Monday, March 30, 2009

The Seventh Seal

It would have been slightly eerie if my seventh post for a seventh period class would have been about The Seventh Seal, but alas, it is my eigth. A cinematographically flawless film, I enjoyed the setting (and symetry) of the first and last scene, being on the coast. This is a place that is constantly battered by the sea, a force more powerful than any seagull, crab, or rock that inhbaits that area, thus being symbolic of death's universally overbearing role. In addition, death erodes our lives and changes our schemas.
The director makes it quite blatant that the central theme of the film is death. He is personified, takes just about everyone in the film, and ultimately shapes the lives of them all. Antonius is scarred by what he sees in the Crusades, the unnamed girl dies believing that there is no heaven and that everything is governed by absurdity, and Squire Jons understands this as well in his "conversation" with the corpse. This movie presents our infatuation with death as having only two solutions: fighting, as does Antonius, or partying, as do the people in the bar and the church painting character. Death appears in every scene and in even the most obscure places, both directly and in the forms of other people. I can not figure out why both forms are neccessary other than to fill up screen time. In addition, I would like to ask why the silent girl that Squire Jons does not rape is the embodiement of Christ? She has a single biblical line in the film, but she does little else to resemble our lord and saviour. It should be noted that one of the lines that death's lips utter in the film is "nothing escapes me." Blok tries to correct him in saying "no one escapes you," but the fact of the matter is that even abiotic items are eventually destroyed as well, which is supported by the coastal opening and closing scenes. Nobody escapes death, but that is exactly what the Jesster and his family do, these are the little battle that we can win (refering back to Runaway Train) or the games of chess we can play before the inevitable catches up with us.
I must say that the ending dissapointed me. Though the hand holding vision has it own purpose and offers us a suggestion that heaven is real (suggestion because it is a light filled scene, but is seen through the eyes of the sometimes innaccurate jesster) it would have been much more satisfying if the director had not sparred us the scene of physical death that he had no trouble showing us numerous times throughout the film.


  1. Very nice review Dominic Dabrowski, and you bring up some very valid points, many of which I didn't notice. Your ideas about the sea are very brilliant and went completely unnoticed by me. Also, the fact that the Jester escaped spoke to the moral ambiguity that Bergman was likely looking for.

    I disagree with you however on the final scene. I thought the scene was visually stunning and meaningful and I thought that it was very interesting final shot especially through the eyes of the Jester who saw the visions, since it is his, it seems even more ambiguous. I don't want to steal Mr. Bennett's thunder but I believe he said that this shot was filmed with extras every production was finished and that it was added afterwards, so it is possible that the visual was unnecessary, it is difficult to say.

  2. You say that the girl is an atheist. I don't know how that is shown anywhere in the film. She awaits death with seeming ardor, hardly the attitude of a non believer. You're correct in praising the cinematography. It is typical of genius to make the impossible look easy. Interesting observation about the coastal beginning and ending. I hadn't noticed that. I thought the ending was sublime. What does he say, "death leads them away from the dawn toward the dark lands where the rain washes away their bitter tears." or something similar. And then to have Mary say, "you and your visions," is such a nice touch, always leavening the heaviness with humor or simplicity.

  3. Really good points Dom! I really liked this film, if for no other reason than it's cinematography. This was one of the most beautifully photographed films I have ever seen. My specific favorite shot is our first sight of Death. First we are shown an ocean with crashing waves, a vast horizon lies beyond it, an image that I found to be rather pretty. Then at the drop of a hat, the music stops and the camera cuts away to Death, standing resolutely in the rocks, staring seemingly directly at us. I think this image alone is enough to give this movie a positive review.