Some badass dialogue from The Seventh Seal

knight and Death play chess

Antonius Block: I want knowledge! Not faith, not assumptions, but knowledge. I want God to stretch out His hand, uncover His face and speak to me.

Death: But He remains silent.

Antonius Block: I call out to Him in the darkness. But it’s as if no one was there.

Death: Perhaps there isn’t anyone.

Antonius Block: Then life is a preposterous horror. No man can live faced with Death, knowing everything’s nothingness.

Death: Most people think neither of death nor nothingness.

Antonius Block: But one day you stand at the edge of life and face darkness.

Death: That day.

Antonius Block: I understand what you mean.

I can’t believe I haven’t seen this movie till now. It is awesome. Modern movies about faith and death are all weepy and psychological and abstract. The Seventh Seal makes Death a character. And the protagonist LITERALLY plays chess against him for his life. Today’s serious movies just don’t have the balls for that sort of thing. As the late Rogert Ebert noted in his Great Movies series:

Images like that have no place in the modern cinema, which is committed to facile psychology and realistic behavior. In many ways, Ingmar Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal” (1957) has more in common with the silent film than with the modern films that followed it–including his own. Perhaps that is why it is out of fashion at the moment. Long considered one of the masterpieces of cinema, it is now a little embarrassing to some viewers, with its stark imagery and its uncompromising subject, which is no less than the absence of God.

This movie is a more profound meditation on life, death and spirituality than anything I ever heard in church. It puts “religious” torture porn like Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ to shame.

A knight returns from crusading searching desperately for some evidence of God’s existence (what with having spent the last decade hacking brown people to death and all his outlook is understandably grim). He arrives home to find northern Europe in the throes of the plague. And surprise! It turns out Death has followed him home. The knight challenges Death to a game of chess. As long as the game goes on he is free to continue his quest. If he wins, Death will let him be. If he loses, he’s toast.

The Seventh Seal is about coping with an ugly, violent world – about finding meaning in all that, and possibly even a glimmer of hope or beauty. It remains relevant today. In fact unless we suddenly discover the secret to immortality some day it will ALWAYS be relevant. You really should see it. I’m glad I finally did.

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