Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Seventh Seal

So here goes my first ever movie review. The other day I was procrastinating around Grice Hall when my friend Bubba (his blog is linked in my "friends" section) invited me to watch a movie with him. He told me that he had rented a Swedish movie with English subtitles called, "The Seventh Seal." I'm not much of a movie connoisseur but I was intrigued so I agreed to watch it.

The basic plot is that a knight returns home to Sweden from the crusades. On the beach he finds "Death" waiting for him. He challenges Death to a game of chess to prolong his life. By the way, I really enjoyed listening to the Swedish language and trying to find paralells to German. The languages are very different but there was the occasional word that matched up. The word for chess happened to be one of them, Schach in German, Schack in Swedish. Back to the plot... The knight heads to a town with his squire and finds that Sweden is ravaged by the plague. He goes to a church and confesses that he is struggling with belief in God. During his confession he also says that he is playing chess with Death and he reveals his strategy. After he has confessed this, he gets a look at the face of the "priest" who turns out to be Death playing the part. Upon leaving the church he sees a young woman who is being held as a witch to be burned at the stake.

We are also introduced to a company of traveling actors. It is a young family, the parents are Mary and Joseph and they have a son named Michael. When we are first introduced to the actors, Joseph has a vision of a woman wearing a crown walking through a glade with a young child. Joseph takes this to be an apparition of the Virgin Mary.

The actors and the knight and his squire meet in a small Swedish town. At the actor's wagon outside of the town, the knight, his squire and the young family sit down for a meal and have a philosophical conversation. This is the happiest scene of the movie. One line that stuck with me from this scene is where the knight says, "belief is suffering." He continues to wrestle in this scene with his own doubt.

The group sets off for the knight's castle and along the way they are met with a group that is taking the witch to be burned at the stake. The knight asks the witch how he can meet Satan. He says he wants to meet Satan so, "he can ask him about God." The witch claims that the priests and soldiers can see Satan in her eyes but when the knight looks he can see nothing. As the witch is being burned, the knight's squire, an atheist, comments in the horror in the witch's eyes. He says that the witch is now realizing what he and the knight have come to realize - that there is no one there, no God, and that life truly is meaningless. The knight despairs at this point, saying something like, "No, it can't be!"After this encounter, still on the way to the castle while the knight is again playing chess with Death, Joseph sees Death with the knight and escapes with his family. The knight, his squire and the rest of the crew make it to the castle and find the knight's wife there. While the knight's wife is reading from The Revelation, Death shows up at the castle. In the last scene we see the young family in their wagon and Joseph sees the knight, the squire and the rest of those who were in the castle being led by Death over the Swedish hills.

The movie was quite enjoyable and I would say, artfully done. It hit on some of my favorite subjects, religious belief, doubt, and how we live our lives in light of our belief or doubt. The characters in the movie reminded me slightly of the characters in my favorite novel, The Brothers Karamazov. The Church was portrayed very negatively in the movie. It's actions and teachings seem absurd and it provides little or no comfort to the people who are terrified of the plague. The movie reveals the absurdity of life if there is no God but seems to suggest that the only other option is the equal absurdity of religion. The young family is the bright point of the film and I would suggest that as with Alyosha's character in the Brother's Karamazov, they seem to suggest another way - the way of trust in God, even in the midst of horrible circumstances.

P.S. Check out my friend Bubba's blog for a more humerous take on this film.

1 comment:

MattJP said...
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