The Seventh Seal [Blu-ray 4K]
Blu-ray ALL - United Kingdom - British Film Institute
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (31st October 2021).
The Film

"The Seventh Seal" ("Det sjunde inseglet") (1957)

Antonius Block (played by Max Von Sydow) is a knight that has been fighting for the last decade in the crusades. Tired and weary on his way home with trusted squire Jön (played by Gunnar Björnstrand), Antonius encounters the black figure of Death Bengt Ekerot), who is ready to take his soul to the afterlife. Rather than accepting his fate, he entices Death with a game of friendly chess. If he wins, Death must set him free to live. If not, he is willing to have his life be taken. Antonius and Jön meet an interesting group of travelers along the way home, with Jof (played by Nils Poppe) and Mia (played by Bibi Andersson), a husband and wife acting team with a young toddler, Plog (played by Åke Fridell) a blacksmith whose wife has left him, a mute servant girl (played by Gunnel Lindblom), and others that show them the true joys of life with a diverse crowd of people. But with Death always taunting around every corner for Antonius, ready to continue their ongoing game, his time with joy might be limited.

Filmmaker Ingmar Bergman was riding high on critical and commercial acclaim in his home country of Sweden as well as gaining international attention in the early 1950s through his films dealing with comedy and eroticism such as "Summer Interlude" (191), "Summer with Monika" (1953), "A Lesson in Love" (1954), plus his major breakthrough "Smiles of a Summer Night" (1955) which was nominated for numerous international awards, and receiving a special prize at Cannes. Due to its success, Bergman was able to find backing for his next film, which would be something completely different from his previous works, delving deeper into darkness, violence, and death.

Bergman wrote the play "Trämålning" (Wood Painting), in which he adapted it for the screen as "The Seventh Seal". Taking place in the middle ages as Europe was devastated by war as well as the Bubonic Plague (which is taking some liberty with historical accuracy as they were more than a century apart from each other), the period piece was not a recreation of the past but a general reflection on the meaning of life and death, while being able to experience human nature at its finest and its worst. For a story to have such darkness surrounding it with the onslaught of a pandemic ravaging a continent, the horrific nature of organized religion, and all accompanied by Death as an actual being, there are surprisingly humorous and touching moments that are scattered throughout the story. Bergman himself was the son of a very strict Lutheran minister and had Christianity as part of his life. The film is not a love letter to religion, but instead is one that questions and criticizes blind belief. Antonius Block's decade long battles in the Crusades has left him faithless, seeing how war in the name of God has given him post traumatic stress and questions as to what religion has truly offered. It's amazing to think that Von Sydow was only 26 years old when he portrayed the character, as his looks and demeaner were of a much older and experienced man. While he may be more serious on how it has affected him, Jön on the other hand sees everything more on the comical and cynical side. A realist that sees the world with Atheist eyes, he is quick to see the sham that religion and faith provides and provokes. His one liners and facial expressions are the polar opposite of Antonius, whose seriousness is only broken with infrequent smiles, such as when he is able to challenge Death with a chess game, or when he sees Jof and Mia entertaining their innocent young son. Each of the supporting characters have distinct personalities that make them unique. Jof has an ability to see otherworldly images. Whether they are apparitions or visions of the future, it's something that no one including his loving wife believes, but gives him a sense of bewilderment and joy towards his always bright and positive thinking character, brilliantly played by comic actor Nils Poppe. He and Bibi Andersson playing the husband and wife have obvious parallels to Mary and Joseph, in not just the naming of the characters but the fact they have a young son with them. Gunnel Lindblom's character of Plog may be a small part, but the actor brings the brute yet not so bright man to life, as he is angry and frustrated by the actions of his wife Lisa (played by Inga Gill) who has run off with actor Skat (played by Erik Strandmark). Other minor characters, such as the witch to be burned (played by Maud Hannsen) and the church painter (played by Gunnar Olsson) all make memorable moments, which can sometimes be darkly comical or deeply shocking. Bergman's casting of the performers is superb, and of course the performance of Bengt Ekerot as Death is a hauntingly wonderful one. With the pitch black robe, hairless pure white face, with an elegant yet strong presence in cadence and movement shows power that is not evil, but of grace and strength.

