Bottom Line: Far from a masterpiece.
Directed by: Ingmar Bergman
Starring: Bengt Ekerot, Bertil Anderberg, Bibi Andersson, Gunnar Bjornstrand, Gunnel Lindblom, Inga Gill, Inga Landgre, Maud Hansson, Max von Sydow, Nils Poppe
Have you ever talked with someone who makes it clear he or she has a point to make, but instead rambles on and on endlessly and only once or twice makes a brief remark relevant to his or her point? If there’s a film that represents that person, it’s THE SEVENTH SEAL. The picture–often considered one of the all-time great films, as is filmmaker Bergman–opens with a title card and begins with about fifteen minutes devoted to an interesting story. In Sweden, during the time of the Black Plague, a young man (Max von Sydow) plays games of chess with the figure “Death” (Bengt Ekerot) as he furthers into his questions about life, death, and God. With that philosophical premise, one would hope for a moving, thought-provoking story. Sadly, the story barely moves on; instead, it meanders while featuring silly, monotonously spoken characters, unintentional humor, and quizzical plot points.
I’m very much a fan of foreign cinema. Some of my absolute favorite films, to name just a select few, include THE 400 BLOWS (France), RING (Japan), and 8½ (Italy). Knowing that, I shouldn’t even have to hope for THE SEVENTH SEAL, a Swedish fantasy-drama, to be great. It does seem great, in terms of running time. Through about 75% of the film, I was consistently checking the timer on the DVD player to see when this 96-minute(!?) film would ever end. It’s likely that THE SEVENTH SEAL has rampant issues with pacing. The speed of the film is consistently and subtly changing, making for a tiresome, nearly unwatchable film. Of course, there is a bright side among it all. If you happen to be suffering from insomnia and cannot pay for medicine, just rent this film and you should be fine.