Though many of his 50+ films were admittedly lost on me, Sjunde inseglet, Det (The Seventh Seal (1957)) is hands down my all-time favorite movie.
Many have asked me where my fascination with the crusades may have started, and I honestly don't know for certain, but it may very well have been with this film. Antonius Block (played by Max von Sydow) is a crusader (from his garb (black with a white crusader's cross), it looks like he may have been a Hospitaller) returned home to Sweden after 10 years of fighting in the Holy Land. When he arrives he finds his homeland in the grip of the plague which kills young and old, firm and infirm indiscriminately. Death approaches him very early on in the film to claim his life, but Block isn't ready to go just yet. ("My body is ready, but I am not.") He wants to do something meaningful and important before he dies, and has some questions concerning the existence of god that he wants answered before he's ready to kip over. He wants proof. He wants answers. He wants to know, why? What's the point?
He challenges Death to a game of chess to buy some time to find answers to his questions.
Everywhere he turns, he finds no answer but Death. In one scene he goes to confession. He believes he is confessing to a priest, but the audience can see it is Death facing away from the confessional screen so Block cannot see his face and will talk freely.
- Block - "My whole life has been a meaningless search. I say it without bitterness or self-reproach. I know it is the same for all. But I want to use my respite for one significant action."
- Death (disguised as a priest to find out Block's strategy in their game of chess) - "So you play chess with Death?"
- Block - "He is a skillful tactician, but I have not yet lost one piece."
- Death - "How can you outwit Death?"
- Block - "By a combination of bishop and knight. I will break his flank."
- [The "priest" turns to face Block through the screen.]
- Death - "I shall remember that."
- Block - "Traitor! You have tricked me! But I'll find a way out."