Saturday, October 31, 2009


Just finished my 18th viewing, bladder full to bursting and stomach so empty it feels like it's gnawing on my intestines. Time to move up to the living room for lunch and viewing #19, and then I'll be able to relax until tonight as Cole's at work all day.

New diversion for staying awake during watching T7S: Pushups and crunches. I did 200 pushups yesterday, and over 500 crunches. This challenge may kill my social life with the exception of my opponent, but at least I'll be ripped by the time I finish!

Theory about Death

First of all, 17 viewings down, and I'll hopefully be able to get at least 2 more in today to catch up to Nicole, though if she's still sick enough to miss going out tonight she'll get at least 1-2 in and pass me again. I'm starting 18 as I type, but I had an epiphany during viewing 17 about why the whole group dies at the end.

Near the beginning Block and Jons come across a corpse, and one that obviously had died from the plague. What if Jons at that point caught the plague from that corpse? Sure, Block had already been marked for Death in the opening beach scene, but Death at that point showed no interest in also collecting the squire's soul, only the knight's. So if Jons contracts the plague at minute 7 when he touches the corpse's face, he passes it along to Raval when he either a) roughs him up and prevents the rape of the mute girl or b) when he cuts him and prevents the torture of Joff. That would explain why Raval dies of the plague later (sure, he dies a bit before Jons but Raval isn't as healthy as evidenced by his obvious poor hygene, and he doesn't have the protection of Block's chess match), and also why Joff is not effected during that scene because Jons never touches Joff, only Raval. Jons could then pass along the plague to the mute girl when he shares the milk with her, Block, Joff and Mia at mark 56:00. Joff and Mia, if you watch the scene, only drink from the milk bowl before Jons does, so they wouldn't be able to get the plague from any backwash. The mute girl does drink after Jons, however, and she could have caught it then.

Jons could then pass the plague to Plogg when he gets hugged by him after their drunken heart-to-heart at mark 60:00. Plogg would then pass it to Lisa when Lisa kisses him during their reunion and the "death" of Jonas Skat. The only death that doesn't make sense in this line of thought is that of Skat himself, but if you remember that his intention is to climb up the tree to take a nap, it's easily possible that he falls out of the tree and breaks his neck, or that the tree falls over in the wind with his added weight in the upper limbs. Death's appearance in that case would be justifiable and wouldn't need a connection to the plague.

I'm not sure if this theory will hold up over more careful scrutiny, but it bothers me that Death takes all of the group at the end of the movie when at the start he was only looking to take Antonius Block.

90 min in

Kurin, Block's wife, is reading from the Book of Revelations, the same passage that started the movie and details the ending of the world. I actually read a great book called Kingdom Come by Alex Ross about Superman and other DC comics heroes a few years ago and it references this passage fairly frequently, and even ties in with the last part that Kurin reads about the world-ending comet named "Wormwood". There's a secretary of defense in Kingdom Come named Wormwood, and in the book he's the one that gives the order to use nuclear weapons against rogue supers and nearly dooms the world to a holocaust. It's just a little strange to be connecting Superman to a 1957 black-and-white by way of the Book of Revelations.

So in the movie Death finally comes for Block, having won the chess game and ready to collect the souls of the crusader knight, Jons his squire, Lisa and the blacksmith Plogg, the mute girl, and finally Kurin, the knight's wife, who gets a REALLY raw deal in that she just met her husband for the first time in over 10 years and she has to die anyway. Joff and Mia have escaped however, and with their son Michael (the son "for which all things will be possible" according to Joff at the start of the movie, and an obvious Christ allegory) make their way into the sunset.

81 min in

I've got to be honest, when the mute girl runs for the water bag to give a drink to the dying Raval she really looks like my friend Leah. Like eerily similar. Like I think Leah might be a time traveler now.

If you watch the final chess moves between Block and Death there are two things to catch: 1) When Block knocks over his pieces to let Joff, Mia and Michael escape the king piece is broken. When Death sets the pieces back up the king piece is whole again, and 2) When Death does reset the pieces he puts them in different places, giving him a one-move checkmate of Block.

I guess at this point Block doesn't care that he's going to die because he's achieved his "one significant" act by saving Joff's family, but still...put up a fight at least. I mean, Death blatantly cheats.

4th creepiest exchange of the movie:

Block: And you will reveal all of your secrets to me?
Death: I have no secrets.
(camera zooms in on Death's black, lifeless eyes)
Block: So you know nothing?
(camera zooms in further, you see that Death has no white in his eyes, only blackness)
Death: I am...unknowing.

