While the iconic image of a cloaked death playing chess against a medieval knight has given Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal an enduring cultural familiarity, the popular impression can be misleading. For those who have never actually seen the film, the scene's desolate setting might suggest an impassive absurdist drama best appreciated by angst-ridden freshman philosophers. Such unfounded bias couldn't be more at odds with the film's enthralled exaltation with life's mysteries, compassionately conveyed through the humor and heartache of a long journey home. Existentialism might fit the film's prevailing themes, but it's The Seventh Seal's underlying empathy that pushes the work beyond an intellectual exercise. Heady passions are similarly captured throughout Bergman: In the Beginning..., the latest retrospective hosted by Take-Up Productions at Trylon microcinema. In the series, which covers an astonishingly creative five-year period, each film exemplifies Bergman's gift for depicting the bittersweet nature of human experience. In addition to The Seventh Seal, films include Wild Strawberries (a breathtakingly wistful reflection on memory and aging), The Magician (a captivating clash of science and mysticism), Smiles of a Summer Night (a lavishly told comedic ode to lust and love), and Monika (a shameless study of sensual escapism). Though Bergman's subsequent films would prove equally (and arguably exceedingly) accomplished, few would express human desire with the exquisite poignancy of these early classics.
Fridays, Saturdays, 7 & 9 p.m.; Sundays, 5 & 7 p.m. Starts: March 2. Continues through April 1, 2012