The seventh seal 1957 film

The Seventh Seal and the Black Death and Covid-19

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  • Post last modified:23 September 2023

Last updated on September 23rd, 2023 at 07:16 pm

The Seventh Seal is a 1957 Swedish film which is one of the 101 best films of 100 years on my list of watching. It Is one of the best films stored in the British Board of Film Certification and one of the 100 greatest films of all time listed by the British Film Institute. Directed by Ingmar Bergman, The Seventh Seal is timeout’s one of the best films of all time. Acted by Erik Strandmark, Siv Aleros and Gunnar Olsson, etc.

The Seventh Seal Movie Plot

Swedish Knight Antonius Block and his square Jons landed on the shore after the crusade abroad and spending ten years in the Holy Land. He saw deaths everywhere due to the Black Death, the deadliest epidemic in the history of humanity.

Block got up and took a sip of water from the roaring bay and offered a prayer, and went back to the chessboard that is set already. He was searching for something inside his purse when the Death appeared in the form of a man clad in a black robe.

Block asked if he had come for him. But the death said that he had always been on his side. As the Death intended to get close to him, Block obstructed and asked if would play chess with him instead. Block said that he got to know his predilection of playing chess from a painting and a Ballard and informed the Death that no matter how skilful he is he can’t be better than him.

the seventh seal 1957 scence
The Seventh Seal: Max von Sydow and Gunnar Björnstrand as Block and Jons.

Block replied that playing chess is his business when asked why he wanted to play chess with Death. But Block’s condition is that as long as he holds out against him, Death must leave him alone and let him live. And he must set him free if he wins. Death agreed and it seemed Block was holding out the game while Death left Block for the time being.

On the horses, Block and Jons headed for the countryside. Past a caravan, Block and Jons reached a church. Jons found an artist painting a scary picture on the wall ‘the dance of death’. He asked the painter the reason for painting. He said it is to scare the people. He thinks, they will think of death only when they are scared, and once they are scared, they will run to the priest.

Block chose to confess to the priest of the church. He said his heart is empty and emptiness is a mirror turned toward his face. “I see myself in it, and it fills me with loathing and horror. My indifference to my fellow men has cut me off from their company. I live now in a world of phantoms, a prisoner of my own dreams”.

The priest in the confession box had asked him if he wanted to die, Block said yes. The priest asked him then what he is waiting for. Block replied that he is waiting to know God. “Must it be so cruelly inconceivable to know God through one’s senses?” Asked Block. “Why must he hide in a fog of half-spoken promises and unseen miracles? How can we believe the believers when we don’t believe in ourselves? What will become of us?”

“And what of those who neither will nor can believe, who want to believe but cannot? Why can I not kill off this God within me? Why must he live on inside me in this painful, humiliating way when I want to tear him out of my heart? Why does he remain a mocking reality that I can’t shake off?” Block inquired.

the seventh seal and 100 best films
The Seventh Seal: Block playing chess with the Death.

Block continues “I want knowledge. Not faith or conjecture, but knowledge. I want God to reach out his hand, show his face, speak to me. But he is silent. I cry out to him in the darkness, but sometimes it feels like no one is there”. “Perhaps no one IS there”, said the priest.  “Then life is just senseless horror. No man can live facing death knowing that everything is nothingness”, Block wondered.

“Most people give no thought to death or nothingness”, replied the priest. “One day they’ll stand on the far edge of life, peering into the darkness. I understand what you mean. We carve an idol out of our fear and call it God.”

We carve an idol out of fear and call it God.

The Death, The Seventh Seal-1957

Block said he is upset because the Death visited him in the morning, that he was playing chess with the Death. This reprieve will enable me to attend to an urgent matter.” ‘What sort of matter? asked the priest.  “My whole life has been nothing but futile wandering and pursuits, a great deal of talk without meaning. It’s all been in vain. I say that without bitterness or self-reproach, knowing that most men’s lives are the same. But I want to use my reprieve for one meaningful act.”

That’s why you were playing chess with Death”, the priest asked. “He’s a skilful strategist, but I haven’t lost a single piece yet”, replied Block. How will you outwit him? Asked the Death. Through a combination of bishop and knight that he has yet to catch on to. Next, I’ll charge his flank.