The story plays very much like an RPG in gaming terms. A journey between main characters in which they meet others along the way, some of which join the party on the journey, events happening in towns, and of course battles every so often - in this case chess mostly, but there are some other fights such as when Jön slashes the eyes of rapist Raval (played by Bertil Anderberg) in the tavern in a quite shocking scene. If "The Seventh Seal" was actually made into a video game, it would be quite an interesting turn, although one would hope there could a different ending than one the film provides... As it shows, the film influenced more than just cinema but the everything in the world of media with its storytelling techniques, visuals, and sound effects. The striking visual imagery of framing faces of subjects not facing each other, the stationary camerawork, as well as existential dialogue sequences, shocking sound effects to enhance scares are all elements that not only signified the film but went on to influence countless audience members worldwide. It might be hard to find works that were not influenced by the film in this day and age, from comedies to horror and more. Even if one had not seen "The Seventh Seal", they might have at least seen a work that took direct inspiration from it, whether it was "Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey" (1991) in which the character of Death challenges the lead characters in a game to take their souls, "Last Action Hero" (1993) in which a crowded theater shows "The Seventh Seal" on screen and Death emerges from the movie screen, played by Ian McKellen of all people. From the bunny in "Donnie Darko" (2001) being indirectly an influence of the Death figure, to "Minority Report" (2002) having a scene in which Von Sydow's character meets a dark cloaked figure, the homages are far and wide. Not to mention there are countless instances the film and Bergman were referenced in "Mystery Science Theater 3000", "The Muppet Show", "Family Guy", Monty Python works, etc. shows that it was an easy target for parodies and comedies. The brilliant original trailer for "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" has an excellent reenactment of the chess playing scene on the coast, only to be broken by a pie in the face and is not in the final film at all. Sometimes the parodies are out as a cheap shot to criticize the seriousness and pretentiousness of the film and Bergman's other works, yet there are others that are genuine works of gratitude towards the eye-opening works.

"The Seventh Seal" is an interesting work that can be interpreted in various ways depending on the audience. Some will see it as a dark film that is pessimistic, as it criticizes organized religion, has the moral of death being inevitable. Others may see it as a cynical film that shows the absurdities of life and death and everything in between. Some will see it as an optimistic work, as it shows characters seeing the true joys of life, from performance art to enjoying time with family and friends. When the film was made and released in 1957, World War II ended only twelve years before and the ongoing Cold War was on the minds of people around the world, especially in Europe. Filmgoers of the period would have seen the film through the eyes of the postwar as the main character of Antonius Block would have also experienced, and seen the friendship as well as distrust for others as seen with some of the supporting characters as reflections of their own lives. As the current world in 2021 is living and coping through a new pandemic with COVID-19, it is also interesting to see the film and relate to the atrocities of the Bubonic Plague that the film has in its background. The arrest, torture and killing of the woman who was claimed to be a witch in the film is a shocking moment, and can only evoke many people's thoughts with the Black Lives Matter movement, and the many people that were killed or unjustly convicted by the authorities. More than six decades after the film was released, there are echoes of the past that continue to reflect the present in thought provoking and lamenting ways.

Bergman shot the film on a schedule of 35 days on location and in studio sets with a very small budget of $150,000. Considering that all the location footage had to be rural, such as the opening sequence in Hovs Hallar and the full on period costumes, this is an amazing feat. Many of the other outdoor sequences were actually filmed right in Stockholm, but having the cameras away from the modern buildings to create the illusion of the middle ages. Bergman has stated jokingly that zooming in towards the distance of some of the forest scenes would reveal modern apartment complexes, as the cast and crew were never too far from modern conveniences and housing. A miniscule budget in comparison to the lavish Technicolor and widescreen works that were dominating the Hollywood landscape and around the world, "The Seventh Seal" was like the polar opposite of with the rest of the world, as well as with Bergman's own works in the past. It is indeed a very personal film for the director, as the themes are very true to his own life as he put his fear of death, the questioning of authority and religion, and joys of love and life onto the screen in a direct form. Each of the characters also represent a part of him, with both Antonius and Jön is both his serious and comical side, the acting troupe representing his own troupe of actors both on stage and screen, and even Death is a part of him - a figure with a strict vision of control. Knowing about Bergman's personal life at the time and his previous works will give further insight into the themes of the production, but the film works just as well without the details. For many getting into world cinema, "The Seventh Seal" is usually the first Bergman film a person would watch as it is basically the gateway film for the director's works. It firmly establishes his aesthetics through visuals and themes, and is the pinnacle of existential cinema. One would think he could not possibly top the film, but Bergman would deliver yet another existential masterpiece with "Wild Strawberries" just a few month later at the end of 1957.

