Presented in a manner as eerie as it is heartbreaking, this film is a gorgeous supernatural fable about the folly of men with dreams larger than their abilities and their women who suffer as a result. Genjuro (Masuyaki Mori) is a potter who longs for wealth and luxury, while Tobei (Sakae Ozawa), a farmer, dreams of the glories of the samurai to the point of ignoring his wife. Though a war rages around them, they venture to town to sell their wares. Genjuro becomes bewitched by a beautiful though vengeful ghost (Machiko Kyo), while his wife is murdered by a soldier; Tobei becomes a noted warrior, while his wife descends into prostitution after being raped while searching for her husband.
In the style of an operetta, like director Jacques Demy's more famous film the Umbrellas of Cherbourg, this melodramatic story is set in Nantes in 1955 and centers around the tragedies of three or four intertwined lives. First, there is the young steel worker (Richard Berry) who is out on strike and has rented a room from an upper-class widow (Danielle Darrieux), a woman in sympathy with the strikers. The blue-collar worker has a girlfriend he finds less and less interesting just as she is more and more pregnant, and their relationship seems fated to end, one way or another. Then there is Edith (Dominique Sanda), the daughter of the widow, married to a wealthy, impotent, skinflint of a merchant caught up in his own neuroses, and, whether for that reason or several others, Edith is a part-time hooker. One evening she shows up in the worker's rented room, wearing a fur coat and nothing else – and the two share a night of passion. Now mother, daughter, the worker, and the daughter's husband have formed a very unstable chain of relationships, due to snap because at least one link is exceedingly weak.
Endlessly imitated and parodied, Ingmar Bergman's landmark art movie The Seventh Seal (Det Sjunde Inseglet) retains its ability to hold an audience spellbound. Bergman regular Max von Sydow stars as a 14th century knight named Antonius Block, wearily heading home after ten years' worth of combat. Disillusioned by unending war, plague, and misery Block has concluded that God does not exist. As he trudges across the wilderness, Block is visited by Death (Bengt Ekerot), garbed in the traditional black robe. Unwilling to give up the ghost, Block challenges Death to a game of chess. If he wins, he lives – if not, he'll allow Death to claim him. As they play, the knight and the Grim Reaper get into a spirited discussion over whether or not God exists. To recount all that happens next would diminish the impact of the film itself; we can observe that The Seventh Seal ends with one of the most indelible of all of Bergman's cinematic images: the near-silhouette "Dance of Death".