Film Rather than even attempt to describe the way in which The Seventh Seal effected on first viewing, because I'm unable to capture the feeling in words that transcend cliche, I've decided to try and reinterpret the film by collecting a series of cultural artifacts instead. I'm sure Ingmar Bergman would be very pleased that I'm about to turn what some would view as his greatest achievement into a listicle.
(1) My first encounter with Chess was through a set which my owned as a child and which was in the sideboard in the front room along with a giant wooden board. But it wasn't until Play Chess, the BBC's children's programme broadcast mornings during school holidays in the early 80s that I really understood what all the pieces were for and the complexity of the game. Here's a podcast from TV Cream which includes a short piece about the programme which certainly offers a flavour of what it was like at 25 minutes and 45 seconds. "Welcome to two weeks of programmes packed with Chess."
(2) Someone has attempted to analyse who really had the upper hand in the Chess match on a page also worth visiting for the rebuke in the comments. "For a start, Block and Death would have been playing by the rules of chess as they existed in the medieval era and not those of the modern period"
(3) Of all the speeches in the film, one in particular has stayed with me. It's Block on memory:
"I shall remember this moment: the silence, the twilight, the bowl of strawberries, the bowl of milk. Your faces in the evening light. Mikael asleep, Jof with his lyre. I shall try to remember our talk. I shall carry this memory carefully in my hands as if it were a bowl brimful of fresh milk. It will be a sign to me, and a great sufficiency."Except, of course, it's impossible to keep anything in our hands permanently. All memories eventually slip away from us, just as his milk will surely dribble through the gaps in his fingers or evaporate away. [imdb]
(4) The first night I encountered in life was through the story of St George and the Dragon in school. The key source for the story is the Golden Legend by Jacobus de Voragine which is abstracted and elaborated here.
(5) This. All of this:
(6) Not uniquely my first glimpsing of The Seventh Seal was on the cinema screen during The Last Action Hero. It's a remarkable moment in retrospect and signals that the film is much more interesting in retrospect than the critics of the time and audience gave it credit for, largely because of the poorly conceived marketing campaign. In this Oral History, the screenwriter David Arnott explains that Death's appearance was more clearly explained in an earlier draft:
"A perfect example of how, in rewriting a script, certain things stay that don’t make sense anymore is how in our draft you both understand what became of Danny’s father and see the villain character set Seventh Seal’s “Death” loose in New York City. When it’s set up properly, you would understand a moment where Death comes into the theater, Danny pulls the gun, and he says, “Forget it, I’ve had it up to here with you, Mister, who stays and who goes. Well, I’m telling you this one stays, “ meaning, “You took my dad, but you’re not going to take my surrogate dad.” That could have been a real moment. Death is still in the finished movie as is the speech, but it makes no sense. It’s just there."
(7) Which isn't to negate Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey which I also saw beforehand. But here's William Sadley playing Death before the film in a 1985 sketch show called Assaulted Nuts opposite Elaine Hausman and Tim Brooke-Taylor for a second at the end (of all people).
(8) The Juggling Information Service website has numerous interviews with practitioners from twenty years ago. Here's one practitioner Sara Felder about what attracted her to juggling:
"I think for a lot of us juggling has saved our lives. You know for a lot of people. For a lot of us it was something that we found that we had an affinity towards, or attraction towards, or there was some attraction there that was maybe one of those things where, 'Gee, if I could only do that...' For them I think it was very similar. I find, kind of, the more desperate the situation, the more meaningful it is. So here were people who had failed a lot in their lives and were used to failure, and so for them the idea of succeeding was extremely meaningful. I mean I think succeeding is meaningful to all of us, but in that context it was really meaningful, and they would work at something pretty hard and get it and really create beauty in a pretty ugly place."Here she is in 2012 at a show.