Performance: Max Von Sydow in The Seventh Seal

Max Von Sydow

Antonious Block (Max Von Sydow) is the Knight who returns from the Crusades to only find Death waiting for him on his home soil, in Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal. One of many films that dealt with the question of mortality, god, and philosophy to come out in the post World War Two era.

Block delays his end by challenging Death to a game of chess. He puts up a noble fight, but the inevitability occurs and Death eventually wins the game. Block is able to spend one last evening with his wife and says a prayer before Death comes for him. The transitional state for Block from defiance/denial to acceptance shows the stages of him acknowledging his own fate.

Max Von Sydow gives a stoic albeit charismatic performance as Antonius Block and ranks as one of the actor’s best performances in a career that spans nearly 70 years. The nuanced and subtle facial movements by Sydow give us a glance into Block’s soul. These scenes are all the more powerful with the closeups utilized by Bergman. Sydow’s performance stands out in cinematic history as one of the most profound and lasting examples of human suffering.


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