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Ingmar Bergman
Max von Sydow, Gunnar Björnstrand, Bengt Ekerot
Writing Credits:
Ingmar Bergman

A knight returning to Sweden after the Crusades seeks answers about life, death, and the existence of God as he plays chess against the Grim Reaper during the Black Plague.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Swedish LPCM 1.0
English Dolby 1.0
Supplements Subtitles:
English (For Selected Supplements)

Runtime: 96 min.
Price: $49.95
Release Date: 4/18/2023

• Audio Commentary with Film Historian Peter Cowie
• 2003 Introduction from Ingmar Bergman
Bergman Island Documentary
• Archival Audio Interview with Actor Max Von Sydow
• 1989 Ingmar Bergman Tribute from Woody Allen
• “Bergman 101” Selected Video Filmography
• Trailer
• Booklet
• Blu-ray Copy


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Sony UBP-X700 4K Ultra HD Dolby Vision Blu-ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


The Seventh Seal: Criterion Collection [4K UHD] (1957)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 10, 2023)

If you've read many of my reviews, you've probably figured out that I'm not much of one for artier films. Too many movies of that sort tend to try so hard to be deep and meaningful that they simply come across as pretentious and absurd.

Rachel Getting Married, I’m looking at you.

This didn't bode well for my first encounter with Ingmar Bergman through 1957’s The Seventh Seal. After all, Bergman's pretty much the person around whom all the "art house" movie stereotypes revolve. Much to my surprise, however, I found The Seventh Seal to be a rather entertaining and enjoyable film. It seems considerably less ponderous and gloomy than one might anticipate.

Set in the 14th century, knight Antonius Block (Max von Sydow) and his squire Jöns (Gunnar Björnstrand) return home to Sweden after their experiences during the Crusades. They come back to a land ravaged by the Plague.

Disillusioned by combat and then the woes he sees due to disease, Block loses his faith in God. While he wanders the land, he finds himself literally stalked by Death (Bengt Ekerot), and this leads to unusual confrontations and consequences.

I'd prefer not to spend much time in this review discussing the implications and meanings of the various parts of the film. While The Seventh Seal clearly is a movie that opens itself up for a tremendous amount of introspection, enough has been written on that subject in regard to it that I don't feel terribly compelled to add many opinions of my own.

Suffice it to say that The Seventh Seal essentially attempts to find and/or define the meaning of life. Somewhat surprisingly, I didn't think the movie really seemed all that "deep".

In the end, Bergman basically implies that "love is all you need" and that the simple unity of a man, a woman and a child offers the greatest hope and joy in life. Plus, Death's kind of a jerk.

Anyway, while The Seventh Seal certainly offers itself up for all the dissection you might like, it also functions quite well as a basic piece of entertainment. Oh, it's all very ponderous stuff - the plague, the Crusades, women being burned at the stake, people flogging themselves, vain actors eating chicken - but Bergman does an excellent job of keeping the movie from becoming too somber.

At various times, Bergman inserts comic relief into the story, but he does not do so in terribly obvious ways. Somehow Bergman manages to have his cake and eat it too.

The Seventh Seal moves seamlessly between light comedy - such as the Cyrano-esque battle of wits between a blacksmith and an actor - and dramatic scenes such as the aforementioned floggings, et al. As in the case of something like Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame, I normally don't care for comic relief.

Too few movies have the guts to go all out and totally submerge the audience in a dark world that I enjoy it when it happens. Normally, I don't feel any need to have the tension lightened.

I enjoyed the lighter moments of The Seventh Seal not because I needed to "take a breather" but instead because they simply made the movie more interesting. While its heavy on issues, The Seventh Seal is light on plot, as the only real story involves the knight's search for the meaning of life.

I guess that's enough, but the tale unfolds largely as a series of random encounters. The humorous moments make the journey more interesting and they add zest to the characters so that the whole bunch doesn't seem just like a morose bunch of sots.

Lesson learned: Bergman movies can be introspective and entertaining all at the same time. Second surprising lesson learned: if The Seventh Seal can be taken as historically accurate, I kind of wish I'd been alive and in Sweden during the Middle Ages.

Yeah, I would have had to contend with the plague and the Crusades and all sorts of persecution and problems, but the women were babes! Virtually every woman in The Seventh Seal who's under the age of 50 is quite the looker.

And I'll bet even the older ones were hot in their time! Geez, hanging out in those medieval Swedish villages must have been just like lounging at the Playboy mansion.

