In his film The Seventh Seal, Ingmar Bergman openly addresses the human response to death. The film documents the return of Antonius Block and his squire Jons to their homeland after their ten years of fighting in the Crusades. During their return journey to Antonius Block's castle, the characters encounter death in many forms, including the devastating plague afflicting the population and (even less subtly) Death personified in his classic black garb. Each of Block's and Jons' confrontations with death provides opportunities for Bergman to display the different philosophies of death that he has intertwined with his characters. Through the manifestation of these philosophies, the audience is given a chance to understand the human responses to death.
The knight Antonius Block is the first of the characters to come across death. In the opening sequence, Death appears to Block in the form of man dressed in black. He tells the knight that his time has come and asks if Block is ready. To this question, Block responds, "My body is frightened, but I am not" (Bergman). Despite this gallant rejoinder, Block deftly postpones his demise by challenging the grim figure to a game of chess. At this point, the only clue to his rationale for dodging death lies in his frustrated attempt at prayer earlier in the scene. Bergman fully develops the knight's dilemma in a future sequence: in this critical scene, Block converses with Death dressed as a priest. Block passionately reveals that he seeks the knowledge of God's presence in life. The dialogue highlights the problems Block finds with the belief system of his era and introduces the Heideggerian aspect of his character.
Martin Heidegger reflects on death and its eff...
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...hentic existence due to their refusal to constantly acknowledge death. Thus, Bergman takes these existing philosophies and uses them to create a new set of values for the human response to death.
Bergman, Ingmar. The Seventh Seal. Online. http://www.geocities.com/
classicmoviescripts/script/seventhseal.txt. Internet. 4 May 2004. Blackham, H. J. Six Existentialist Thinkers. New York: Harper, 1952. Choron, Jacques. Death and Western Thought. New York: Collier Books, 1963.
Dollimore, Jonathan. Death, Desire, and Loss in Western Culture. London: Penguin Books Ltd., 1998.
Kraus, Peter. "Heidegger on nothingness and the meaning of Being." Death and Philosophy. Ed. Jeff Malpas and Robert C. Solomon. New York: Routledge, 1998.
Singer, Irving. The Creation of Value: Volume I of Meaning In Life. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.
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