THE SEVENTH SEAL (Ingmar Bergman, 1957)
Rubin Museum of Art
150 West 17th St. at Seventh Ave.
Friday, December 10, free with $7 bar minimum, 9:30
It’s almost impossible to watch Ingmar Bergman’s THE SEVENTH SEAL without being aware of the meta surrounding the film, which has influenced so many other works and been paid homage to and playfully mocked. Over the years, it has gained a reputation as a deep, philosophical paean to death. However, amid all the talk about emptiness, doomsday, the Black Plague, and the devil, THE SEVENTH SEAL is a very funny movie. In fourteenth-century Sweden, knight Antonius Block (Max von Sydow) is returning home from the Crusades with his trusty squire, Jöns (Gunnar Björnstrand). Block soon meets Death (Bengt Ekerot) and, to prolong his life, challenges him to a game of chess. While the on-again, off-again battle of wits continues, Death seeks alternate victims while Block meets a young family and a small troupe of actors putting on a show. Rape, infidelity, murder, and other forms of evil rise to the surface as Block proclaims “To believe is to suffer,” questioning God and faith, and Jöns opines that “love is the blackest plague of all.” Based on Bergman’s own play inspired by a painting of Death playing chess by Albertus Pictor (played in the film by Gunnar Olsson), THE SEVENTH SEAL, winner of a Special Jury Prize at Cannes, is one of the most entertaining films ever made. (Bergman fans will get an extra treat out of the knight being offered some wild strawberries at one point.) The film is screening on December 10 as part of the Rubin Museum’s Cabaret Cinema series Films About Nothing, being held in conjunction with the exhibition “Grains of Emptiness,” and will be introduced by former Vogue editor in chief Joan Juliet Buck. (The series continues December 17 with Lisa Birnbach introducing Robert Redford’s 1980 dysfunctional family drama ORDINARY PEOPLE.)