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Classic Film Series: THE SEVENTH SEAL

  • University at Albany, SUNY 135 Western Avenue Albany, NY, 12203 United States (map)

Written and directed by Ingmar Bergman. Starring Max von Sydow, Gunnar Björnstrand, Bengt Ekerot.

A medieval knight searches for answers about the meaning of life, and plays a game of chess with Death during the Black Plague. The 1957 film is credited with launching a new cinematic culture of philosophical inquiry and serious artistic expression.

The title is a reference to a passage from the Book of Revelation: "And when the Lamb had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour," and the scenes and symbolism in the THE SEVENTH SEAL have become both iconic and parodied, as in MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL (1975) and Woody Allen's LOVE AND DEATH (1975).

THE SEVENTH SEAL holds a 93% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and in James Monaco's book, How To Read a Film: Movies Media and Beyond, Bergman's work is praised as "immediately apprehensible to people trained in literary culture who were just beginning to discover the 'art' of film ... it quickly became a staple of high school and college literature courses... Unlike Hollywood 'movies,' THE SEVENTH SEAL clearly was aware of elite artistic culture and thus was readily appreciated by intellectual audiences."

Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007), a giant of world cinema, is often compared with other founding figures of modern art, including Pablo Picasso and Samuel Beckett. His films frequently explore mortality, sickness, insanity, sin, betrayal, grief and faith. The screening of THE SEVENTH SEAL is the first of three films to be shown this fall to mark the 100th anniversary of Bergman’s birth. CRIES AND WHISPERS (1972) will be shown at 7:30 p.m. Friday, November 9, and THE BEST INTENTIONS (1991) will be shown at 7 p.n. Friday, November 30, both in Page Hall.