Max age check: 55, but I missed the scene where the witch is burned alive, and he's EASILY 75 there.

70 min in

Fun fact, when Death cuts down the tree that Jonas Skat is sleeping in a squirrel actually DID come and eat some of the sawdust. Another fun fact? Swedish squirrels look NOTHING like North American squirrels. They look more like skinny chipmunks with long thin tails. It's kind of strange to think about things like that when you're watching a movie this many times, but I might try and do a little research on the differences between Scandinavian and American Northeastern ground squirrels. Maybe it'll be research for the next Monty Python and the Holy Grail?

63 min in (on viewing 17)

Interesting here: in the subtitled presentation Jonas Skat thinks that Lisa's name is "Kunigunda", but in the dubbed version it's "Ariadne". I can't really figure out why they changed it. By reading Jon's lips you can easily tell that it's supposed to be Kunigunda.

So Plog confronts Jonas Skat and his cheating wife Lisa, Skat "disposes" of himself with the fake knife, and recaptures his wife. The irony of course is that Skat fakes his own death and then is immediately killed by Death as soon as the others leave. I guess it was just his time?

I finished viewing 14 back in the apartment last night, watched 15 last night, then watched 16 this morning at 8 when I woke up. I WILL catch up! Then again, on 5 hours of sleep I'm definitely hearing things. I could have sworn that my roommate talked to me in Swedish this morning.

Friday, October 30, 2009

58 min in

So I was wondering about this earlier, but basically Death and Block are playing a game of chess, and both are supposedly excellent players. We don't see how many moves each makes at the start, but it couldn't have been too many because here at the 58 min mark when they're playing again there are only a few pieces out of place. They actually only PLAY chess in one other scene in the movie, and (spoiler) Death wins in less than 3 moves in that instance.

So, is Block really bad, or are they just really really fast? Can you win a game in 6 moves? I don't know much about strategy in chess, but my games usually take at least a half an hour of solid move-making. Is Swedish chess different? Color me confused.

Also, I'm going to stop the live blog here at the hour mark because my battery is dying. I'll pick it up tomorrow morning at the same mark with (hopefully) viewing #16 or so. Cole just texted me and said she's started viewing #19, so I might have killed myself before then. Wish me luck!

52 min in

Third best exchange of T7S:

Joff: I was so angry, I roared like a lion!
Mia: Where they scared?
Joff: No, they just laughed.
Mia: Did you hit them?
Joff: I got angry...but I never got to that.

51 min in

Max age check: 45

44 min in

Fun fact, and this is true: All of the extras in the background of the scene in the inn where Joff gets tortured by Raval and forced to dance are retirees that Bergman plucked from a local senior home. Some truly awesome facial hair, but how disconcerting would that have been for these people? All super old, probably suffering from undiagnosed dementia and altzheimers, and they're plucked out of bed, dressed in medieval rags, taken to a medieval inn and served racks of ribs and beer. And then TAKEN BACK?? I'd be surprised if they even told the family members.

Gramps: I tell you, I was back in the middle ages! There was a pig on a spit, and mead, and a funny dancing man, and...
Grandkids: Of course there were. Orderly, has Gramps been taking his red pills?
Orderly: They can get a little funny with age lads. Don't you worry though, we'll take care of him.
(Grampa has "heart attack" later that day)

36min in

The second creepiest scene of T7S: During Jonas Skat's seduction by Lisa he blows in her ear and she laughs, except that the mikes didn't record the laugh, and instead they overlaid audio of a rooster crowing. That doesn't sound scary? Trust me, it is fucking terrifying. I instinctively curl into the fetal position every time I see that scene. I might watch it on mute for the next 20 times.

Oh yeah, and at 37min in Anders Eck's monk character basically insults an entire town and says that they're all going to die horrible deaths at any second. Dominus Ominus. My favorite is when he points at a pregnant woman and says "You, woman, your teeming flesh witness to your lust, will you wither and die before the sun sets tomorrow??" Fun fact! I learned a new Swedish word. Apparently "DAMNDA" means "damned". Tell your friends!

30 min in

I never want to meet Jons (played by Gunnar Bjornstrand) in a dark anything, let alone a dark house like the one he confronts the attempted rapist Raval in. He must be dead now, so yeah a corpse anywhere is gross, but the man is a HOUSE. He's at least six inches to a foot taller than Raval, and tosses him around like a rag doll before almost sawing through his throat. The fact that he's denied even a thank-you kiss from the girl for saving her in no way diminishes his manliness. He's almost Chase Utley-ish. 40% bulletproof mountain lion.

