Movie : The Seventh Seal
Director : Ingmar Bergman
” Man starts over again everyday, in spite of all he knows, against all he knows.”
It would be a travesty if one were to interpret one of the greatest movies ever made, let alone fitting the narrative within a linear frame. A game of chess between a knight and death is surrounded by events of faith and disbelief, of death and ecstasy, of hope and despair.
The movie is an adaptation of Bergman’s own play : “Wood Painting”.
The events take place around the bubonic plague that occurred between 1346 and 1353 in Afro-Eurasia. The knight tries to escape his own ultimate fate (death) by deciding to play an eternal game of chess with Death. One must acknowledge Bergman’s dexterous use of metaphors. It is obvious that the chess game is still taking place, at this very moment between mortals and death. The result was, is and will always be against the mortals. However the knight is an embodiment of the never dying spirit of mankind, his perseverance in defying all impediments and challenging the sun! Max Von Sydow does an excellent job as a medieval knight and Bengt Ekerot as death perhaps delivers his most powerful performance.
A number of incidents take place around the game of chess. These events involve the life and various deeds of Jesus Christ, they involve human brutalities driven to the extreme and the eternal sense of disillusionment after being struck by the violent and indifferent pangs of time. The agony of the artist is also evident in a number of sequences where he appears to be questioning the extent of freedom. There are numerous biblical references in the movie including the title itself.
Despite appearing like a tale of the collective consciousness of mankind The Seventh Seal is still an intricate tale of individual choices and the ever disappearing line between good and evil, a leap that turns a renegade into a god and a preacher into a fool!
The aversion of mankind towards authenticity is evident in a number of sequences. As if the desire to be followers potently exceeded the need to be one’s own master. During the plague hysteria shrouded mankind’s otherwise unrecognisable sense of judgement. According to Ingmar Bergman violence resulted from blindness , the absence of rational resistance.
As Nietzsche wrote :
“One must shed the bad taste of wanting to agree with many. “Good” is no longer good when one’s neighbor mouths it. And how should there be a “common good”! The term contradicts itself: whatever can be common always has little value. In the end it must be as it is and always has been: great things remain for the great, abysses for the profound, nuances and shudders for the refined, and, in brief, all that is rare for the rare.”
Friedrich Nietzsche, “Beyond Good and Evil”.
Death perhaps enjoyed the game against the knight despite the result being inevitable as the knight dared to defy certain boundaries and question the ways of God and put forward the seventh seal that lay hidden in the psyche of man for the longest period of time.