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The Seventh Seal (Swedish: Det sjunde inseglet) is a 1957 Swedish historical fantasy film written and directed by Ingmar Bergman. Set in Sweden[3][4] during the Black Death, it tells of the journey of a medieval knight (Max von Sydow) and a game of chess he plays with the personification of Death (Bengt Ekerot), who has come to take his life. Bergman developed the film from his own play Wood Painting. The title refers to a passage from the Book of Revelation, used both at the very start of the film, and again towards the end, beginning with the words "And when the Lamb had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour".[Rev. 8:1] Here, the motif of silence refers to the "silence of God", which is a major theme of the film.[5][6]

The Seventh Seal is considered a classic of world cinema, as well as one of the greatest movies of all time. It established Bergman as a world-renowned director, containing scenes which have become iconic through homages, critical analysis, and parodies.

The Jesuit publication America identifies it as having begun "a series of seven films that explored the possibility of faith in a post-Holocaust, nuclear age".[31] Likewise, film historians Thomas W. Bohn and Richard L. Stromgren identify this film as beginning "his cycle of films dealing with the conundrum of religious faith".[32]

Upon its original Swedish release, The Seventh Seal was met with a somewhat divided critical response; its cinematography was widely praised, while "Bergman the scriptwriter [was] lambasted."[33] Swedish journalist and critic Nils Beyer, writing for Morgon-tidningen, compared it to Carl Theodor Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc and Day of Wrath. While finding Dreyer's films to be superior, he still noted that "it isn't just any director that you feel like comparing to the old Danish master." He also praised the usage of the cast, in particular Max von Sydow, whose character he described as "a pale, serious Don Quixote character with a face as if sculpted in wood", and "Bibi Andersson, who appears as if painted in faded watercolours but still can emit small delicious glimpses of female warmth." Hanserik Hjertén for Arbetaren started his review by praising the cinematography, but soon went on to describe the film as "a horror film for children" and said that beyond the superficial, it is mostly reminiscent of Bergman's "sophomoric films from the 40s."[7]

Bergman's international reputation, on the other hand, was largely cemented by The Seventh Seal.[33] Bosley Crowther

Bergman's international reputation, on the other hand, was largely cemented by The Seventh Seal.[33] Bosley Crowther had only positive things to say in his 1958 review for The New York Times, and praised how the themes were elevated by the cinematography and performances: "the profundities of the ideas are lightened and made flexible by glowing pictorial presentation of action that is interesting and strong. Mr. Bergman uses his camera and actors for sharp, realistic effects."[34]

The film is now regarded as a masterpiece of cinema.[35] Empire magazine, in 2010, ranked it the eighth-greatest film of world cinema.[36] In a poll held by the same magazine, it was voted 335th 'Greatest Movie of All Time' from a list of 500.[37] In addition, on the 100th anniversary of cinema in 1995, the Vatican included The Seventh Seal in its list of its 45 "great films" for its thematic values.[38]

The film was selected as the Swedish entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 30th Academy Awards, but was not nominated.[39][40]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 93% based on 54 reviews, with an average rating of 9.1/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "Narratively bold and visually striking, The Seventh Seal brought Ingmar Bergman to the world stage – and remains every bit as compelling today".[41]

The Seventh Seal significantly helped Bergman in gaining his position as a world-class director. When the film won the Special Jury Prize at the 1957 Cannes Film Festival,[42] the attention generated by it (along with the previous year's Smiles of a Summer Night) made Bergman and his stars Max von Sydow and Bibi Andersson well known to the European film community, and the critics and readers of Cahiers du Cinéma, among others, discovered him with this movie. Within five years of this, he had established himself as the first real auteur of Swedish cinema. With its images and reflections upon death and the meaning of life, The Seventh Seal had a symbolism that was "immediately apprehensible to people trained in literary culture who were just beginning to discover the 'art' of film, and it quickly became a staple of high school and college literature courses... Unlike Hollywood 'movies,' The Seventh Seal clearly was aware of elite artistic culture and thus was readily appreciated by intellectual audiences."[43]

Film and television

In 2016, composer In 2016, composer João MacDowell premiered in New York City at Scandinavia House the music for the first act of The Seventh Seal, a work in progress under contract with the Ingmar Bergman Foundation, sung in Swedish. The work was under production by the International Brazilian Opera (IBOC) as part of the celebrations for the Ingmar Bergman centenary in 2018.[48][49][50][51]

The posters for the opera with photography by Athena Azevedo and design by Toshiaki Ide and Hisa Ide, featuring dancer Eliana Carneiro, in a collaboration work by the Internation

The posters for the opera with photography by Athena Azevedo and design by Toshiaki Ide and Hisa Ide, featuring dancer Eliana Carneiro, in a collaboration work by the International Brazilian Opera (IBOC) and IF Studio LLC, have won multiple prizes in the Graphis Inc. International Competition, including double Platinum in the Poster and Design categories.[52][53]