(Jons gets rebuffed for his kiss)
Jons: You know I could have raped you. I never really go in for that though. It's too dull at the end.
Mute girl: ...

And then the movie cuts back to Bibbi Andersson dancing seductively in a jester's outfit. How is this 1956 again?

23 min in

Okay, again with the Death thing. Here he is, responsible for killing over HALF of the population of Sweden during the years between 1400 and 1440 because of the Bubonic Plague, and he spends 20 solid minutes talking to one knight WHO HE'S ALREADY BACKED OUT OF KILLING ONCE. Forget mercy, that's just inefficient business economics. How does this guy still have a job?

Still though, the scene is excellently framed by Bergman and offers some laughs:

A Monk: So you don't want to die?
Antonius: I do!
The monk turns to the camera, revealing that he is, in fact, Death.
Death: Then what are you waiting for?

Ahh yes, that one had me rolling in the aisles, haha.

27min in: I have to mention that the witch is not only creepy as hell with her keening wail, but has a tremendous chest. No bra, and she apparently slept with the devil, but really...look at that. Sure, I blame her...but I don't blame the Devil.

...for that. The rest, yeah, he's not such a nice guy.

19min in

Max age check: 32 as he confesses to a "monk" who we see is actually Death. It must be the light.

12 min in

Bibbi Andersson, playing Mia (or Mary, in Swedish) is one of those people that make you wonder where all of the hot women were in the 1950s. If you watch most movies from then the "hot" actress looks like your grandmother after she's shaved. You see enough of that and you just assume that attractive people started being born around 1970 and that's that. Then you meet Bibbi Andersson, who in 1956 makes Heidi Klum look like a bag lady. This isn't "Audrey Hepburn beautiful" where she looks like a porcelain doll that would be great to hang clothes off of. This is mouth-drying, throat-clearing attractive. I'm seriously tempted to see if she has grandchildren (no luck).

9 min in

Scariest line of the movie, by Jons the squire: "Last night two horses devoured each other."

6 min in

So if Death was a real entity, and his job was to collect people's souls and send them to the netherworld, and he was thus obviously very busy, don't you think that he would have put up more of an argument to Antonius Block gaining a reprieve by virtue of a chess challenge? Basic conversation (I'm changing like 4 words here):

Death: I'm going to kill you.
Antonius: Can't you wait like 2 days?
Death: I'm too busy.
Antonius: I bet I'm better than you at chess.
Death: Okay, let's play 2 day long game of chess and if you win you live and if I win I get to do my job, which I'm expected to do even though I'm not paid.

Does Death have low self-esteem or something? It's like arguing with a blond.

Live Blog 10/30/09

Okay so here's the first post in the live blog feed from watching The Seventh Seal. I'm going to try and do at least 1 post per 15 minutes of the movie, plus some other ones when I get to a part I find particularly interesting.

First the long, boring, SILENT opening credits. Bergman liked to rush through the opening credits but really...spring for some music. Then the cut to the sea eagle suspended in the air. I haven't figured that part out to be honest...why a sea eagle? Apparently Bergman starts a bunch of his movies by the ocean because he thinks that it represents turmoil and birth and wants the audience to think of the characters of just "arriving there" but all I can think of is "where is their ship?".

Max von Sydow was 26 when this was filmed in 1956, and looks like he's about 35 in the opening scene. He looks about 65 later on. In fact, I'll supply a "Von Sydow Age" for each scene. It's like his wrinkles replicate themselves.


Groundhog Day...
I won't write my reaction until my 20th viewing...but I'll say this, I may in fact be getting dumber.

Nicole Update

Just got a message from Nicole: her head cold was serious enough that she was sent home early from work and she immediately started watching Groundhog Day #17. She says that she might be too sick to go out tomorrow night too (Cleveland will be sorely missing a 5'7 pile of cool-whip with a strawberry on top) and is shooting to be finished with viewing #20 by tonight.

I fully intend to retaliate...I may not sleep tonight.

edit: In other news, I've given Nicole permission to post to the blog, so she'll be writing posts from now on also. I've asked her to use a different font for her posts so that people can differentiate between us but just a heads-up.

Coming attractions!

