Ten Year Old Child Begs for Bergman’s "Seventh Seal" (Don’t They All)

I’m not big on Bergman. Yes, I’ve got “Bergman on Bergman” on the shelf but that’s from my late teens and early twenties.

However H.o.p. came across Bergman’s Seventh Seal I don’t know but a couple weeks ago he brought it up.

“What’s The Seventh Seal?” he asked.

Yes, I watch great movies with H.o.p. H.o.p. introduced me to great animation. I, in turn, have introduced him to great films and great trash films (suitable for his age and because I’m just that benevolent and wonderful) since he was little. I want him prepared for those film courses at whatever college/university he may end up attending. I want him to have a nice foundation in some of the classics. When he’s interested (and he tends to be interested) we watch Kurosawa and Fellini and Goddard and Antonioni and De Sica and Chaplin and Kubrick and Altman and…well, you get the idea…but I’ve never even brought up Bergman’s name so I, of course, thought H.o.p. was talking about a marine animal.

“Seals? You mean like in the sea?” I asked, uncomprehending.

“It’s a movie,” H.o.p. said.

“You mean…Ingmar Bergman’s Seventh Seal?”

“Yeah! That’s it!” H.o.p. said, all excited. “Can I see it? I want to see it!”

We checked our Blockbuster. They didn’t have it. So I put it in the Netflix queue. Then last night Marty walked in with a DVD from the bookstore.

We ate dinner then settled around the television with H.o.p. to watch The Seventh Seal.

I saw a lot of comedy this time around that I didn’t catch when I was 18, and I probably haven’t seen this film since I was 18. Right from the beginning, when Death gets the black chess pieces and says that black’s a good color for him. I thought, “Hey, that’s a poke in the ribs?”

A good deal of the film needed explaining to H.o.p. as he’s not up on his bible lore, has a barely marginal acquaintance with Christianity and knows nothing about religious sadomasochistic humiliation and atonements. This is the child who, upon seeing a crucifix for the first time, thought it was a bizarre totem pole. H.o.p. believes in the Great Spirit but has no idea why people would think whatever that spirit is would desire to punish them.

H.o.p. wasn’t raised on a diet of man falling from god’s grace, the punishment for the bite of knowledge or worrisome tales of a god that desires to kill his creation by flooding it off the face of the earth. Instead he’s been raised on the great cycle of life, the interrelatedness of all things, respect, the golden rule, the mysterious nature of electricity…and trickster stories (ever his favorites). We talk about myths and legends and how their purest essences speak to something in the psyche, and how they have been carried through the ages by people and institutions who have fleshed them out with a good bit of craziness for their own purposes.

When H.o.p. is an adult if he ends up on the psychiatrist’s couch I won’t mind if it he’s having to deal with his mom being a total basket case of a human. I can be the villain. What I don’t want is his having to spend decades fighting through a childhood inculcation of the insanity of religion putting the fear of god in him with terrors of a lost soul. I didn’t want him to have to waste time sorting out if a man named Jesus Christ actually lived or not. I didn’t want him growing up thinking any religion’s cultural or political controls were eternal truths. I wanted his brain as free and clear as possible in that respect.

We’re heathens.

When we were at the Metro Museum of Art in New York, at one point H.o.p. came and pulled me to the side, very concerned. We were in the gothic religious art area and he was wanting to know why his grandmother (who had just given him an illustrated book of children’s bible stories for Christmas, which she politely balanced out by giving him also a book of Greek myths) kept talking to him in the museum about “the Jews killing that guy on the cross”. He didn’t understand it at all and he didn’t want to hear it.

H.o.p.’s father’s mother is a faithful, well-meaning Baptist who is concerned with his salvation. Among her proud stories are Marty being a tot and the first word he spelled being b-i-b-l-e and that he accepted Jesus in an altar call at the age of five.

The first word H.o.p. spelled, at about the age of three, was b-u-l-l-s-h-i-t. He had learned it via a much beloved Tommy Dean tune and would sing it out with wholehearted glee.

It has followed through with H.o.p. not liking anyone telling him how to think and do things. He thinks it’s bullying. This is innate with him, though I suppose I’ve nurtured it in part, and yes there are times when it can be crazy-making.

Of course, you can’t watch Fellini without discussing religion and we’ve spent quite a bit of time talking about Juliette’s release of the child from the fiery theatrical pyre of the church in Juliette of the Spirits. But Bergman’s Seventh Seal takes it all up a notch.

H.o.p. viewed the movie with the eyes of someone who has been raised to believe in the great cycle of life, and his responses were interesting, sometimes surprising.

He enjoyed The Seventh Seal. He gave it two big thumbs up, in particular liking the costumed performance of the actors.

Here’s his very straightforward review: “It was so fabulous. It just was. The acting was great. It had an amazing plot. Lots was great about it. I can’t even say it all. It was awesome.”

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Juli Kearns

Juli Kearns is the author of Thunderbird and the Ball of Twine and Unending Wonders of a Subatomic World (or) In Search of the Great Penguin. She is also an artist/photographer, and the person behind the web alter of "Idyllopus Press".

2 thoughts on “Ten Year Old Child Begs for Bergman’s "Seventh Seal" (Don’t They All)”

  1. I watched the Seventh Seal recently and like you, noticed some of the wonderfully dark humour. I agree with H.o.p – it is an awesome film – cinematography, acting and the sheer scope of the plot make it worth a viewing. MrP did a review on my blog actually – though we didn’t watch it together.

    My children are heathens too.

  2. I assumed that they were. 😉 Heathen children have such a refreshing view on life.

    Will check out the Seventh Seal review.

    I know I enjoyed it much more this time around, less clouded by teen awe.

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