensive and impressive filmography, Swedish director Ingmar Bergman, who passed away in July 2007, wrestled with the existence and role of God in everyday life. From struggling with mortality toward the end of one's life in Wild Strawberries to the haunting and overbearing view of religion in Fanny and Alexander, no single film has truly captured Bergman's beef with God better than the seminal The Seventh Seal. Released in 1957, the story of a knight returning from the Holy Crusades, with nothing other than a newfound lack of faith, and playing a game of chess against Death to prologue his life long enough to find answers to his holy questions, still spiritually resonates today.
"Why must He hide amidst vague promises and invisible miracles?" the knight questions as he confesses to Death, who is incognito as a priest. The Seventh Seal thrives on these ironic contrasts in its religious investigation. The Christ imagery is inescapable -- from that of the holy monks to the "witch," who is credited with being the origin of the Black Plague -- but instead of being thematically overbearing, it is the glue holding together the earthly lost souls looking for answers. Soon after the chess game against Death begins, the knight and his squire get involved with a traveling band of merry makers. Be it the contrast between the happy-go-lucky players, one of whom has visions of the Virgin Mary, and the domineering monks parading the diseased through the streets, the dichotomy plagues the knight, as he attempts to give the actors safe passage through treacherous lands in a desperate, final good deed.
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