Tonight, starting at 6:00pm EST I will be doing my first play-by-play running blog for a watching of The Seventh Seal. It won't be a synopsis of the movie itself per se, but more of a portrait of what the experience is like to be watching a movie for the 14th time in 8 days. I'll be responding to any and all questions during the viewing so feel free to post them in the comments and I'll post answers as I go through them.

Some quick hits...

Just a quick update: I was talking to someone today and I called them a "great ugly bat", which is the adjective Jonas Skat uses to describe Death at the 1:15 mark of T7S. Nicole has already admitted that she's begun to hear Bill Murray monologues in her head as she walks to work, and has started using the invective "Bing!" more and more in our conversations. I had a dream on tuesday that I was watching T7S as well. Not a dream about the movie, or being in the movie (as I sometimes dream about, and I'm sure everyone does), but actually dreaming about sitting on the couch watching it. At times in the dream I could feel myself begin to wake up and I would panic because if I woke up the viewing "wouldn't count". I estimate that I watched about 20-40min of the movie in my dream, and I remember it exactly as being the section from the attempted rape in the abandoned village until after the strawberry and fresh milk scene with Joff and Mia and Antonius Block.

Something to keep an eye on...

The Pace Chart

Though the original goal was to have complete the 100 viewings of T7S within 365 days, the goal is to get it finished much sooner. In fact, considering that I can't really watch any other movies until i'm finished this challenge, the sooner the better. With 13 watches in my first 8 days (not including the 1-2 viewings that I hope to get in tonight) I'm on pace to be finished in just under 62 days, which would put my final viewing as sometime on the last day of the year, December 31st. Now obviously I'll need to take some days off; Christmas and Thanksgiving are the notable dates that jump out off the calendar. I should however, be able to compensate for those by saving away a buffer of watches on these next few weekends before Thanksgiving, and in the ones preceding Christmas. Additionally my plan is to start bringing my laptop to work and watching 30-45min of the movie during lunch. At 1:36:45 I could a solid 1/3-2/3 of the movie watched while I eat, and then finish it when I get home. Basically I think that if I shoot to watch T7S 1-2 times per day during the week and then at least twice a day during the weekends I'll be well ahead of the late December pace. If I can even watch it once a day during the week and then twice a day every Saturday and Sunday that will give me 9 viewings per 7 days, which will put me right on that December 31st pace of 1.6 viewings per day.

So I'll shoot for viewing #14 tonight, and then #15 and #16 tomorrow with #17 and #18 coming Sunday. With Nicole on 16 as of yesterday she should still have the lead, but I'll hopefully have gained a bit, and if I can stick to the pace I've outlined I'm not sure that she'll be able to keep up.

13 Watches down: Enter the Drinking Game

I attempted to get back to within striking distance of Nicole last night by finishing my 12th viewing (started on wednesday) and getting in my 13th. She was at 16 as of yesterday due to her inhuman performance of watching Groundhog Day 5 times in one day. Watching it with my roomate, who's already seen the movie and didn't particularly want to watch it again necessitated the invention of something that I'd planned to save for the dreary stretch of watches between 50-70: the drinking game.

We decided on some simple rules to start: 1) A drink whenever Death was in the shot, 2) a drink whenever anyone said "God" or "Lord" and 3) a drink whenever more than three characters were in the frame. The last one wasn't actually as bad as it sounds; Bergman primarily focuses on the small group of Antonius Block, Jons, Joff, Mia, Plogg, Lisa, Jonas Skat and the mute girl. He also combines them into the one group slowly as the movie progresses, and they aren't seen all together until just past the hour mark of the movie. Before then the only scenes with more than 3 people in a frame are the dancing bear scene, the flaggellants, and the scenes with Joff, Mia, Skat and Michael in the caravan near the beginning. Death appears only 7 times in the film, and so as we watched the movie we included under the umbrella of "Death" the gruesome skull-mask used by Jonas Skat near the start and then hung off of a branch on Joff and Mia's wagon.

Results, like the drinks, were mixed. Derek emphatically stated that there wasn't enough drinking. Because he said it "Sher's n'unuff shrinking!" I think that he may have been biased, but I think that we'll need to tweak the rules a bit as the drinking pace was quite slow for stretches. Perhaps something based on a change in music? I'm open to suggestions in the comments sections!

