Death, what it means and how to meet it, is the principle theme in The Seventh Seal (Bergman; 1957), but this also brings religion to the fore. The son of a Lutheran chaplain to the royal household, Bergman has a lot of religious baggage with which to deal.
That the knight and his squire have just returned from ten years in the Crusades, murdering, raping and pillaging at the behest of the Roman Church, looms large in the background. The squire, never having had much faith to lose, has only become more sure of his cynicism. Religion is a scam. While they were off suffering the torments of war, those who sent them continued to profit through the nurture of fear and prejudice. But the knight, once a true believer, has been cast into despair. He still wants to believe, but cannot. He has already believed a monstrous lie.
The Black Death that took one of three Swedes ravages the land. Priests burn 'witches' alive. Prompted by the Church's ceaseless promulgation of self-negating guilt and the fear of judgment, troops of self-flagellants stagger through the land. Death has a fearsome face; God awaits with more dreadful tortures still.
Have things really changed all that much?
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