Seventh Seal, The
Release Date(s)1958 (June 16, 2009)
Studio(s)AB Svensk Filmindustri (Criterion - Spine #11)
Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal is now 52 years old and the past five decades have entrenched its reputation as one of the landmark films of the 1950s. The film, despite imitation and frequent study, retains its mystery and power despite the familiarity of some of its key images and passages. It is essentially a tale of man’s search for meaning as the knight crusader Antonius Block (Max Von Sydow) returns to his homeland and engages death in an ongoing game of chess in the course of meeting various fellow travellers in circumstances both happy and sad. The film is a vast treasure trove of ideas and inspirations dealing with death and people’s reactions to it that only gradually reveal themselves through repeated viewings.
In that regard, we are fortunate to have this new Blu-ray version that easily presents the film in the best light to date. The 1.33:1 black and white image is dazzling in its crispness and contrast, with close-ups particularly very impressive in depth and detail. Textured surfaces are precisely rendered and black levels are exemplary. Mild grain is well handled. The PCM Swedish mono track is clean and clear of any distortion or age-related defects.
Highlights among a fine array of supplements includes Peter Cowie’s original audio commentary for the Criterion laserdisc, a recent addendum to it, a feature-length documentary on Bergman’s life in film and TV (Bergman Island), and excerpts from Cowie interviews with Max Von Sydow. Very highly recommended.
- Barrie Maxwell