How's it hanging, Death?

Ingmar Bergman mini-fest kicks off at the Trylon

The universality of death. The torment of faith. The cruel inconceivability of a silent god. A chess match played against the grim reaper on a desolate beach. A morbid danse macabre, trailing mortals to the afterlife over a bleak, medieval hill. Oh, the poetry!

Welcome to the rock-shard, existential terrain of Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal. Academics know it is as the most epic art-house film ever produced. Gen X-ers recognize it as source material for the equally epic, boardgame-battle-with-death scene in Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey. At any rate, Bergman’s iconic 1957 film is as foundational to the artistic conscious of man as magnesium is to the Earth’s mantle. It is believed to be the most parodied film in history. And in the prevideo era, The Seventh Seal was screened in colleges and universities more than any other title.

The Seventh Seal

In other words, this is classical canon stuff. And this weekend, the Trylon brings you six chances to view the film that forever changed cinema. You should probably make an attempt to see it.

What’s it about? Good question. Antonius Block is a disillusioned knight, soul-sick and despairing from years spent fighting in the Crusades. He returns home only to find Sweden overrun by the Black Plague.  In fact, Death greets him on the beach. Block challenges him to a chess match, believing that he can forestall his fate if he can keep the game going—and it does, for the most part, throughout the film.

Of course, as the grim reaper states himself, “No one escapes me.” And as the characters come to terms with their mortality, as they struggle to make sense out of life’s futile pursuits, its meaningless suffering, they manage to tap into the great uniting question of humanity: What’s the point?

Bergman doesn’t offer an answer. And Block’s unsatisfied probing opens a can of worms that humans have been struggling to shut since time immemorial.

The Seventh Seal, which plays twice each this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, kicks off a mini-Bergman festival at the Trylon.

The Seventh Seal
Friday, 7 and 9 p.m.
Saturday, 7 and 9 p.m.
Sunday, 5 and 7 p.m.
Trylon Microcinema, 3258 Minnehaha Ave., Mpls.