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Ingmar And Monty

August 24, 2007

In the wake of Ingmar Bergman's demise a few weeks ago at the end of July, I've decided to rent the Swedish director's entire film cannon (or whatever films of his I can obtain on NetFlix.) I watched the first on my list a few nights ago -- The Seventh Seal.

It's been years since I last saw this film, which won at Cannes and made a star of its director. Perhaps Bergman's passing is weighing heavy on me, for the thing that struck me most about it upon this viewing was the figure of Death.

I've carried around the well-known image of the pale-faced man in the long black robes with the scythe for a long time. What I didn't realize up until now was quite how much the Monty Python team lifted from the movie for the "salmon mousse" scene in The Meaning of Life. It's uncanny. The scythe-wielding personage of Death isn't the only direct lift from the Bergman's film. The scene in which Death finally catches up with the knight (played by Max Von Sydow), his wife, squire and a few other hangers on also prefigures the Python skit. You see the group get up and simply fall under Death's spell. They calmly walk out of the room and then you see a long shot of them all walking towards their doom in the distance -- tiny figures holding hands against the skyline.

Both the Pythons and Bergman thought that Death was everywhere and understood its simplicity. It still feels strange to watch those death scenes in The Seventh Seal. There's no horror attached to them. People just leave the room when it's time for them to go.

Next up: Wild Strawberries.

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