Different people will remember the great Swedish film and stage actor Max von Sydow, who died at the age of 90, for different roles: the title role in The Exorcist, Christ in The Greatest Story Ever Told, and his Oscar-nominated part as the slave-driven Lasse in Pelle the Conqueror, but his ticket to cinema heaven will be his many impressive performances under the direction of Ingmar Bergman.
In 1957, the tall, gaunt and imposing blond Von Sydow, pronounced Suedorff, made his international mark as the disillusioned knight Antonius Block of the 14th century, in Bergman’s The Seventh Seal.
Returning to his plague-stricken nation from the crusades, he realizes that he has lost his faith in God and cannot pray anymore. Then the personification of Death approaches him.
He is challenging Death to a chess game, hoping for more time on Earth. Von Sydow’s depiction of a man in spiritual distress displayed a maturity beyond his years and was intended to exemplify his serious and dignified character in subsequent Bergman films, even expanding them to some of his less worthy company.