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Wednesday May 22nd 2024

Det Sjunde Inseglet (The Seventh Seal)| 1957

The Seventh Seal filming location: Hovs Hallar, Sweden
The Seventh Seal location: the Knight meets Death on the beach: Hovs Hallar, Sweden | wikimedia / Bluescan sv.wiki

One of the most enduring icons of European arthouse cinema is that of Antonius Block (Max Von Sydow) playing chess with Death in Ingmar Bergman’s bleak period fable questioning religious faith, filmed in 35 days on a limited budget mainly in the studios at Rasunda, Sweden.

The journey of Medieval knight Block and his motley band across the plague-riddled countryside was filmed in countryside areas around Stockholm. The burning of the witch was staged in the park at Skytteholm, in Solna, a northwestern suburb of the city, with the illuminated windows of highrises just out of shot.

The opening scenes, of the knight and his dourly cynical squire Jons (Gunnar Bjornstrand) on the rocky beach beneath lowering cliffs and confronting Death (Bengt Ekerot) are Hovs Hallar in Skane Province, southwest Sweden.

Hovs Hallar is a nature reserve on the northern tip of the Bjäre Peninsula, about four miles northeast of the coastal town of Torekov. An area of geological interest, the impressive cliff faces are home to a variety of seabirds.

The site was used for the scene where Jof (Nils Poppe) and Mia (Bibi Andersson) offer Antonius wild strawberries, and for the closing scene as the couple witnesses the Dance of Death across the horizon.

The day's filming had been finished and several cast members already left for their hotel when director Bergman noticed a strikiing cloud formation above the hill. The silhouette, which went on to become one of the most famous images in cinema, was improvised with the reamining film crew and a couple of mystified tourists.

The image of a man playing chess with Death was inspired by a 15th Century mural by painter Albertus Pictor which you can see in Täby Church, Täby Municipality, in the province of Uppland north of Stockholm.

It's from The Seventh Seal that the image of Death moved into pop culture – getting a 'melvin' in Bill And Ted's Bogus Journey, and (played by Ian McKellen) emerging from the screen in John McTiernan’s Last Action Hero, with Arnold Schwartzenegger.