Tag Archives: 1957 movies

The Seventh Seal (1957) Review

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The Seventh Seal

Time: 96 Minutes
Cast:
Gunnar Björnstrand as Jöns
Bengt Ekerot as Death
Nils Poppe as Jof
Max von Sydow as Antonius Block
Bibi Andersson as Mia
Inga Landgré as Karin
Åke Fridell as Blacksmith Plog
Director: Ingmar Bergman

Max Von Sydow stars as a 14th century knight named Antonius Block, wearily heading home after ten years’ worth of combat. Disillusioned by unending war, plague, and misery Block has concluded that God does not exist. As he trudges across the wilderness, Block is visited by Death (Bengt Ekerot), garbed in the traditional black robe. Unwilling to give up the ghost, Block challenges Death to a game of chess. If he wins, he lives — if not, he’ll allow Death to claim him.

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The Seventh Seal was known one of those “greatest movies of all time” that I just hadn’t gotten around to watching just yet. I had seen some of the images from the film with the knight playing chess with Death, and that was literally it. I also hadn’t seen a movie from director Ingmar Bergman before, so really going into the movie, I really didn’t know what to expect. The Seventh Seal was actually an excellent film, and I was invested in it more than I thought I would be.

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The Seventh Seal is essentially about a knight who contemplates an endless number of questions about the existence of God, death and life in the midst of the black plague that hit his hometown. We follow him and other different characters that he comes across while continuously playing a literally game of life and death through chess with Death personified. The movie really delivers on being a fantastical philosophical drama that’s complex and intriguing. The film touches on a lot of topics including, faith, religion, death and existence of God. The movie is filled with intelligent, contemplative and memorable dialogue, raising questions in regard to what life means, the uncertainty of what happens after death, and approaches the concepts of mortality and death. The themes are certainly depressing yet riveting, and also puts life into perspective in a unique philosophical way. The movie surprisingly didn’t feel that depressing since it had a relatively light tone most of the time. The movie has some fun moments, and even silly moments that you wouldn’t initially expect in this movie. There’s quite a lot of humour (mostly dark humour) injected into what could’ve been a purely solemn film about death. I would not class this movie as a comedy by any means, but the humour brings a lightness to its subject manner and certainly makes it easier to watch. It is very satirical and entertaining all things considering. The Seventh Seal might be known an art house movie, but it’s more accessible than you would think. The dialogue, conversations and themes alone are intriguing enough, and is entertaining and filled with enough lightness that you can access it. The short runtime of 97 minutes also helps the movie along, while the plot isn’t particularly driven by anything for the most part and is plotless, it doesn’t overstay its welcome.

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The acting is also wonderful too. Max von Sydow’s performance as Antonius Block, the knight and main character in this movie, and he’s amazing in this role. Gunnar Bjornstrand plays Block’s squire, and stands out with his charisma and wittiness, definitely a large source of the comedy in the movie. Ingmar Bergman makes Death a walking, talking character in this movie, which provides for some very interesting conversations. Bengt Ekerot plays him, and he’s truly great and memorable, a real presence on and off screen.

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This is the first movie I’ve seen from Ingmar Bergman, and from this movie alone I can tell he’s an excellent filmmaker. This movie contains some beautiful cinematography with its spectacular lighting (the use of natural light is particularly fantastic) and monochrome look, as well as stunning and instantly iconic imagery. The locations and set designs are utilised exceptionally well too. The score was memorable and appropriately used throughout. Something that Bergman does well is make Death as a concept feel present throughout, even when Bengt Ekerot isn’t on screen.

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I liked The Seventh Seal much more than I expected to. It covers darker topics and themes like life and death, while also being quite intriguing and even entertaining to watch. It’s helped even further with the strong performances and the excellent direction from Ingmar Bergman. Even if you think that you might not get into it, I do recommend at the very least giving it a look.

12 Angry Men (1957) Review

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12 Angry Men

Time: 96 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains low level offensive language
Cast:
Martin Balsam as Juror 1
John Fiedler as Juror 2
Lee J. Cobb as Juror 3
E. G. Marshall as Juror 4
Jack Klugman as Juror 5
Edward Binns as Juror 6
Jack Warden as Juror 7
Henry Fonda as Juror 8
Joseph Sweeney as Juror 9
Ed Begley as Juror 10
George Voskovec as Juror 11
Robert Webber as Juror 12
Director: Sidney Lumet

When a Puerto Rican boy is on trial for the alleged murder of his father, 11 of the 12 jurors are quick to vote that he is guilty in an ostensibly straightforward case. The remaining juror, Juror #8 (Henry Fonda), seems sceptical about the evidence at hand and demands a thorough deliberation of the facts from each juror before sentencing the boy to death, to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

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I remember that I watched 12 Angry Men for the first time many years ago and I remembered liking it. However, it had been a while since I had seen it, so I’ve been meaning to rewatch it for some time. Having finally rewatched it, I can say that I love it even more and it’s now one of my favourite movies. This is an incredibly made, entertaining and engaging film, written, directed and acted excellently, and is absolutely a must see.

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12 Angry Men is based off the play of the same name, and you can really feel that it’s based off a play, especially with the heavy focus on dialogue. While I’m not familiar with the original play, they seemed to have translated it very well to the big screen. It has a great script, with some well written dialogue, and it keeps you constantly engaged throughout. Even though you don’t learn most of the characters’ names, they are very memorable and distinctive (albeit with some receiving more characterisation and focus than others). Given the subject matter and how simple and straightforward the initial setup is, the movie could’ve been dry and uninteresting but it is very interesting and even entertaining. The movie really is driven by the dialogue, and it’s compelling to watch all of these characters’ discussions and debates on the centre issue. The way that 12 Angry Men sets up the plot at the beginning is actually brilliant. At the beginning of the movie, we never see the actual trial, and we only hear about the case through the jurors in the room that the movie takes place in 99% of the film. The film also has a lot to say thematically, including systematic racism and xenophobia, and much more than you’d expect going in. The plot is tightly paced across its 97 minutes yet with never a dull moment.

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There are 12 actors playing each of the jurors, and all of them do a fantastic job in their respective roles, bringing these scripted people to life with naturalness and sincerity. The most well-known of the actors is Henry Fonda in the lead role, playing the only juror who at the beginning believes that the defendant isn’t guilty, and he’s great in his part. The rest of the cast including Lee J. Cobb, Ed Begley, E.G Marshall and Jack Warden also deserve as much praise as Fonda.

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Sidney Lumet’s direction was also a big reason of why the movie works so well, even though it’s not usually what comes to mind immediately to most people when they think of 12 Angry Men, compared to say the writing and acting. Lumet’s first feature film has great cinematography, and not just in the sense of looking flashy and stylistic, at first glance it’s pretty standard (albeit looking decent). However the use of blocking and focus (particularly on faces) is really effective. Additionally, lingering on certain moments, people and objects, not breaking the shot and letting things play out made some moments really made the scenes even better than they already were.

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12 Angry Men is an absolutely essential film to watch for sure. The writing is fantastic, the acting is phenomenal, and it’s directed greatly. At over 60 years old it remains an absolute and timeless classic, and can appeal to pretty much everyone, even if you’re not really into ‘old movies’, and is now firmly one of my favourite movies of all time. If it’s not a perfect film, at the very least it’s pretty close to it.