Whenever anyone asks me to name my all-time favorite foreign picture, the answer is an easy one: The Seventh Seal, the 1957 masterpiece about a knight (Max von Sydow) who poses philosophical questions regarding life and death during the time of the Crusades.
Seeing it for the first time back in college, it expanded my understanding of what the film medium could accomplish, and its sequences showing von Sydow’s character playing a game of chess with Death himself, as well as the moment when Death leads a band of victims across a field, have become a mainstay in the annals of film history and have served to inspire other moviemakers (both Woody Allen and the Monty Python troupe have affectionately parodied the picture).
The Seventh Seal was written and directed by the great Swedish director Ingmar Bergman, who died this past Monday at the age of 89. The movie was merely one of the countless classics created by this brilliant filmmaker; others included Wild Strawberries, Scenes from a Marriage, Cries and Whispers and Fanny and Alexander.
R.I.P. Ingmar Bergman: 1918-2007.