Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Seventh Seal (1957)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Seventh Seal (1957, Swe.) (aka Det Sjunde Inseglet)

In director Ingmar Bergman's visually-imaginative fantasy drama (considered a masterpiece) set in medieval times during the time of the Black Plague and the Crusades:

  • the two main characters who were returning from the Crusades to their native land besieged by the black plague: a disillusioned Medieval Swedish Knight named Antonius Block (Max von Sydow), and his Squire Jöns (Gunnar Björnstrand)
  • the stark scene on a desolate beach of the chess game between the Medieval Knight and black-hooded, white-faced Death (Bengt Ekerot) - or the Grim Reaper
  • the side visit of the Knight and Squire to a rural church, where painter Albertus Pictor (Gunnar Olsson) was drawing a series of frescos
  • the sequence of the Knight's lengthy confessional in the church's chapel to a shrouded monk - when he delivered his deepest thoughts about wanting a sign from God of his presence, in order to help his belief: "I want to confess as best I can, but my heart is void. The void is a mirror turned towards my own face. I see myself in it and I am filled with fear and disgust. Through my indifference to my fellow men, I have isolated myself from their company. Now I live in a world of phantoms. I am imprisoned in my dreams and fantasies....(before dying) I want knowledge... Call it whatever you like. Is it so cruelly inconceivable to grasp God with the senses? Why should He hide Himself in a mist of half-spoken promises and unseen miracles? How can we have faith in those who believe when we can't have faith in ourselves? What is going to happen to those of us who want to believe, but aren't able to? And what is to become of those who neither want to nor are capable of believing? Why can't I kill God within me? Why does He live on in this painful and humiliating way even though I curse Him and want to tear Him out of my heart? Why, in spite of everything, is He a baffling reality that I can't shake off? Do you hear me?...I want knowledge, not faith, not surmises, but knowledge. I want God to stretch out His hand towards me, reveal Himself and speak to me....I call out to Him in the dark, but it's as if no one was there....time on Earth is a preposterous horror. No one can live in the face of Death, knowing that all is nothingness...But one day, they will have to stand at that last moment of life and look towards the darkness...We must make an idol of our fear, and that idol we shall call God"
  • during the confessional, the Knight divulged his chess strategy to outwit Death during the game: "Death visited me this morning. We are playing chess together....My life has been a futile pursuit, a wandering, a great deal of talk. All this was meaningless, indeed. I say it without bitterness or self-reproach, because the lives of most people are very much like this. But I will use my reprieve for one meaningful deed....(Death) is a skillful tactician, but I yet haven't lost one piece. I am playing a combination of the bishop and the knight which he hasn't yet discovered. In the next move, I'll shatter one of his flanks" - and then in a startling revelation, it was shown that the monk was Death himself - who responded: "I'll remember that!"; the Knight replied: "You are a snake in the grass!"
    [Note: the scene was the subject of parody in Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (1991), when Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) challenged the Grim Reaper (William Sadler) in a series of board and party games, including Battleship, Clue, electric football and Twister.]
  • the final sequence of Juggler Jof's (Nils Poppe) vision of the Knight and his followers being led away over the hills in a solemn and macabre "Danse of Death"


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