Watch Counter: 8 days, 13 watches

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Reaction to First Few Watches

I now know exactly what happens at the 30:00 mark (The attempted rape of the mute girl by Raval, the exact second that Raval tries to close the door and finds Jons behind it), the 37:45 mark (exactly one hour to go, the procession of the flaggelants enters the square, the screen cuts to a woman with brown hair who is crying) and the 60:00 mark (Plog stands during his talk about women with Jons and states how he will kills his wife Lisa and Jonas Skat when he finds them).

I also know from the audio commentary that Ingmar Bergman was dating Bibi Andersson, the actress who plays Mia, during the filming in 1956, and continued to for several years afterward. I also know that the corpse Jons (played by Gunnar Bjornstrand) finds at mark 10:00 is played by the assistant director and that Bergman had him walk into the commisary during lunch and delighted at how his gruesome makeup put off everyone's appetite. My old 3 favorite characters were Jons, Jonas Skat and Death, and now they are Death only in the scene where he cuts down Jonas Skat's tree (at mark 65:00), Anders Eck as the damning priest (at mark 39:00) and the witch, who appears twice and is riveting both times for her commitement to the role. Not everyone could stand having the actual blood and bile of a dog thrown at them, but she pulls it off well...

I've additonally picked up a few Swedish words by watching the swedish audio track version with subtitles turned off. A lot of Swedish sounds similar to French and Italian and there are a ton of English homonyms, which makes sense when you consider the historical input into Scandinavia by those countries. I'm going to keep at it; I'd really like to be able to learn Anders Eck's speech that he gives to the crowd at mark 39:00.

11 Views in...or make that 11.4...

One view in, The Seventh Seal was looking fairly good. Bits of humor and creative camera angles made it quite watchable, and there were no really terrible acting performances that could be magnified into eyesores after repeated viewings. However, at this point I'd gone from a lead of 10-4 in views to a deficet of 11-12, all due to a bout of bad luck and canny strategy. Down 10-4 my opponent had played the sympathy card and coaxed me into taking a full day off from watch T7S so she could catch up and at least make it competitive. She reminded me that the original reason behind us both doing this was that we could motivate each other and thus not bow out. On the day off she watched Groundhog Day 3 times and got to within 3, and then was struck by the flu bug and got all of today off from work. Having watched it twice the past two nights she'd caught me at 11, and so planned to take a 2 watch lead today whilst I clacked away at my keyboard at work. Now I'd started watching T7S last night, and had reached the 40min mark (when Lisa the blacksmith's wife is commencing her seduction of Jonas Skat) but had fallen asleep, just barely remembering to pause the movie so that it could be resumed later. So I'm stuck at 11.4 views while Nicole rushes out to possibly 13.

All is not lost however, as I fully intend to finish view #12 and commence view #13 tonight, and get a solid 5-6 viewings in this weekend. No Halloween plans as of yet, so it's possible Antonius Block and I might be spending a record-setting weekend together.

New Challenge: T7S versus GD!

I recently started a competition with a friend as to which of us could watch one movie a total of 100 times the fastest. The maximum time allowed would be one calendar year, 365 days, and the prize would be a customized trophy, crafted at the loser's expense. Each of us would be able to pick the other's movie, and when both had received our selected films, the competition would commence.

There were naturally parameters that governed what movies were available for selection. We deliberated for a few days and came up with the following restrictions: No X-rated movies, no musicals, no anime, no sequels, no dubbed films, and no foreign-language films that lacked a subtitle option. In addition we were each allowed 4 "actor vetos", a list of 4 actors whose films would be exempt. My adversary selected Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, Keanu Reeves and Rene Zelleweger. I black-listed Matthew Broderick, LL Cool J, Jimmy Fallon and James Franco. The movie also could not be one that we knew our counterpart had seen before. The aim, remember, was to become the world's greatest authority on a potentially obscure film in a short amount of time (and of course to see what effect watching one movie 100 times within 365 days would actually DO to a person).

I selected Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray and Andie Mcdowell, for Nicole because I knew that a movie that repeats itself already would eventually become unbearable when repeated in entirety itself. I was feeling quite confident until I received my "prey". Flashing her whit and movie pretension she had gifted my with the 1957 classic black and white The Seventh Seal, a Swedish production by Ingmar Bergman. It was subtitled, 97 minutes long, and featured not only a dubbed audio option but also an audio commentary by an European film critic. The plot? A crusader knight and his squire return home from 10 years of fighting only to discover that the Black Death has overtaken Sweden. Additionally, Death has come for them, a fate that the knight attempts to postpone by engaging him in a deadly game of chess as he makes his way home to his castle and long-abandoned wife.

My blood boils in anticipation...