“Disillusioned knight Antonius Block (Max von Sydow) and his nihilistic squire Jöns (Gunnar Björnstrand) return after fighting in the Crusades and find Sweden being ravaged by the plague. On the beach immediately after their arrival, the knight encounters Death (Bengt Ekerot), personified as a pale, black-cowled figure resembling a monk. The knight, in the middle of a chess game he has been playing alone, challenges Death to a chess match, believing that he can forestall his demise as long as the game continues. Death agrees, and they start a new game…

All scenes except two were shot in or around the Filmstaden studios in Solna. The exceptions were the famous opening scene with Death and the Knight playing chess by the sea and the ending with the dance of death, which were both shot at Hovs Hallar, a rocky, precipitous beach area in north-western Scania....

As it was written in a program note that accompanied the movie’s premier “It is a modern poem presented with medieval material that has been very freely handled…The script in particular—embodies a mid-twentieth century existentialist angst…”



Melvyn Bragg interviews Ingmar Bergman (1978)

On the seventh seal…

Melvyn Bragg

“The film starts with the knight on the shore playing chess and then death turns up rather like a monk, why is…”

Igmar Bergman

“Or a clown if you want it…”

Melvyn Bragg

“You decided to make him a man…rather than a presence?”

Igmar Bergman

“Yes Because that is the fascination and the majic of the stage or the cinema or the picture. I think it’s marvellous”.