While the film did not have a big reception in his native Sweden, the film was instantly hailed as a masterpiece around the world. It won the Jury Special Prize and was nominated for the Palme d'or at the Cannes Film Festival, became an arthouse sensation in cinemas worldwide, and continued to be watched and studied by film theorists, critics, students, and audiences for decades onward. It is not a film that gives easy answers, nor does it please everyone who watches it. But that's what makes it a rewatchable masterpiece.

Note this is a region ALL 4K UHD Blu-ray and region B standard Blu-ray set


The BFI presents the film on the 4K UltraHD format in the 1.37:1 aspect ratio in 2160p HEVC with Dolby Vision, compatible with HDR10, and on the standard Blu-ray in the 1.37:1 aspect ratio in 1080p AVC MPEG-4. The film was digitally restored in 4K by the Swedish Film Institute in 2018 from the 35mm original negative. The film has been in very good shape in the many incarnations on home video over the years considering its age. This 4K restoration is excellent as to be expected, but it is not perfect. On the positive side, the black and white image looks splendid with crisp grey levels. From indoor to outdoor locations, the image looks crisp with faces, costumes, props, and scenery being finely detailed in the transfer. There are some damage marks still visible at times but they are extremely minimal, with some tramline marks and scratches being almost invisible and never intrusive.

An odd note though is with the opening sequence which a slight concern. The silent opening credits sequence with the names crossfading under silence looks to be digital stillframes rather than running film elements, so grain and damage marks are completely still. In addition, the background is dark grey rather than true black. Once the clouds and bird come into view as the first two shots of the film, there is a bit of image distortion with telecine wobble and warping. Thankfully a few seconds later, the film looks absolutely wonderful, and continues without major issues after that.

In comparison to the 2006 2K restoration that was available on previous Blu-ray releases, the opening credits were with pitch black backgrounds, and there was no issue with the opening shot of the clouds having warping issues. So why did it become an issue with the newer restoration? Another difference is the 4K restoration restoring the full title of the film "Det sjunde inseglet" to open the film. For some reason on the 2006 restoration it became "Sjunde inseglet", leaving an awkward space on the left side as the title wasn't centered on the frame. In addition, the 30 second restoration credits and film credits at the end of the film for the 2006 restoration have been removed, leaving the original fade to black ending for the 4K restoration.

Another difference is that the 4K restoration is framed at the 1.37:1 Academy aspect ratio. the 2K restoration is framed at the standard TV broadcast aspect ratio of 1.33:1. Depending on the scene, there is actually less information on the screen in the new transfer, with the bottom of the frame being slightly cut off on most shots. There are some instances where there is more image available in the newer restoration on the left and right sides of the screen, so there is some inconsistency with the new framing. Nothing too distracting. and most likely not noticeable for viewers unless the transfers are side by side.

The film's runtime is 96:19 on both discs.


Swedish LPCM 1.0
The original mono track is presented uncompressed on both discs. The sound was restored from a 17.5mm magnetic tape element. Like the image, the soundtrack has also been restored. Thankfully the film has never had a major issue with the soundtrack over the years and the original elements have been kept in very good shape. The on set dialogue sounds excellent with no issues with fidelity or synchronization. Music may sound a little flat due to the limitations of the mono track, but still sound accurate and well balanced with the effects and dialogue. There are no instances of hiss, pops, crackle, or other anomalies sounding very crisp and clear throughout.

There are optional English subtitles in a white font that are well timed, easy to read, and without errors.


This is a 4K UHD Blu-ray and standard Blu-ray dual format release, with the film in 4K and some extras on the 4K disc and the film in 1080p and extras on the standard Blu-ray. Note that the Blu-ray includes one additional extra that is not on the 4K disc.

DISC ONE (4K UHD Blu-ray)

Audio commentary by film critic Kat Ellinger
In this newly recorded commentary by critic Kat Ellinger, she talks quite a bit about Bergman's career at this time period, his personal life with his new relationship with Andersson, the Bergman troupe of cast and crew, art imitating life on screen with Bergman's own fears towards death, the folk horror aspect, the comedic touches and more. Ellinger does admit Bergman is one of her top two favorite filmmakers, and also admits that her introduction to "The Seventh Seal" came from "Bill and Ted" which is nothing to be ashamed about. She does tend to focus a bit heavily on Bergman himself, and not a lot on the making of the film itself, or with biographies on the many performers. There is the notion of the film being only 97 minutes and there is a lot to of topics that could be discussed so one commentator would have to pick and choose the topics to be discussed here. Ellinger does a good job, but maybe some time could have been divided better with more film centered topics.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

