The 50 Movies Project is a personal “marathon” of mine. In June, I compiled a list of 50 movies that I felt I needed to see by the end of the year. Old, new, foreign, English — it doesn’t matter. These are all movies that I have heard a lot about and have been wanting to see for some time. This project gives me a way to stay focused on the goal.
The Seventh Seal [1957, Ingmar Bergman]
Starring Max von Sydow, Gunnar Björnstrand and Bengt Ekerot.
Before watching this, I was slightly apprehensive that I would not like The Seventh Seal. I had heard remarks from others that it was “boring”, “pretentious” and “too slow”. I shouldn’t have listened to these criticisms, especially since I rather enjoyed Wild Strawberries, an earlier Bergman film in my project. The Seventh Seal digs deep into religious and philosophical themes, but this is accomplished in a way that is also thoroughly entertaining.
The basic concept is that a medievil knight (von Sydow) plays a game of chess against Death (Ekerot) in order to save his life. While they play, the knight and his squire Jöns (Björnstrand) travel across the land as the Black Death causes thousands to die around them. Along the way, they meet a fun-loving acting troupe (who bring some much-welcomed comic relief), and this newfound group sets off to find their way to safety. The knight struggles with the impending death all around him, including his own life, and begins to ask questions regarding faith, religion and the existence of God. The subject matter is heavy, and this is easily one of the more thought-provoking films I have seen recently. I feel I am only scratching the surface of this film’s true value, as subsequent viewings should bring new meaning to some of the discussions presented. Don’t let the modern criticisms deter you from seeing The Seventh Seal — it is still a rewarding film today, even if it is a tad slow. 8.5/10
Schindler’s List [1993, Steven Spielberg]
Starring Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes and Ben Kingsley.
There was a reason this was the last movie I watched for this project. As much as I knew I *needed* to see Schindler’s List, I wasn’t exactly eager to because of the horrific subject matter. It still blows my mind that the Holocaust happened just seventy years ago, and it’s hard to fathom that something like that could even happen. Schindler’s List shows the atrocities of all of this, never batting an eye to the random acts of murder and disgusting violence. This film is very hard to watch for this reason, even though it is superbly made.
I loved Spielberg’s decision to make this black & white, as it feels more natural to the time period. This move also gave him the ability to masterfully use the color red twice during the film to signify a deeper meaning, and to show color scenes at the very beginning and end. The trio of Neeson, Fiennes and Kingsley are all imminently rewarding in their roles, with Fiennes playing one of the most despicable men in all of history to perfection. It is impossible not to hate this man and his disgusting behavior. The three hour runtime is never a burden, and the movie certainly did not feel anywhere near that long. While Schindler’s List is not something I would ever want to watch again, it is an exceptionally well-made film that documents one of the worst time periods in history. 9/10
This completes the project! It has been a wild ride, and I will be doing an extended wrap-up of the project next week. Happy New Year!