Come Play With Me

The Seventh Seal (Swedish: Det sjunde inseglet) is a 1957 Swedish film written and directed by Ingmar Bergman. Set during the Black Death, it tells of the journey of a medieval knight (Max von Sydow) and a game of chess he plays with the personification of Death (Bengt Ekerot), who has come to take his life.

With thanks to Marcus Ranum ( for the use of the model

The film is considered a major classic of world cinema. It helped Bergman to establish himself as a world-renowned director and contains scenes which have become iconic through parodies and homages.

The representation of Death as a white-faced man in a dark cape who plays chess with mortals has been a popular object of parody in other films. One that is exclusively focused on Bergman is a 15-minute parody of Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberriesentitled De Düva (mock Swedish for “The Dove”), which contains a final scene in which the protagonist plays badminton with Death and Death is defeated when he is hit in the eye by the droppings of a passing dove. The photography imitates throughout the style of Bergman’s cinematographers Sven Nykqvist and Gunnar Fischer. The trailer to the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail also includes a game against Death being cut short, when the game of chess is interrupted by Death hitting the Knight’s face with a pie. In the BBC comedy The Young Ones series two episode “Nasty”, Death is shown playing chess and, upon realising he had lost, swats the chess pieces off the board in a fit of anger and annoyance, shouts ‘Bollocks to this!’ and promptly kills his opponent.

The idea of Death playing games other than chess was further parodied in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, in which he appears as a major character (played by William Sadler) who is beaten by the protagonists at Battleship, Clue, electric football and Twister. An episode of the television series The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy includes a similar theme, with Death becoming a major character tied to the main characters after they defeat him in a game of limbo. The 2001 Cinema Insomnia screening of The Seventh Seal included sketches in which the presenter and his co-host play chess while dressed as the film’s characters.

Woody Allen, an enormous fan of Ingmar Bergman , references his work in his serious dramas as well as his comedies, including Love and Death, a film which broadly parodies 19th-century Russian novels with a closing “Dance of Death” scene imitating Bergman. Allen has even written a short, one-act play entitled Death Knocks (published in Getting Even), in which he depicts a man playing Death at gin rummy.


One thought on “Come Play With Me

  1. Happy Hallowe’en, Mike! You might enjoy reading Jose Saramago’s “Death With Interruptions” where death sheds HER hooded cape, leaves the scythe propped in the corner, and assumes the guise of a pretty woman to personally deliver a death notice to a man, who falls in love with her. Mike: If providing this link feels like spam, please feel comfortable deleting it: Cheryl


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