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Research Papers on Death in the Seventh Seal

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Of all the characters in The Seventh Seal, none is as important as Death – which is not only personified by the creepy man in the black hooded robe, but also ever present as the Black Plague itself. Bergman’s choice of setting this film in the time of the Black Plague makes great sense.  It was a time in which no one was safe, and anyone, regardless of age or health, could be taken at any moment. There was perhaps no other time in history when man was so blatantly confronted with his mortality.

Death in the Seventh Seal

And yet through all this darkness, the beauty of life is ever present, represented by the beautiful young family:

  • Mary
  • Joseph
  • Mary and Joseph's baby Michael

When Antonius meets them they sit on a beach and eat wild strawberries and drink fresh milk while Joseph plays his lute and for this moment all is right with the world. Antonius makes a point to remember this moment, for in it he has perhaps found at least some proof that life is indeed worth living and that such moments can only be gifts from a kind and benevolent God. By delaying the conclusion of his chess game with death, Antonius is able to save the young family from the Plague, and in doing so he has served the purpose of his life.

From a historical standpoint, I found this film to be a bleak, yet accurate depiction of 14th century Europe, a time when great wars were fought in the name of God.  With so much killing and fighting in God’s name, it seems to have been a time in which religion was based more in fear than anything else.  In the modern world God is viewed as a kind and benevolent God, but that is not the case here.  Here, life seems hopeless and the afterlife very uncertain. That is the dilemma of Antonius Block.  After fighting and killing for many years in the Crusades, he longs to see some sort of proof that God really does exist, and that it has not all been in vain.  It is not hard to understand his doubt. Imagine returning home from war only to find your people suffering and dying by the thousands from a horrible disease, people turning on one another in paranoia, madness at every turn. Surely it would cause one to wonder who is up there looking after the people; where is the Shepherd to guard his flock?

 

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