The Seventh Seal – “Have mercy on us, because we are small and frightened and ignorant.”

I got Hulu Plus a few months ago when I heard that the Criterion Collection was going to be available on it.  I thought that I would finally have ready access to a great set of movies that I could watch any time.  In all this time I’ve watched only three Criterion movies, not because they aren’t good, but mostly I just use Hulu to keep up with the Daily Show and Modern Family.

I broke my streak a couple weeks ago when I watched The Seventh Seal, and it provided enough to think about that I thought I’d try to get some thought in order.  The movie is over fifty years old, but I’ll go ahead and warn that there will be spoilers, although the trailer for the movie itself is a giant spoiler.

The premise of the movie is that a knight and his squire have returned home from the Crusades, home they find is ravaged with plague and rife with religious zealotry (the self mutilation fellows from the Da Vinci Code).  In this setting the knight meets Death, who has come to claim him.  Death turns out to be a chess aficionado and the knight challenges him to a game under the mutual agreement that the knight gets to live until the game is over.  The game subsequently goes on for most of the movie.

I knew the movie only by the reputation of the knight and Death playing chess when I first decided to watch this movie.  I literally thought that the movie was just going to be the chess game and a philosophical discussion between the knight and Death.  Thankfully, that was not the case, though it probably informs you about how odd (boring) my movie choices are if I had no problem with the premise I presumed.

I identified with the knight in the movie, though he was one of the least interesting characters to me.  He is prolonging his life, for no clear purpose except so that he can go on living.  He’s come back from the Crusades and while he was there his faith in God was shaken.  It’s not that he’s an atheist, it’s just that he doesn’t think that God is listening.  He speaks to a woman who claims to see Satan and asks how he can see him too, because he reasons that if anyone can tell him about God it would be the devil.

From a strictly Christian standpoint one should realize that the devil will only tell you what it is to his benefit for you to hear.  From a pragmatic standpoint, you can’t trust the fellow anyway because he’s not going to have a very unbiased opinion of the almighty being that sent him to eternal damnation.  So, I don’t think that the knight found a good solution, but I think I know how he feels.  At the end of a movie he sends the prayer in the title of this post up. like most of the prayers he offers I think he feels that he is just throwing a rock up into the air, and for all the good of the offering it may as well have just landed right back onto the ground.

The character of the Squire, Jons, is a great character.  Where the knight has sunk in on himself and makes the central philosophical questions, Jons provides black humor for the movie and postulates some of his own ideas constantly, as he advises the blacksmith whose wife has left him, he loves giving advice.  He’s also the only one who goes into the villages and mingles with the people, while the knight stays aloof thinking about God.  It’s always the luxury of the affluent to be able to think while those who have something to say also have to do the work.

There are also some actors, but they really didn’t interest me as characters, so here are some lines from Jons, if watching foreign films is your thing then I think The Seventh Seal is a good one to watch.

“Our crusade was such madness that only a real idealist could have thought it up.”

“Love is as contagious as a cold. It eats away at your strength, morale… If everything is imperfect in this world, love is perfect in its imperfection. ”

“It’s hell with women, and hell without. Best to kill them all while the fun lasts.”

“Only fools die of love.”

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One Response to The Seventh Seal – “Have mercy on us, because we are small and frightened and ignorant.”

  1. Chris says:

    These quotes are rocking!

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