The Seventh Seal (1957)

Brief Intro

‘The Seventh Seal’ is a 1957 Swedish film directed by Ingmar Bergman. Set during the Black Death, it follows a disillusioned knight, Antonius Block, who returns from the Crusades and challenges Death to a game of chess, seeking answers about life, death, and the existence of God. The film is renowned for its profound philosophical themes, striking imagery, and innovative use of literary and cinematic techniques.

Literary Devices Used in The Seventh Seal


Movie SceneDevice Example
Opening scene with the knight on the beachThe chess game symbolizes the struggle between life and death.
The procession of flagellantsRepresents humanity’s search for meaning amidst suffering.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Chess game between Block and DeathAn allegory of human existence and the inevitability of death.
The dance of death at the endRepresents the unity of humanity in the face of mortality.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Block’s encounter with DeathDeath as a constant, unavoidable companion.
The squire’s view on lifeLife as a futile quest for meaning.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Jof’s visions being dismissedDramatic irony as the audience knows Jof’s visions are true.
The knight’s quest for GodSituational irony in Block’s lack of faith despite his religious crusade.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Repeated chess gamesThe motif of chess represents life’s strategic battles.
Constant presence of religious imageryHighlights the pervasive influence of religion in medieval life.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Block’s first encounter with DeathForeshadows the inevitability of his fate.
The plague’s spreadSuggests the coming doom for many characters.


Movie SceneDevice Example
The knight’s solemnity vs. the actors’ joyHighlights the contrast between different approaches to life.
Death’s calm demeanor vs. the panic of othersEmphasizes the inevitability and impartiality of death.


Movie SceneDevice Example
References to the Book of RevelationAlludes to apocalyptic themes.
Block’s existential questionsAlludes to philosophical debates about God and existence.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Death as a characterGives a human form to the abstract concept of death.
The plaguePersonified as an unstoppable force that looms over the characters.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Block’s quest for faith despite his doubtA paradox of seeking belief while being skeptical.
The actors’ joy in the face of deathParadoxical coexistence of joy and imminent doom.

Character Analysis Through Literary Devices

Antonius Block

SymbolismBlock represents the human struggle with faith and the search for meaning.
IronyDespite his religious past, he is deeply skeptical and questions God’s existence.

Jöns (The Squire)

JuxtapositionHis practical, cynical view contrasts with Block’s philosophical quest.
MetaphorRepresents the voice of reason and the harsh reality of life.


PersonificationEmbodies the inevitability and impartiality of death.
AllegoryServes as an allegory for the inescapable fate that awaits all humans.

Jof and Mia

IronyJof’s visions, initially dismissed, reveal deeper truths about the world.
MotifTheir joyful life contrasts with the somberness of other characters, highlighting the value of simple pleasures.

Character Dynamics

The relationships between characters drive the narrative by juxtaposing different philosophical perspectives. Block’s interactions with Death and Jöns reveal his inner turmoil and existential crisis. Meanwhile, Jof and Mia’s relationship provides a counterpoint of hope and innocence, underscoring the film’s themes of faith and doubt.

Thematic Analysis


SymbolismThe chess game symbolizes the constant presence of death in human life.
ForeshadowingThe plague’s spread foreshadows the inevitable demise of many characters.

Faith and Doubt

ParadoxBlock’s simultaneous quest for faith and doubt reflects the human condition.
AllegoryThe entire film serves as an allegory for the search for spiritual meaning.

The Human Condition

MetaphorLife as a chess game, with each move reflecting human choices and struggles.
JuxtapositionThe actors’ joyful existence contrasts with the knight’s existential dread.


IronyBlock’s religious crusade leads him to doubt rather than faith.
MotifRepeated references to existential questions highlight the film’s philosophical nature.

Cinematic Techniques That Enhance Literary Devices

Literary DeviceTechniqueExplanation
SymbolismVisual imageryThe stark black-and-white cinematography emphasizes the themes of life and death.
IronyDialogue and actingThe characters’ interactions often reveal deeper truths through ironic statements.
AllegorySet designThe medieval setting creates a timeless allegory about human existence.
MetaphorCinematographyThe use of light and shadow metaphorically represents the struggle between good and evil.
JuxtapositionEditingRapid cuts between different characters highlight their contrasting worldviews.

Key Scene Analysis

Opening Scene: Chess with Death Watch on YouTube

  • Breakdown: This iconic scene sets the stage for the entire film. The chess game symbolizes the strategic nature of life and the inevitability of death. The stark beach setting enhances the existential themes.

Dance of Death Finale Watch on YouTube

  • Breakdown: The final scene where Death leads a dance of the dead is a powerful visual allegory of human mortality. The use of silhouette and the haunting music amplify the theme of inevitable death.

Procession of Flagellants Watch on YouTube

  • Breakdown: This scene vividly depicts the desperation and fervor of people seeking redemption during the plague. The stark imagery and intense performances convey the pervasive fear and search for meaning.


Interactive Quiz

  1. What does the chess game symbolize in ‘The Seventh Seal’?
    • A) A strategy for winning battles
    • B) The struggle between life and death
    • C) A pastime for knights
  2. Which literary device is used when Block doubts his faith despite his religious past?
  3. How does the film’s visual imagery enhance its themes?
    • A) By creating colorful, vibrant scenes
    • B) Through stark black-and-white cinematography
    • C) By using modern-day settings
  4. What does the procession of flagellants represent?
    • A) A festival
    • B) Humanity’s search for meaning amidst suffering
    • C) A battle strategy


  1. B
  2. A
  3. B
  4. B