100 Movies You Need to See Before You Die

The Seventh Seal (1957)

Country: Sweden
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Screenwriter: Ingmar Bergman
Stars: Max von Sydow, Bengt Ekerot, Gunnar Bjornstrand, Nils Poppe, Bibi Andersson

This sparse but epic tale of Medieval Sweden follows knight Antonious Block (Max Von Sydow) as he plays chess with Death—guess who wins—delaying the Reaper so that he may accomplish one last worthwhile act before dying. Meanwhile, he inadvertently gathers a caravan that travels through the plague-ravaged land, encountering the fools, religious fanatics, families, and an alleged witch.

The film's success stems not from its accuracy as a period piece, but by the timeless questions about faith and existence it asks. The look of Death as a white-faced figure with a dark robe has been imitated and parodied to no end, often by Woody Allen, who calls The Seventh Seal his favorite movie.

The film was shot in just 35 days, with a budget of $150,000. The Seventh Seal firmly established Bergman as a world class director who would go on to produce beautiful and challenging work for the rest of his career. —GT

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