"Ingmar Bergman's dark masterpiece effortlessly sees off the revisionists and the satirists; it is a radical work of art that reaches back to scripture, to Cervantes and to Shakespeare to create a new dramatic idiom of its own. It was released 50 years ago, but it's as fresh as a glass of ice-cold water. Max von Sydow and Gunnar Björnstrand are the ascetic Crusader knight and his cynical squire who return from the wars after 10 years to find their country ravaged with plague and the population panicking about the coming apocalypse. The knight is confronted by the cowled figure of Death, who agrees to a game of chess, and lets the knight stay alive for as long as he can stave off checkmate. It's an inspired conceit, a seriocomic masterpiece on its own, which Bergman carries off with absolute conviction. "