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The Seventh Seal (4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review)

REVIEW OVERVIEW

The Film
The Video (Overall)
HDR Effect
The Audio
The Supplements
Overall

SUMMARY

Weary knight Anthonious Block (Max von Sydow) returns from the Crusades, and has lost his faith in God and questions the meaning of life. He squares off against Death in a chess match for his soul in this Ingmar Bergman classic wonderfully upgraded in 4K.

Ingmar Bergman’s international breakthrough, The Seventh Seal, is a film that effortlessly crosses genre boundaries in perhaps a way that only a European arthouse film, or more particularly, a Scandinavian filmmaker of that time could. Successfully combining allegory, horror, drama and the surreal, this film has an accessibility that other European arthouse films of the times didn’t quite obtain and it continues to be imitated to this day.

This 1957 film follows the journey of the disillusioned knight Antonius Block (played with magnificent gravitas by Max von Sydow) returning from the Crusades. Worn down by ten years of war and plague, Block finds himself questioning the meaning of life, death, and the very existence of God, as he engages in a chess match with Death himself (Bengt Ekerot), garbed in traditional black robe and pale white face, Block’s soul in the balance.

The rest of the film is a spellbinding journey of cinematic brilliance and visual symbolism that must be seen, experienced, preferably multiple times, to get the full impact of Bergman’s film.

The Video

The Seventh Seal comes to 4K Ultra HD in a 1.37:1 framed HEVC 2160p (4K UHD) encodement with Dolby Vision HDR from a restoration of a 4K scan of the original 35mm camera negative carried out by the Swedish Film Institute. What we see in this transfer is a very refined level of film grain, a three-dimensional level of shadow detail and contrast between the inky blacks and bright whites that adds a stark level of dynamism to the visual presentation. Facial features, such as the wrinkles on Max von Sydow’s brow are well preserved, as are the textures on clothing.

The Audio

The original monaural soundtrack is included here in LPCM 1.0. It has good clarity, dynamics, and separation of sound effects with little to no crackle, hiss, or pops.

The Supplements

  • Blu-ray with feature film and bonus features (see marked below)
  • Audio commentary on The Seventh Seal by film critic and editor-in-chief of Diabolique magazine Kat Ellinger (2021)
  • Audio commentary by film scholar Ian Christie (Blu-ray only)
  • Rare behind the scenes footage from The Seventh Seal, featuring commentary by film scholar Ian Christie (1080p; Dolby Vision; 00:14:50)
  • Karin’s Face (1984, 15 mins): Ingmar Bergman’s short film based on pictures from his personal photo album, particularly those of his mother, Karin (Blu-ray only)
  • Original Trailer (1080p; Dolby Vision)
  • Booklet featuring the essay, “To the Final Drop: The Seventh Seal,” by Jessica Kiang, as well as information on the transfer and credits.

The Final Assessment

This is a magnificent upgrade of a classic. BFI’s transfer and the Swedish Film Institute’s restoration deserve every accolade and to be on the shelf of all serious cinephiles and collectors.

The Seventh Seal is out on 4K Ultra HD Combo in the UK November 1, 2021 from BFI


  • Rating Certificate: UK:15
  • Studios & Distributors: Svensk Filmindustri (SF) | BFI
  • Director: Ingmar Bergman
  • Written By: Ingmar Bergman (play “Trämålning”)
  • Run Time: 96 Mins.
  • Street Date: 1 November 2021
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
  • Video Format: HEVC 2160p (4K UHD)
  • HDR Format: Dolby Vision (HDR10 Compatible)
  • Primary Audio: Swedish LPCM 1.0
  • Subtitles: English
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