"It was a dangerous and delicate move, which could have failed," said Ingmar Bergman of his decision to depict Death incarnate in The Seventh Seal. To his relief, "nobody protested" when actor Bengt Ekerot appeared on a rocky beach, his face painted white, to be challenged to a game of chess by the knight (Max von Sydow) whose life he has come to take. "That," Bergman recalled in Images: My Life in Film, "made me feel triumphant and joyous."
Since then, the film's motifs, the chess game and the black-cowled Grim Reaper in particular, have been parodied relentlessly - albeit usually affectionately - in films ranging from Woody Allen's Love and Death to Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey, Monty Python's Meaning of Life and The Last Action Hero, as well as on TV by the likes of French and Saunders.
Settling down to watch the film for its 50th anniversary release, I wondered whether it was possible to take it seriously today.
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