Suddenly, the priest revealed his appearance through an opening and Block realised that it was actually conversating with the Death, not a priest. He felt tricked and cheated on. But the Death promised to continue the game of death inside the nearby inn.

Inside the church, Jons speaks to the painter. Jons said that he spent ten years in the Holy Land, “letting snakes bite us, insects sting us, wild beasts maul us, heathens attack us, bad wine poison us, women infect us, lice eat us, and fever consumes us. All for the glory of God. For the glory of God. Our crusade was so stupid that only a true idealist could have thought it up”. Jons said that the current plague is nothing compared with the crusade.

Outside the church they found a girl tied with a pole to burn alive later on. She was convicted for having intercourse with the Evil One. The monk revealed to Block that she was thought to be the cause of the plague, the Black Death.

Leaving the church, they had arrived at the desolate village. Jons entered a house to fill his water bottle where he found a dead woman, who possibly had died from the plague, lying on the floor. Someone just has stolen her stones from the corpse. He hid himself in the darkness to obverse the possible presence of life inside the house.

After a few seconds, he found that a seminarist who incited people to go for crusade entered the house to steal jewellery from the dead woman. Jons appeared and caught him in the act, when he tried to kill the deaf daughter of the woman to save his skin.

Felt betrayed to see a seminarist turned thief, Jons wanted to kill him but held back with mercy only to promise to mark up his face the next time their paths crossed. Jons offered the girl to come along to be his housekeeper or a wife which she decided as an acceptable offer by someone who saved her life.

The saints’ feast in Elsinore began in the village with stage performers. A woman, the wife of Plog, a villager showed up and lured one of the performers, Jonas, who behind the curtain, in the bush consummated and eloped to the countryside.

Clergymen and monks carrying huge crosses, sinners whipping themselves and alter and touting the infected and shunting in Latin, appeared in the festival, interrupting the performance. The monk stood up and vehemently declared that this is the punishment God has sent. And you will perish from the Black Death

You shall all perish from the Black Death, declares the monk. “You there, gaping like cattle, and you sitting there in your glutted complacency, don’t you know that this could be your final hour? Death stands at your back. I see the crown of his head gleaming in the sun. His scythe flashes above your head. Which of you will he strike down first? You there, staring like a goat..will nightfall see your mouth twisted into its last unfinished gasp?”

Monk continued, “You, woman, blooming with lust for life and pleasure, will you grow pale and wither before the dawn? You there…with your bulbous nose and idiotic grin. do you have another year to defile the earth with your refuse? Don’t you obstinate fools know you’re going to die? Today, tomorrow, the next day…you’re all doomed. Do you hear me? Doomed!”

The poor wretches think that the plague is a punishment from God. Crowds of “sinners” wandered the land whipping themselves and others to please the Lord. They whip themselves? Yes. It’s a horrible sight. The wretches and the monks left the people and stage after a prayer.

Plog, the smith whose wife eloped with the performer came to Jons and Block inquiring about his wife. They went into a tavern to look for the one who stole his wife. Jons noticed the priest, who was trying to sell the silver bracelet that he stole from the dead woman to one of the actors, not actually who eloped with Plog’s wife.

The seminarist and Plog suspicioned Jof of Jonas to steal his wife and tried to kill him in the pub in a public shame just because he also happened to be an actor. But the situation subsided with the intervention of Jons, who became angry to see the seminarist and gave him a bruised face immediately.

Block found himself playing chess while noticing Jof’s wife in the village. Jof skipped his death and managed to acquire the seminarist’s stolen silver bracelet. Jons, Jof, the deaf girl, later joined Block and Miah. Miah offered them hospitality with raspberry and milk. Block gratefully said that he is always going to remember their hospitality.

The Death appeared there to Block to continue the game of chess.  

They all set out to travel to the deep forest to avoid the plague. Plog, the smith joined the journey to find his wife. However, not farther they walked, Plog saw his wife with Jonas. Infuriated he chased him down but did not have the courage to strike him with the hammer he was carrying. Lisa, seeing the situation took the side of Plog and implored him to kill Jonas.

