Chess Game in a Movie

In the 1957 Swedish film The Seventh Seal, a man’s life depends on a game of chess. The title of the movie comes from the Book of Revelation in the Bible, although the film is not primarily Biblical. Many activities other than chess are depicted, especially regarding the European plague of a few centuries ago, but we’ll confine ourselves, in this movie, to the royal game. (We’ll use an English translation of some of the Swedish dialogue.)

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man on beach prays

A medieval knight, kneeling alone on a beach, prays to God

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man walks away from sea line

After prayer, he walks from the beach

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knight walks almost towards us

He has no idea what strange personage he will soon meet

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chess set appears in film "The Seventh Seal"

As the man walks past us, a chess set begins to appear

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on a beach is a chess set, in this 1957 film

The chess set begins to dissolve, as a strange personage appears

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Death stares at the man

Death stands on the beach

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knight by the chess set

(What the hay!)

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The stare of Death

There’s no getting around the stare of Death — This man’s life appears finished

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The man talks with death

“Wait a moment”

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The blank stare of Death

“They all say that”

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man asks Death a question“You play chess, don’t you?”

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Death says he plays chess well

“Yes, I’m actually quite a skillful chess player.”

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Man challenges Death to a chess game

“Not more so than me.” (Maybe he reads chess books)

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Death challenges the knight

But first, what are the consequences?

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Death accepts the man's terms

“If I beat you, then you set me free.” (Death agrees)

It looks like a friendly game of chess, with no money involved. Yet watch this movie to the end and you’ll see what happens to the knight. (No spoilers here)

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