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The Seventh Seal [Criterion Collection] [DVD] [1957]

Release Date:06/16/2009
The sight of Death playing chess with a weary knight on a deserted beach is one of the most indelible images to emerge from the world cinema in the 1950s, and this scene from Ingmar Bergman's Det Sjunde Inseglet (aka The Seventh Seal) is still the moment most closely associated with the great Swedish filmmaker. The fact that Death was a walking, talking character in the film also cemented Bergman's reputation as cinema's leading Gloomy Gus, but seen five decades after its initial release, The Seventh Seal reveals a tremendous compassion and flashes of humor as it contemplates the eternal balance between belief and doubt. The Seventh Seal is the sort of classic more often talked about that actually seen these days, but the Criterion Collection are doing their best to change that with new and definitive DVD release. The Seventh Seal has been transferred to disc in its original full-frame aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and the striking range of grey tones in Gunnar Fischer's cinematography is preserved with remarkable accuracy; this is one of Bergman's most visually beautiful works, and it has never looked better in a home video release than it does here. The audio has been mastered in Dolby Digital Mono, and the fidelity is superb, making this movie almost as impressive to hear as to see. The dialogue is presented in the original Swedish as well as in an alternate dubbed English soundtrack; optional English subtitles are also on board. A full compliment of relevant bonus materials have been included, among them a commentary track by film scholar Peter Cowie and an illustrated postscript on the film and its impact; an introduction featuring Ingmar Bergman that was created for a Swedish television broadcast of the film in 2003; a tribute to Bergman from noted fan Woody Allen that was produced for Turner Classic Movies in 1989 and an audio recording of an interview with leading man and frequent Bergman collaborator Max von Sydow. A second disc includes Marie Nyrerod's acclaimed documentary Bergman Island, which features extensive interviews with the filmmaker as he discusses his life and work, as well as Bergman 101, an essay by Peter Cowie on the essentials of the great director's work illustrated with still and clips from his films. (Bergman's Island has also been released as a stand-alone disc by Criterion.) And the accompanying booklet features an appreciation of The Seventh Seal by Gary Giddins as well as some superb photos from the picture. Short of the Blu-Ray edition of The Seventh Seal released simultaneously by Criterion, there is no better way to see this film in your home theater, and the quality and care that's gone into this release is to be commended by anyone who loves classic cinema.

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    Ratings & Reviews

    Overall Customer Rating:
    100% of customers would recommend this product to a friend (5 out of 5)

    Special Features

    • Introduction by Ingmar Bergman, Recorded in 2003
    • Audio Commentary by Bergman expert Peter Cowie, with a New Afterword
    • Archival Audio Interview with Max von Sydow
    • A 1989 Tribute to Bergman by Filmmaker Woody Allen
    • Theatrical Trailer
    • Optional English-Dubbed soundtrack


    The Seventh Seal
    Endlessly imitated and parodied, Ingmar Bergman's landmark art movie The Seventh Seal (Det Sjunde Inseglet) retains its ability to hold an audience spellbound. Bergman regular Max von Sydow stars as a 14th century knight named Antonius Block, wearily heading home after ten years' worth of combat. Disillusioned by unending war, plague, and misery Block has concluded that God does not exist. As he trudges across the wilderness, Block is visited by Death (Bengt Ekerot), garbed in the traditional black robe. Unwilling to give up the ghost, Block challenges Death to a game of chess. If he wins, he lives -- if not, he'll allow Death to claim him. As they play, the knight and the Grim Reaper get into a spirited discussion over whether or not God exists. To recount all that happens next would diminish the impact of the film itself; we can observe that The Seventh Seal ends with one of the most indelible of all of Bergman's cinematic images: the near-silhouette "Dance of Death." Considered by some as the apotheosis of all Ingmar Bergman films (other likely candidates for that honor include Wild Strawberries and Persona), and certainly one of the most influential European art movies, The Seventh Seal won a multitude of awards, including the Special Jury Prize at the 1957 Cannes Film Festival. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    Cast & Crew

    • Max von Sydow
      Max von Sydow - The Knight, Antonius Block
    • Gunnar Björnstrand
      Gunnar Björnstrand - Jons
    • Bengt Ekerot
      Bengt Ekerot - Death
    • Nils Poppe
      Nils Poppe - Jof
    • Bibi Andersson
      Bibi Andersson - Mia

    Product images, including color, may differ from actual product appearance.