Zoom Salon - The Seventh Seal (1957) – 98 minutes | Mechanics' Institute

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Zoom Salon - The Seventh Seal (1957) – 98 minutes
May 2021 CinemaLit: Visions of the Sacred on Film

Friday, May 7, 2021 - 6:00pm

CinemaLit Film Series

May 2021 – Visions of the Sacred on Film

Inspired by a suggestion from a CinemaLit patron, we're dedicating May to films exploring religion and faith. We've strived for a sweeping representation of small and large scale, Eastern and Western, ancient to contemporary. The films - The Seventh Seal (1957), Whale Rider (2002), Leona (2019), and Legend of the Mountain (1979) - also vary in how religion and faith are presented in their stories. They act as social contract, family unifier, map of the afterlife, conduit for magic and power, intergenerational conflicts, political tool for social control, vehicle for cultural preservation, and repository of myths and legends.

Spanning more than sixty years of filmmaking, they come from all over the globe. They're set and filmed in Sweden (The Seventh Seal), New Zealand (Whale Rider), and Mexico (Leona), with one made through funding and production ties to China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and South Korea (Legend of the Mountain). Each ask elemental questions of their protagonists, and in turn are asked of each of us. Who are we, and what is our place in our community and the larger world?

May 7 – The Seventh Seal (1957) – 98 minutes

Ingmar Bergman's childhood as the son of a strict Lutheran minister informed many of his films, preoccupied as they are with the timeless ponderings of human existence.

The Seventh Seal began in Bergman's imagination. He was haunted since childhood by images of death he had seen in church frescos. From that came his 1955 one-act play Wood Painting. The success of his early film, Smiles of a Summer Night, allowed Bergman to make The Seventh Seal, financed on the condition he could bring in the production in thirty-five days. He succeeded.

The Seventh Seal is a true cinematic heavyweight. It's been widely screened, analyzed, and revered, and remains a staple of film history and appreciation classes. The great Swedish actor Max Von Sydow plays Block, a weary knight slogging home from the Crusades. On a remote shore, he encounters the cloaked figure of Death. Block challenges Death to a game of chess, negotiating a delay in the inevitable should he win the game. That's merely the set-up, and the film soon engages with a roster of characters, including a sprightly juggler, his loving wife, a blacksmith, and a roué, whose lives are shadowed by The Black Plague. The film's lofty reputation and dark themes should not obscure its easy changes of mood, or Bergman's use of humor in a film daring to contemplate nothing less than the meaning of life.

The Seventh Seal grabs the heart, mind, and soul simultaneously, while Death is never far away. You're invited to shove aside the parodists, revisionists, and imitators and see why The Seventh Seal remains a masterpiece expanding the boundaries of film itself.

The Seventh Seal will be hosted by former CinemaLit curator and host Michael Fox.

Matthew Kennedy, CinemaLit’s curator, has written biographies of Marie Dressler, Joan Blondell, and Edmund Goulding. His book Roadshow! The Fall of Film Musicals in the 1960s, was the basis of a film series on Turner Classic Movies. 

I don't have a favorite film,” Matthew says. "I find that my relationships to films, actors, genres, and directors change as I change over the years. Some don't hold up. Some look more profound, as though I've caught up with their artistry. I feel that way about Garbo, Cary Grant, director John Cassavetes, and others."

Classic films have historical context, something only time can provide,” Matt observes. “They become these great cultural artifacts, so revealing of tastes, attitudes, and assumptions.”



First watch the selected film on Kanopy. All you will need is either a Mechanics' Institute library card, or a San Francisco Public Library card, which will give you access to Kanopy and its treasure trove of movies. Make a reservation for our CinemaLit Salon as usual via Eventbrite and watch the film on Kanopy at your leisure. You will receive a link to the Friday night CinemaLit salon on Zoom one day in advance, and then an additional reminder roughly two hours in advance. On the night of the salon click the Zoom link and join us.

If you do not receive a Zoom Link by 4:00 PM on the day of the event, contact Pam Troy at [email protected]


Mechanics’ Institute members can now sign up for FREE access to Kanopy, a wonderful film streaming service. To sign up:

1. Click on  THIS LINK.

2. Click on the large orange login button that reads, “Log in to milibrary.”

3. Enter the 14-digit bar code from your MI Library card

4. Set up your account following Kanopy’s instructions, including your email and a password.

5. Kanopy will send verification to your email address.

You’ll be able to choose from a wonderful selection of films, including classics, pre-code, foreign films, and documentaries, including the films we’ve scheduled this month for CinemaLit.

If you are not a Mechanics’ Institute member, consider membership and click  HERE  to join online:

Or, you can check with your public library to see if they are Kanopy members. If so, you may use your public library card to set up a Kanopy account.


Register with Eventbrite below.

If the green TICKET button is not immediately visible, scroll down on the right in the Eventbrite window until it appears.


CinemaLit Films

Members Free
Public Sliding Scale Free to $10
Register now ›
Pam Troy - 415-393-0116
Register now by using the form below or calling .

Future CinemaLit Films

Apr 23 - 6:00pm

Zoom Salon - Wuthering Heights (1939) – 106 minutes
April 2021 CinemaLit: Wonderful William Wyler

Apr 30 - 6:00pm

Zoom Salon - The Little Foxes (1941) – 117 minutes
April 2021 CinemaLit: Wonderful William Wyler

May 14 - 6:00pm

Zoom Salon - Whale Rider (2002) – 102 minutes
May 2021 CinemaLit: Visions of the Sacred on Film

May 21 - 6:00pm

Zoom Salon - Leona (2019) – 95 minutes
May 2021 CinemaLit: Visions of the Sacred on Film

May 28 - 6:00pm

Zoom Salon - Legend of the Mountain (1979) – 193 minutes
May 2021 CinemaLit: Visions of the Sacred on Film

Jun 4 - 6:00pm

Dream State: California in the Movies, with author Mick LaSalle, a Zoom salon
A CinemaLit Author Event, cosponsored by Heyday Books