Behind the Scenes Footage with commentary by film scholar Ian Christie (14:50)
Presented here is 8mm film from 1956, which features Bergman and the cast and crew on location in Hovs Hallar on the southern coast of Sweden scouting locations, behind the scenes footage with set construction that were surprisingly close to modern buildings around the corner, and more. The silent footage comes with commentary from Ian Christie, who narrates about the footage as well as gives some insights into the production and the themes. Note this extra was previously available on the UK Palisades Tartan DVD and Blu-ray releases.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33;1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

Original Theatrical Trailer (2:44)
The original Swedish trailer is presented here. There is expected damage marks on the image and some crackly audio, but completely servicable. The trailer has also been embedded below.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in Swedish Dolby Digital 1.0 with optional English subtitles

DISC TWO (Blu-ray)
The standard Blu-ray repeats the commentary, behind the scenes, and trailer from the above disc.

Audio commentary by film critic Kat Ellinger
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

Behind the Scenes Footage with commentary by film scholar Ian Christie (14:50)
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33;1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

"Karin's Face" 1986 short (14:32)
Karin Åkerblom was born on November 4th, 1889 in Hedemora Sweden. She married Erik Bergman in 1913 and gave birth to their son Ingmar in 1918. She died on March 13th, 1966 at the age of 76. In 1984, Ingmar Bergman made a short film to commemorate the life of his mother in the simplest form, by using photographs from family albums to chronicle her life from childhood, all the way to her passport photo, taken only a few months before her death. There is no narration, but instead a few intertitles, so "Karin's Face" is not a full on biography, but instead a visualization of glimpses into her life, beautifully arranged with a great minimal piano score. This short was digitally restored by the Swedish Film Institute in 2016 from the original 35mm CRI negative and the 17.5mm magnetic mono element. Note this extra was previously available on the UK Palisades Tartan DVD and Blu-ray releases, with an older transfer.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33;1, Music Dolby Digital 2.0 with Swedish intertitles and optional English subtitles

Original Theatrical Trailer (2:44)
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in Swedish Dolby Digital 1.0 with optional English subtitles

Included in the first pressing is a 12 page booklet. First is the essay "To the Final Drop: The Seventh Seal" by critic Jessica Kiang, discussing the themes, the reception, and the timelessness of the film. There are also full film credits, special features information, transfer information, acknowledgements and stills.

Theatrical Trailer

BFI Player introduction by Mark Kermode

"How's it hanging Death? - Ingmar Bergman's effect on pop culture" video essay

The film has been released in multiple countries on home video in the past, but this marks the first time for the film to be released on the 4K UltraHD Blu-ray format. The 2018 4K restoration was first made available on standard Blu-ray in the United States by The Criterion Collection in their massive "Ingmar Bergman's Cinema" boxset, released in November 2018. All other previous releases utilized the 2006 2K restoration of the original negative by the Swedish Film Institute. (There is a Brazilian Blu-ray released earlier this year by Versátil Home Video which may be using the 4K restoration transfer, but it is unconfirmed.)

In the UK, Palisades Tartan first issued the film on the Blu-ray format in 2007. As mentioned above, it had the short "Karin's Face", the behind the scenes footage with commentary by Christie and the trailer as extras, with Dolby Digital mono audio in Swedish and a dubbed English track. In 2021, "The Seventh Seal" is now being issued by the BFI in two editions: a standalone 4K UltraHD Blu-ray + standard Blu-ray format as well as the standard Blu-ray being part of the 5-disc 8-film "Ingmar Bergman Volume 2 boxset. The BFI release ports over all of the extras that were on the Palisades Tartan Blu-ray, upgrades the audio to uncompressed mono, has a restored version of "Karin's Face", and adds a new commentary track. The English dub is missing, but that is more of a curiosity piece than anything else. The only new extra is the commentary track. In comparison to other Blu-ray editions released worldwide (such as the US Criterion and the French/German Studio Canal releases), the number and length of extras offered here might be on the shorter side, but they are still of great quality nonetheless.


The packaging mistakenly states the behind the scenes extra is only on the Blu-ray, but is in fact on the 4K Blu-ray as well. It also mentions that the commentary for the footage by Christie is optional (as does the booklet) but it is not.


"The Seventh Seal" continues to question, haunt, and captivate audiences worldwide more than sixty years after its release, and will continue to do so for future generations. The BFI's very first 4K UltraHD release has a great transfer of the newly restored version of the film with a good selection of extras in the set, including a new commentary track. Highly recommended.

The Film: A+ Video: A Audio: A Extras: B Overall: A-


Rewind DVDCompare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to,,,,, and . As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.