Few young adults of our generation have had the privilege of being exposed to old movies. Instead, many are attracted to big motion pictures with dazzling special effects, famous actors, and fairly conventional, simple plots, making it difficult to find a similar satisfaction in movies that lack all of the above. For some, black and white movies remain foreign and something that can only be recognized through stories from grandparents or parents around a warm fire.
Despite this common trend, old movies still have the power to captivate our attention and challenge our minds. My favorite movie of all time is one that takes these elements and spins them into gold: The Seventh Seal, directed by Igmar Bergman.
This Swedish movie is about a knight who, upon returning from the crusades, encounters Death, who has come to inform him that it is his time. The knight arrives during a period in which the Black Plague (or the Black Death) has hit Sweden. The knight challenges Death to a chess game, in which he will play for his life. As the chess game progresses, the knight goes on to explore how death is destroying his country and the virulent effect that it is having on the people. In the end, however, death seems to be inevitable as the knight is fated to walk the last mile with the dark and mysterious figure.
Igmar Bergman is known for the complicated themes that are represented in his movies. Many of his films, such as Persona, leave an audience so confused, and yet so stunned. We are in awe of his unique manipulation of shades and camera shots.
Above all, Bergman is honored for his stylistic and somewhat existential portrayal of scenarios that tackle his own explorations and questions about life, death, and the existence of God. The Seventh Seal is the embodiment of all of these ideas. A talented director, Bergman uses the black and white to his advantage by manipulating the shadows to evoke a particular mood and set a dark tone for his representation of the unanswerable mysteries of life.
After watching this movie, you will not only remain in your seat to gloss over the credits. You will sit there in utter shock as to what you have just witnessed. There is no movie like it, and it is entirely thought-provoking. The film includes famous Swedish actors such as Bibi Andersson and Max von Sydow, and runs about 96 minutes.
Other Bergman masterpieces that are equally intriguing include Persona (1966), Wild Strawberries (1957), Winter Light (1963), and a more recent work of art, Fanny and Alexander (1982). For those looking to experience something that is unparalleled to anything that can be found in contemporary cinema, this movie invites you to discover the significance of life in the shadows of creativity and imagination.