A Pictorial History of the Movies: 1957 – The Seventh Seal

1957 was always gonna be a tough year. Even when you look at the Oscars, the two main films there were Bridge on the River Kwai and 12 Angry Men. Picking between those two is pretty tough.

Plus, you have other films that were big in 1957 like Peyton Place, or Sayonara, or even Elvis with Jailhouse Rock. I feel like a lot of these films were exemplary, but none of them really defined 1957.

And since we’ve been skewing pretty cultural for the past few years, I feel like we needed one where we really focused on film history.

So on that level, why wouldn’t I choose The Seventh Seal?

The Seventh Seal is just a brilliant concept. A man plays chess with Death to decide his fate. And the movie turns into such a delight. Bergman said it was uneven, but dear to him. Which I like. When someone calls a masterpiece “not my best, but still, I love it.” Though I feel like that always seems to happen.

But anyway, the movie is iconic, and to me, that stands out among everything else 1957 has to offer.

This is a time when world cinema is emerging. It’s no longer just Hollywood having a stranglehold on the marketplace. Now there’s an international market for film, and films can be put out that translate to the entire world. This is a good representation of that.

Plus the film is iconic. It’s regularly called one of the greatest films ever made, and established Bergman as one of the great auteurs of cinema. And, honestly, that’s the reason this was my choice for 1957. Sometimes the strength of an image outweighs everything else. Because a man playing chess with Death is one of the iconic moments in life. Not just film history. How many times have we seen this parodied? It’s one of those images where, you know it, even if you don’t know where it’s from. I’m pretty sure I could have picked this image out in elementary school, that’s how ubiquitous it has become.

It’s an endlessly fascinating movie, but it’s the images in the film that stand out to me as making it a better choice than anything else. Honestly you can look at all the other choices from this year but when you get down to it this image transcends all of them. And the why this is the choice. Sometimes it’s just that simple.

Also, best dance party ever.

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