The Seventh Seal 4K UHD Is the Pick of the Week

Ingmar Bergman wasn’t the most upbeat filmmaker. His films were dark, bleak, and pessimistic. But isn’t that what life itself is? As opposed to other directors, he wasn’t afraid to question everything, including faith and man’s dissatisfaction with it. His greatest achievement, 1957’s The Seventh Seal, does just that, and is perhaps the definitive statement of our idea of God and his existence.

The late, great Max von Sydow plays Antonius Block, an exhausted knight and his squire Jöns (Gunnar Bjorstrand) returning home from the Crusades, only to find that all of medieval Sweden has been taken over by the Plague. From there, Antonius encounters Death (Bengt Ekerot) who tells him that his time on Earth is over. Antonius challenges him to a fateful game of chess, where not just his life is at sake but also the lives of a group of outcasts, including a young couple (Bibi Andersson and Nils Poppe) with a child. During this game of chess, Antonius realizes that he may have underestimated Death and that fate is just around the corner.

As with most of Bergman’s films, critics were definitely quick to lambast him for this film’s irony and brutal view of religion, but they obviously missed the fact that it was one of the very few films in history to have such a realistic look at how harsh the human condition can really be, and that’s just one of the many reasons why it continues to stand the very test of time and remains one of the greatest films ever made.

Making its 4K debut this week, I bet the picture and sound is better than ever and I’m sure that the film’s desolate and stark aura will be more piercing than ever.

The supplements are the same from previous Criterion releases, but they are still no less viable. They include a 2003 introduction by Bergman; audio commentary and video afterward by expert Peter Cowie; Marie Nyreröd’s Bergman Island, a 2006 documentary about Bergman; 1998 audio interview with von Sydow; 1989 Bergman tribute by legendary filmmaker Woody Allen; Bergman 101, a selected video filmography tracing his career, narrated by Cowie; and trailer. There’s also the great essay by critic Gary Giddins. So, if you don’t happen to own previous editions, then this is obviously a must-have addition to your collection or at least something for your film class. I’m sure the film itself is still studied in many cinema classes all over the world.

Other releases:

12 Angry Men 4K UHD (Kino): Sidney Lumet’s all-time classic courtroom drama starring Henry Fonda as the lone juror trying to get other jurors to reconsider the verdict for a young boy on trial for murdering his father.

Serpico 4K UHD (Kino): Al Pacino gives one of his iconic performances/roles as Frank Serpico, the real-life honest New York cop who blows the whistle on constant corruption in the force only to have his fellow colleagues to turn on him.

Rebel Without a Cause 4K UHD (Warner): A new release of Nicholas Ray’s classic 1955 drama about disillusioned middle-class teens and their very fractured relationships with parents, peer pressure, and identity.

Living with Chucky: A documentary from Kyra Elise Gardner, who grew up alongside Chucky the killer doll, where she seeks out the other fans connected to the Child’s Play films as they reminisce about their experiences watching the ongoing franchise and what it means to be a part of the “Chucky” family.


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