Jon and I recently watched The Seventh Seal on Blu-Ray. It was my first time watching it, and I actually knew very little about it. I did not grow up on fine cinema. While I did watch some great movies, classics such as The Seventh Seal weren’t part of my repertoire the way Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey might have been (sadly, both not on Blu-Ray.) Neither of those movies are high art, but thanks to my familiarity with both of them, it wasn’t too long into The Seventh Seal that I realized that Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey shared The Seventh Seal as inspiration.
Death really does play chess. The Seventh Seal is a rumination on death. Given my current tendency towards acknowledging impermanence, this movie couldn’t have come at a better time. I asked myself a few days ago, how do you adequately express your emotional experience so as to conjure an empathic response in others that may give way to understanding? Big question, no?
It seems that with the really big things, it’s like shouting “The sky is blue!” louder and louder in the hopes that who ever may be listening may stop and understand the miracle that is living, breathing and seeing. That not only is the sky blue, but look at the amazing mystery that allows us to share in this moment of not taking that blueness for granted. How does one translate the leap in the heart, the moment of joy that one can experience with acknowledgment of the world, to someone who, for what ever reason, isn’t sharing that experience?
Ingmar Bergman tells the story of his own fear of death in The Seventh Seal. A fear so potent, that it is packed within each scene, giving you the terrible sense of foreboding, at first inclined towards hope for the knight, and as the film progresses, realizing that hope may be lost. I’m finding it is marvelous and rare that an individual’s personal emotional experiences can be translated effectively into art and brought to be a communal experience. The Seventh Seal is perhaps, so enduring, because it stands as a solid allegory for Bergman’s (and others) fear of death and search for spiritual fulfillment.
The Criterion Collection features for The Seventh Seal include the commentary track, as well as a few shorts from over the past few years. I found that the commentary track didn’t hold my interest in the way that The Third Man or Chungking Express did, which means that though The Seventh Seal is a fine film, I’m not inclined to purchase it for my own collection. However, it’s very well worth watching, and worth buying if you’re into the idea of having the complete Criterion Collection, or multiple viewings for your own analysis.