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Movie Critic Review: The Silence of God

"I feel so f**king intelligent while watching this." One Youtube viewer.

And when the Lamb had opened the seventh seal, there was silence
 in heaven about the space of half an hour." (Revelation 8:1)

The Seventh Seal (1957)

The warrior and his comfortably non-believing friend are back from the Crusades of the mid 14th century into their plagued homeland.
Death is everywhere. Belief is withering away in despair. On a gloomy Scandanavian beach with ominously shredded black clouds, Death materializes to the warrior and asks if he is ready "to go"! Antonius Block, the warrior answers: My body, yes. But me? NO.
Then Block, who luckily happens to have his travel chess game with him, invites Death to a game he seems confident to win. Basically he tries to "trick" Death into a respite! In this respite he unrealistically tries to acquire "knowledge" not faith! One of his biggest questions was why God is being silent?  His supplementary questions are no less critical
"Why must He hide in a mist of vague promises
and invisible miracles? Why is it so hard to conceive God with one’s senses?
He goes into a chapel to confess his thoughts about God and ask for his support.
Here comes the time for Death to return Block's early "trick" for he easily impersonates the priest and learns from Block himself his tactics to win the chess game!
In fact, Death has his allies lurking in the chapel. Watch how Bergman designs his angles and close shots with sideway lightings and frames to install uneasiness and anxiety and where? In a chapel! The impact prepares the viewer for a conspiracy of some sort!
Death's allies are in the crucifix as it represents both the silent God and the agonized Christ and then that "cheap" priest!
Block sustains his winnings and sees some good moments as those spent with the poet's family and company. Mia, the poet's wife is exquisitely portrayed by Bibi Andersson
But the plague is spreading.
An innocent girl is burnt to death after being accused of bringing the plague by practicing witchcraft! Block's companion, who is furious at the burning of the girl, is such a commendable non-believer! He protests to the end. He is composed and fully-rested during these tribulations! 
Death, in the stormy sky of the closing scene, triumphantly bids them dance. He wants
them to hold hands and to tread the dance in a long line! He leads them all by the skythe and the hour-glass silhouetted against a dimly grey horizon. The grey being the neutrality
of all things in the face of death. The inevitable acceptance of doom.  
Upon deciding to review this indispensable movie, it flashed in mind how opposed to the category in which I put my blog it would be! I am supposed to review movies under the broad and happy category of “entertainment”. Well, unless one can derive pleasure from asking the heavy-weight question: “What if there is no God?” or can “entertain” contemplating such tragic utterances as “emptiness under the moon” issued by Block's companion!
But in fact to put Block's question this way is quite amusing and rational. And it is inclusive i.e. those who are not willing to believe are happily entered in this plea. That makes sense. For It is not a big deal to separate those willing to not believe from those willing to believe as everything will mean nothing (if there is no God!)
People tend to think atheism is hip and trendy. A matter of "I beg to differ". But the atheist is tormented by the absence of the very God he strives to negate. Atheism is not a picnic. The situation is like this: God is silent. You don’t believe in him. Death is noisy.
You have got to listen and believe in him!
As such, this great work of Bergman does not necessarily look like an autobiography.
Bergman could be represented by Block's companion and not Block himself, the agonized person who hides his fears of God behind the demand for knowledge! And it is knowledge that he is after not belief or faith!

Most memorable parts of this iconic black and white movie:
  • The opening scene: Playing chess with Death.
  • The confession scene: Confessing to Death his plans to beat Death.
  • The closing scene: The silhouetted dance on the stormy horizon.
This last scene was a oner, meaning it was taken once. Bergman decided upon a cloud
to shoot it at once. It worked!

The Seventh Seal (1957)

Sweden, 96min, mono, black and white.
Written by (a play): Ingmar Bergman 
Screenplay by: Ingmar Bergman
Directed by: Ingmar Bergman
Cast: Max Von Sidow (Antonius Block),
Bengt Ekerot (Death),
Gunnar Bojornstrod (Block's companion),
Bibi Andersson (Mia), Maud Hansson (witch)  

The first clip below contains an important part of the confession scene.
The second clip is a special bonus. A brilliantly written song well-edited
with the sequence of events of the movie. With a lively (?) tempo. By
Scott Walker. Courtsey of standingathwart on


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