A black and white Swedish movie about a knight playing chess with Death while the Black Plague affects a bunch of other people. It’s a beautifully shot film, each frame carefully arranged, gorgeous use of contrast and shadow. But my favourite thing about this movie is the script, it’s full of such beauty and philosophy, it’s riveting.
It’s one of those seminal films that I suspect very few people have seen but you have seen homages to. The Death in Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey is certainly based on this film. The Christian procession is copied in Monty Python’s Holy Grail, apparently there’s a Death chess scene too but I haven’t seen it yet so we’ll see.
I watched this instead of gaming with Nick and Dan. When this speech was made:
Antonius Block: I want to confess as best I can, but my heart is void. The void is a mirror. I see my face and feel loathing and horror. My indifference to men has shut me out. I live now in a world of ghosts, a prisoner in my dreams.
..Dan said ‘I feel you bro’.
The line “of course, you always sit on your own arse” had an impact on me. It just seems to true.
The character on the screen smacked a bug which was attacking him just as my automated fly spray thing went off, lovely coincidence there.
There’s a particularly striking sequence with the players performing for a small village, one of them sneaking off to be with a pretty girl behind a bush, when their nonsense song is interrupted by a Christian procession. It’s the ultimate of party-pooping. A massive ‘remember you’re gonna die of plague’, religious ecstasy and self flagellation and that’s really going to ruin the mood of the play.
As the Knight, Antonius collects more companions so do they witness more and more nastiness from the people and the world around him. The character of Death also becomes more and more prevalent – from hiding as a priest to actively killing a named character. There’s some very good inhuman acting from the guy who plays Death, I liked him a lot.
Does it make me love the people? It does yes. I was onside with Antonius Block pretty fast, Nick really liked his squire Jons and his sass. It was very upsetting when he told the woman he’d just saved from a grave robber that even though he kissed her without her wanting it, at least he didn’t rape her. He said something like ‘I’m sick of that kind of love, it always runs dry’. Very upsetting! But he is generally a good guy, he saves the actor Jof from the horrible torment of the people in the tavern.
With just a few words it makes me love the witch. It’s an incredibly clever film.
Bechdel test: There are lots of women with names … but they only talk to mens.
Jons, the squire just went to talk to a person who turned out to be dead.
Antonius Block: did he indicate the way?
“Do you have any schnapps? I’ve been drinking water all day.”
State of Mind: As Dan pointed out, it’s sort of an earlier version of Final Destination – Antonius and Jons intervened in the lives of people who should have died and at the end when Death finishes his chess game with Antonius, he collects them all. It’s a very strange, beautiful film with some very upsetting/unpleasant sequences. I enjoyed it a lot, but I’m not too sure how quickly I’d watch it again.
and because I’m a terrible person…
Twenty minutes into chess and chill, and he gives you this look: