The Seventh Seal
(Det Sjunde Inseglet)
Starkly existential, boldly poetic, slow and grim, Ingmar Bergman's great classic has haunted film aficionados, baffled and bored college students, inspired innumerable parodists, and challenged both believers and unbelievers for nearly half a century. Bergman's medieval drama of the soul can be difficult to watch but is impossible to forget.
The film opens and closes with the passage from Revelation from which it takes its title: "When he broke open the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour" (Rev 8:1). "Silence in heaven"—or rather the silence of heaven, the silence of God in the world—is Bergman's theme, along with mortality and death, existential dread, and apocalyptic fears.
Bergman confronts these issues with the directness of a medieval allegory. In fact, it is a medieval allegory, though for modern sensibilities and anxieties, after the loss of medieval faith. At its most optimistic, it hopes for the pious happiness of its simple player family, whose way of life the director, like his protagonist, is unable to enter into, but which he somehow finds comforting. Their path may not be his, but he doesn't wish to see them deprived of it.
—Steven D. Greydanus