Sunday, June 10, 2007


Two days ago, on Thursday, I saw back-to-back films at AFI's Silver Theater* in Maryland. I mentioned the first of these yesterday.* The second was Ingmar Bergman's carnival riff on the specter of death, the Seventh Seal (det Sjunde Inseglet, 1957).* The film follows blond young Max Von Sydow across a plague-ravaged medieval landscape as he seeks to forestall the event of his own death. To do this, he famously challenges the black-clad reaper to a chess match, buying time necessary to learn a little about life. He encounters a tarot deck of lost mortals along his way: a fool, a squire, a child, a priest, a robber, a wife and a martyr, etc.; imagined too paper-thin to be characters themselves, but nevertheless combining facets to illustrate the process by which the knight accepts his fate. A Canterbury card house, to extend my metaphor beyond all reason. This was an art-house revelation! While the movie had all the shape and circumstance of theatrical spectacle (actors playing actors form a large part in the story, which is, after all, a procession of discrete scenes within acts), it merely used this accepted platform to sink out of sight into inner philosophies. It was subtle: in one scene, a painter depicts much of the remaining story on the wall of a church; it was interpretive: between bouts of mortal chess, the knight encounters life's pleasures and cruelties by turns; the ending was even opaque, asking questions about life's purpose, and fear, rather than answering them. None of this mitigated the movies more explicit pleasures. It remains one of the most beautifully photographed movies I have ever seen. In the fifties, the Seventh Seal took the international film scene by storm, creating a sensibility of global art cinema still going strong today. [Cavin]

Then, a 2 sided conversation ensued...

To which Blogger qemuel added:

You got to see this film in the theater?! I am SO jealous!

I agree, it is one of the most beautifully photographed films that I have ever seen.

Sunday, June 10, 2007 11:42:00 AM  
To which Blogger Mr. Cavin added:

Yeah, man, and the remastered print they were showing us (this is part of the 50 Years of Janus Films * retrospective touring lucky areas like mine) was absolutely pristine. The photography may as well be cobbled-together Amsel Adams images anyway, but the rich silvers and deep blacks in the print were really just marvelous. Sort of like watching something hanging framed in a gallery. Sneak by the AFI theater's site (here) and take a look at their upcoming schedule. Don't need to be jealous again.

Sunday, June 10, 2007 1:53:00 PM  

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