Overview of The Seventh Seal by Ingmar Bergman

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Ingmar Bergman should be most fondly remembered for his undying passion for theatre, and his effective applications of many theatrical techniques into a growing world of increasingly popular, modernist ‘art-films.’ Bergman’s films, including The Seventh Seal (Det sjunde inseglet), draw heavily on works by Scandinavian philosophers and writers—most notably, August Strindberg, Søren Kierkegaard, and a variety of painters. The Seventh Seal focuses on existential questions that have been asked for millennia; what is the meaning of life? What lies after death? Is there a God? These are just some of the questions that the protagonist, Antonius Block, struggles with throughout the film as he quite literally comes face-to-face with his demise.
The links between The Seventh Seal and contemporary works solidifies the status of Bergman’s film as ‘high culture’ or a ‘valued work;’ this forces the audience to analyze the film, whilst forgoing mindless consumption—much like theatre. Tonal elements and ideas are clarified almost from the beginning of The Seventh Seal, due in part to Bergman’s effective use of mise-en-scéne, and the calculated cinematographic choices of Gunnar Fischer. A constant theme of light versus dark is present throughout the film, showcased using a variety of techniques including: choice of film stock (for varying contrast), lighting techniques, and symbolism.
The film opens in dramatic fashion with a reverse iris fade, focusing on the sun struggling to peer through a clouded sky. This intro is backed by a dominant choral soundtrack, which helps to set the tone of the film as well as the time period it takes place in. The next shot features a well-defined contrast between the mountains of the coast, which appear completel...

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