This book, the screenplay for The Seventh Seal, by Ingmar Bergman, has been sitting on my bookshelf for over 45 years! It’s traveled with us through many moves, and has always held a secure place on our shelves even though we’ve culled our collection of books many times.
I reread it the other day for Dewey’s 24-hour Read-a-thon, and I was once again blown away by the excellence of the writing, the depth of the ideas, and by Ingmar Bergman’s understanding of the human condition. I’m talking about the screenplay…the film itself is absolutely incredible because of the visual story-telling power of Bergman!
The story is as simple and as complex as life. It takes place during the Middle Ages, specifically during the time of the Crusades and the plague (the Black Death). A weary knight is returning home from the Crusades, and he meets Death outside a village. In an attempt to delay his inevitable death, he challenges Death to a chess game. If he wins, Death must tell him his secrets and let him go. If he loses…Death is right there to take him.
Everything else that happens in this story is related to what humans do and the questions they seek answers to in the face of inevitable death. There is humor, kindness, and love. There is fear, cruelty, and selfishness. There is faith and hope and despair. And there are no answers and no escaping death, but there is also a very human need to do something meaningful with one’s life. It is a fascinating and ultimately hopeful story. A story told by a genius!
This was one of my “alternate” choices for my Classics Club 50-books-in-5-years list.