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June 16, 2009


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Nice article Glenn. I was surprised when I first saw 'Seal' to find that it wasn't the numbing, doom-laden apocalyptic film i'd been told about. It is very light and spry, with lot of little wry and comedic touches.

Thanks to Criterion for this re-release, especially since it is paired with Marie Nyreröd's wonderful 'Bergman Island'. Good timing too, just before midsummer.

Tony Dayoub

I agree. Seeing it again (perhaps it's because of the newly improved subtitles) reminds me of the film's heavy doses of gallows humor. Jons and the cuckolded Blacksmith especially play a large part in making the movie entertaining, taking it beyond the grim, contemplative, metaphysical examination that Bergman's film is known for.

steve simels

I can't find the picture over at Google images, but for me, The Seventh Seal was fatally skewered at the old (funny) National Lampoon.

They photoshopped Bobby Fischer's head onto Max Von Sydow's body for an ad for a self-help book entitled "Bobby Fischer Shows You How to Cheat Death."


Finally somebody helps bury this idea that Bergman is some spartan austere humorless doom-n-gloomer. Sometimes, yes (WINTER LIGHT comes to mind). But there are plenty of sardonic or witty or funny moments in his work. The Holy Fool being the prime example, who I agree is the film's real "hero." Even the chess scene is high art satire.


For me, the movie that ruined Bergman for me was "Du Duvre". Which if you haven't seen it is available on Google Video.

"Seal" is actually one of the few Bergman movies I like, but I need to rewatch it. Hmmm, maybe picking it up with "Marienbad" is in order...


Glenn, no disrespect, but your digital camera "frame grabs" of these Blu-ray images really do no justice to Mr. Bergman's film.

Glenn Kenny

@ Griff: You are correct, helas. I had a few minutes before I had to get out of the house so I've replaced the images with proper screen grabs off the standard definition version.


Uh...you're going to title a post "'The Seventh Seal' considered as a comedy" and you don't even so much as mention Bill S Preston, Esq and Ted "Theodore" Logan in this context? (Cf. http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_i9CgT_J5QxQ/R-lKFCpBIQI/AAAAAAAAA9Q/e4OljZJMHbE/s400/10918361_gal.jpg)

WTF, sir? William Sadler is an even better Death than Bengt Ekerot, I think.

"Um, best two out of three?"


And to prove Bergman had a sense of humor, has everybody forgotten his sole collaboration with Jerry Lewis?



Heh. I thought "Virgin Spring" was a satire when I first saw it.

Dan Coyle

Oh, so THAT's what the ending of Last Action Hero was all about.

Paul Johnson

I'm always surprised by the myths about Bergman movies. Not just the canard that his movies don't have a sense of humor, but even more bizarrely the idea that they're sexless (I specifically remember David Edelstein claiming this in a review of one of Liv Ullman's Bergman-scripted films), when often the saving grace of even the most oppressive Bergman films is their sensuality. I've seen Kael pulled out to attack Bergman (along with the entire tradition of European art house cinema he represents), which is odd since though she saw serious flaws in Bergman's worldview (and what artist doesn't have seriously flawed world views), she thought he was a great filmmaker, and listed Smiles of a Summer Night and The Seventh Seal as favorites (she also saw The Seventh Seal as a kind of black comedy). I often feel like people are responding to a caricatured version of Bergman that they have filed away in the back of their minds rather than the film in front of their eyes.

I contend the best way to watch a Bergman film is to put aside the notion that his films are attempted philosophical treatises, and think of him as a Swedish George Cukor - fantastic with actresses, and good at conveying the wistful dreams and anguished disappointments of artists and the moneyed classes.

craig Keller.

The biggest canard is maybe the notion that Bergman "didn't make cinema."

This isthe delusion of a few contemporary and extremely chaste American critics, but not of the French -- or the fine critics of many other lands, for that matter.

Bergman is god.

Dave Kehr

Jesus, Kenny, can't a guy get away with a cheap joke in a listing anymore? (Please, don't call those one sentence throwaways "reviews"!) Yes, the picture does have a few half-smiles in it(more than his ostensible comedy "Now About These Women"), but honestly, does it really dispel the "idea that Bergman is some spartan austere gloom-and--doomer"? For that, you need to go to the truly hilarious "From the Life of the Marionettes."

Glenn Kenny

Sorry Dave, but what can I tell you? I needed the hook, that's my only excuse.


At least it levels the playing field so that Bergman can be noted for more than what seems to be a 60's leftover idea about "Art Films." I think it was Pauline Kael who wrote that Bergman wasn't even a good filmmaker, minus her love for his earlier, funnier works (like Woody).

Dave Kehr

I know, Glenn! Just kidding. Hooks R Us.


I showed Seventh Seal to a friend of mine a couple years ago, not sure what he would think; while a movie buff, his taste didn't always align with mine: he (and my father, on the same viewing) had been highly critical of Mulholland Drive, for one. But as Seventh Seal unrolled, he laughed, often, and with it, not at it. I had forgotten how humorous the film could be. This, combined with a storm outside which coincided perfectly with the apocalyptic climax to the film, made for a thoroughly enjoyable viewing and a reminder that aside from everything else he was, Bergman was a consumate entertainer.

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