"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. "
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"A knight returning from the Crusades finds a rude church still open in the midst of the Black Death, and goes to confession there. Speaking to a hooded figure half-seen through an iron grill, he pours out his heart: "My indifference has shut me out. I live in a world of ghosts, a prisoner of dreams. I want God to put out his hand, show his face, speak to me. I cry out to him in the dark but there is no one there.'' The hooded figure turns, and is revealed as Death, who has been following the knight on his homeward journey. Images like that have no place in the modern cinema, which is committed to facile psychology and realistic behavior. In many ways, Ingmar Bergman's "The Seventh Seal'' (1957) has more in common with the silent film than with the modern films that followed it--including his own. Perhaps that is why it is out of fashion at the moment. Long considered one of the masterpieces of cinema, it is now a little embarrassing to some viewers, with its stark imagery and its uncompromising subject, which is no less than the absence of God."