Dear Plog, if you thought I’d try to justify my so-called reality, you were wrong. Kill me. I’ll thank you afterwards, implored Jonas. But Plog said to Lisa that he can’t just kill him without being provoked and asked to fight. But Jonas faked his death by inserting a knife in the chest and pretending to be dead in front of all.

When all left sad, he climbed up a tree hoping to find his co-actors the next day. But the Death followed him all the way there and put a saw on the trunk of the tree. The Death informed him that his time is up. Though he escaped from Prog, he could not escape from the Death.

The girl who was accused of having consummation of Evil One had been brought in the forest to burn on the stake. The pyre, wood and stake were all ready. Block asked the girl if he can meet the devil to ask about God, for no one does.

The girl replied that he can meet him anytime he wants only if he looked into her eyes. “He is with me as always, and fire would not harm me. The priests could see him, and the soldiers too. They’re so afraid of him that they dare not touch me, the girl said.

She was burnet in the moon-light alive while the Block and his square Jons watched her turn into ashes helplessly. In the middle of the night the Death appeared to Block to his chess-board while Raval, the seminarist came begging for water.

The plague got him, afraid he wanted water from them, but none were able to do that lest they might get infected with the plague from him. He died crawling for a few seconds on the ground while all remained helplessly gasped.

Jof and his family slipped away into the woods alone out of fear of being infected and caught with a strong torrent, while Block and Death were busy playing chess. Defeated, the Death left him until the next time they meet again. He asked Block if the reprieve would be of any help, his reply was affirmative.

Block, Jons, Plog, Lisa and the deaf girl took refuge inside a church as a strong storm began that night. Block found his wife waiting by the fire for his return. As the night came to pass, they got ready for breakfast.

Karin, Block’s wife read from the book of Revelation: “And when the Lamb had opened the seventh seal there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. And the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.”

She continues, “The first angel sounded his trumpet and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood and they were cast upon the earth. And a third part of the earth was burnt up and a third part of the trees was burnt up and all the green grass was burnt up.

And the second angel sounded his trumpet and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea. And a third part of the sea became blood.” And the third angel sounded his trumpet and there fell a great star from heaven burning as if it were a lamp. And the name of the star is called Wormwood.”

However, the death appeared in there as she finishes reading the scripture. They asked for mercy from the Death.

The next day early in the morning, Jof and Mia notice that all of their companions are dancing with the Death on top of the nearby mountain. What’s that? The actor shows emotional confusion… that’s half the battle. Don’t just stand there gaping.

The Swedish drama film The Seventh Seal is based on the Black Death of the 14th century. It was the deadliest and most fatal pandemic in human history. It claimed 75-200 million people in Eurasia, North America and Europe, while COVID-19 killed nearly 5 million people across the world as of late September 2021.

The Black Death plague had COVID-19-like symptoms. After seven days of infection by bacteria, flu-like symptoms including fever, headache, vomiting, and swollen lymph would develop, while COVID-19 is also a contagious disease infected by virus. Fever, extreme fatigue, flu and throat pain are the primary and visible symptoms.

The Seventh Seal Quotes

A skull is more interesting than a naked woman.

We were too well-off, too satisfied.

The Seventh Seal-1957

Farewell, my sweet. I could have raped you… but I don’t believe in that kind of love.

It’s hell with women, and hell without them. Best to kill them while you are still having fun.

Well, wherever you turn, your rump’s always behind you.

Faith is a heavy burden, you know? It’s like loving someone out in the darkness who never comes, no matter how loud you call.

It’s hell with women and hell without them.

If everything is imperfect in this imperfect world, love is most perfect in its perfect imperfection.


In The Seventh Seal, we see how the Black Death was regarded by people with religious beliefs as a consequence of the physical unity of a girl with Satan.

People were seen to be hapless and many from moderate upbringings took burglary and stealing from the dead as a profession. Conscious people were hapless spectators of victims of superstition and religious edicts.

The search for God by Block and for which he bought time from Death and his conversations with the Death are worth noting in The Seventh Seal. The Seventh Seal is the ultimate reminder of a pandemic for the survivors of another deadly pandemic: COVID-19.

Romzanul Islam

A proud Bangladeshi, and an unconventional thinking human with reasons who nurtures passions for reading, writing, researching and collecting the best books and watching the best films. Stoicism, liberalism, feminism and aversion to material success are my ideals.