Anyway, while I can't say that The Seventh Seal will ever be at the top of my "favorite movies" list, I nonetheless found it to be compelling and interesting. It’s definitely more accessible than its reputation might lead you to believe.

The Disc Grades: Picture A/ Audio B/ Bonus A-

The Seventh Seal appears in an aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. I felt thoroughly impressed by this stellar transfer.

Virtually no issues with softness occurred, as the movie consistently exhibited terrific clarity and definition. Any instances of less precise delineation stemmed from the original photography, and fine detail was terrific throughout the movie.

Even in wider shots, the elements remained concise. No signs of jagged edges or moiré effects appeared, and edge haloes remained absent.

Blacks looked deep and firm, while shadows were quite strong. Low-light shots demonstrated good clarity, and contrast appeared solid. HDR added depth and accuracy to dark tones as well as whites and contrast.

Source flaws were absent during this clean presentation, and grain remained within expected levels. I doubt the movie ever looked this fine in the past, as the 4K UHD provided exceptional visuals.

As for the Swedish LPCM monaural soundtrack of Seal, it sounded good, as it seemed clean and relatively rich considering its age. Dialogue, music and effects all came across as fairly natural and crisp, and decent low-end appeared for the smattering of louder bits.

My only complaint really stemmed from the nature of the source recordings. Clearly much of the dialogue was looped, and this gave the proceedings an odd, artificial air. Nonetheless, the soundtrack replicated the original mix well.

How did the 4K UHD compare to the 2009 Blu-ray? Both came with identical audio.

As we shift to extras, we start with an audio commentary from film and Bergman historian Peter Cowie. He offers a running, screen-specific track that looks at the opening credits, inspirations and influences, cast and performances, historical references, and a few production elements.

Cowie occasionally offers good tidbits, but overall his chat doesn’t soar. For one, he often simply narrates the movie, so although some good introspection comes along for the ride, the basic storytelling appears too frequently.

I’d like more about the film’s creation and less reiteration of the tale and characters. Cowie gives us enough to make the track listenable, but it doesn’t go beyond that.

Note that while the disc includes the same commentary from the old DVD – and laserdisc, for that matter - it adds a new “afterward” from Cowie.

This lasts 10 minutes, 33 seconds as Cowie as he looks back on the film’s legacy and other reflections on the movie. Cowie adds some good insights here.

Recorded in 2003, we find an introduction from Ingmar Bergman. In this two-minute and 50-second clip, the director chats about the famous use of chess in the movie and when he last saw Seal.

This isn’t really an “introduction” to the flick, as it’s just a few comments about it. Bergman’s notes are interesting, though.

A 2006 documentary entitled Bergman Island runs one hour, 23 minutes and 26 seconds. Created by Marie Nyrerod, the director reflects on his life and career.

The show tends to get a little arty and ramble at times – which one might argue makes sense for a program about Bergman – but it still conveys some good information. We get a reasonably involving portrait of the director in this interesting piece.

For information from the lead actor, we go to an archival audio interview with Max Von Sydow. Conducted by Cowie in 1988, this piece lasts about 19 minutes as Von Sydow talks about his childhood, how he got into acting, and aspects of his life and career. We get a good array of thoughts and notes in this tight, compelling interview.

Next comes a 1989 Tribute from Woody Allen. During this seven-minute, 13-second segment from 1998, the filmmaker discusses his love of Bergman films as well as some thoughts about a few specific flicks. Allen throws out a mix of nice notes.

Bergman 101 goes for 35 minutes, 22 seconds as it provides more information from Cowie. He takes us through a mix of stills and film clips as he discusses Bergman’s life and career.

Cowie gives us the coherent biographical piece lacking in “Bergman Island”. This means it acts as a good complement for that more introspective program. While “Island” focuses on Bergman the Man, “101” gives us a stronger inspection of Bergman the Director.

In addition to a too-revealing trailer, we find a 28-page booklet with an essay from Gary Giddins. He provides a good look at the film and offers some useful interpretation.

While I expected a ponderous, pretentious piece from The Seventh Seal, I found something lighter and more engaging. “Lighter” doesn’t mean “fluffy”, of course, but the film manages to work on a number of levels. The 4K UHD provides good audio, extraordinary picture, and a mostly interesting collection of extras. Criterion produced an excellent package for this classic film.

To rate this film visit the prior review of THE SEVENTH SEAL