Posts Tagged ‘moral imperative’

Soul has its own special language and its contour always will be a fit for the individual. Moses will thus being brought up in the household of Pharaoh and familiar with Egyptian folklore,arts, jurisprudence, lay down the Hebraic legal system drawn from ideas already extant. Similarly St. Paul taught at the feet of Hebraic scholars,- notably Gamaliel, will lay down in his epistles a curious form of theology , a fusion of Old and the New. In the story of Soul’s Vocabulary the mentally challenged boy formulated a new way of counting that was more in keeping for his milieu. Soul of the individual is paramount and one may wonder how Moses would have viewed the Pauline epistles. Let Paul take care of his soul as Moses his.

Moral of this is that you may convert a man to your belief-systems but shall never succeed quite completely. Can leopard change is spots? Or salt acquire the sweetness of a sugar crystal?


Read Full Post »

Oliver Goldsmith (1728-1774) was described by his first teacher as ‘impenetrably stupid.’ Balzac similarly was written away as useless.Einstein was not expected to set the world on fire either. Many more instances could be cited where those who were in authority so lightly dismissed those youths who didn’t fit their mold. Are lives of men and women such stuff, as simple and regular as some rock specimens to be labeled and put away?
Naturally Oliver Goldsmith in the eyes of his peers might have seemed ’stupid’. They might have in the past predicted similarly and were found right.  The only difference between Oliver and other boys was in this: other boys compromised with the opinion of the elders while he didn’t. Oliver Goldsmith explored his life despite of his uncommon clumsiness and many failings, to find its common center. His creative output (among which ‘The Vicar of Wakefield ‘She stoops to conquer and many poems are literary gems) gave his life its compactness.

I have made a fool of myself many times. I might again make mistakes. But these are nothing compared to the one I could if I go by opinion of others. They might write me off from mistakes. But how right they are to put a seal on my life for good or bad? My growth is not driven by my mistakes but from my life force . It is such I could use it as a straw or as a steam roller, which coupled with my character shall smash to powder every negative aside of others that is not truly part of me. These mistakes are incidentals due to my trust misplaced in others or my inability to change shapes of my words to counter false friends. I came across the case of art dealer Lawrence Salander, 59, who was arrested at his New York home on Thursday, when he and his gallery were charged with 100 counts, including grand larceny and securities fraud. So far, authorities have identified 26 victims of Salander’s scheme, including McEnroe, who lost $2 million after investing a half share in two paintings, which was sold at the same time to another collector. ( It is learned that McEnroe never recouped the money.)

The con artist’s scheme, which lasted from 1994 to 2007, included luring investors who paid cash in exchange for shares of ownership of works of art.Why did he do it? He ‘needed’ the money to fund “an extravagant lifestyle” of lavish parties and private jets. Most of the artworks, which are yet to be valued, are being held in the custody of a bankruptcy court in Poughkeepsie, New York. Many of the investors have filed civil claims against Salander and his gallery, which filed for bankruptcy and closed in 2007. Was such a charade really necessary? What scandalous times do we live in where a man would rather be known for a crook than as one whose word is his bond and as straight as an arrow. What is Madoff now worth for?(It seems a Milwauee man won at Lotto $1500 by using his prison number. It is is the only good it has done in his case.) Who cares for Madoff’s philanthropic works now by hindsight are equated for trapping the unwary investors. Even now from two examples cited above we may understand that fraudsters get their comeuppance sooner or later.

Our lives are blank pages where what is written must be the truth of our character that met the challenge of our circumstances and like the white plume of Cyrano de Bergerac remains unsullied. It s panache of the  highest sort.

Tailpiece: In cases where doubt exists the best course open for any is to prove by his or her deeds.

Read Full Post »


“Neither be a borrower or a lender be.” The Bard of Avon must have had lost his onions as he penned that! I said as I surveyed the cool efficiency of the Petro Bank of Jibal, which was no where epitiomized more than in the President of the bank. He sat before me, genial, his jewel encrusted fingers hooked to a gilded machine out of which uncoiled the print-out to the accompaniment of low clicking noises like that of castanets.
“Ah, here we have come to the parity.” He mused aloud and switched off the machine.
Seeing my surprise he said:”Nothing like a small war before lunch to keep the oil moving. We are expecting a war with Lebanon.”
“2 Million BBLS of Oil which flows through our net work per day is not mere drop in the ocean”, he added philosophically.
“So you mean to say that you’d prefer a small war to ease the slump in the oil market?” I said my middle class moral attitudes stricking out like a dirty handkerchief out of a saville row suit. Mentally I pushed them out, a task which was hastened by the magic circle of high finance drawn before me, in the midst of which sat the president like the High Priest. The whole scene had a surrealistic touch.
“My dear sir”, said the banker, pressing a buzzer, which in a trice brought his secretary. Taking the folder from her, he told me:”We don’t go in for a war as diffuse and protracted war like of Vietnam. it is a bad risk.”
“Then, what kind of war do you favor?” I asked him playing up to the hilt of a hard bitten cynical correspondent.
“Just a 50 megaton job,” he said with a straight face that nipped in the bud whatever queasiness I felt rising within. “It is dropped under fool proof conditions that not a life more than what is absolutely necessary is thrown away.”
Laying the folder open he traced his well manicured fingers against each 50-megaton job he had financed with the cool efficiency of an accountant who balanced a book down to the last cent.  Hardly an error, like the snow white kaffiyeh, which fell over his shoulders, not a fold out of place. His clinical efficiency was apparent in the figures which he had underlined in red and the onyx stone, set in a platinum ring on his index finger, seemed to turn red, from the ruby studded cigar box casually laid aside.
“Are they the number of dead?” I asked.
“Yes” said the banker. “You will be kind enough to notice the column here.”
“Miscellaneous expenses”, he added. “What of it?”
“To every war widow we send flowers and a gift coupon.”
“Gift coupon?”
“That’s right. She is allowed a cool 50% discount on the gasoline she buys for the next financial year.”
“Rather a thoughtful gesture” I murmured.
“My dear sir, we have had a bad rap, as war mongers. But the truth remains, we are business men with our hearts in the right place. Why, we feel pain as much as anybody else.”
It was my turn to be surprised. I could not, for the life of me, imagine such display from one who, like Midas, turned every drop of oil into gold enough to buy the whole globe.
So we were chatting, the red light on the console in front of the banker flashed.
“Here it is!” he gushed excitedly and took the incoming message.
When he was through he had the look of extreme satisfaction. He beamed and gurgled:”It is war! Just what we wanted… a quick war before lunch!”
“Poor Lebanese!” I could not help exclaiming.
“What do you mean, poor Lebanese?” the banker said with a touch of asperity. “Leave Lebanon out of it. They are not biting, not yet.”
“Then who is the sucker?” I asked.
The banker seemed not to have heard it. So I said:”Who is at the receiving end?”
He evaded my question once again.
I could notice him casually flipping over my visiting card. His lips silently went over my name.
‘Ephraim Mandelbaum, accredited correspondent for Sheol News Agency. Tel Aviv.’
“Ah, dear sir” he wrung his bejewelled hands “No hard feelings! Shall I ring for liqueur. 1868 vintage? Or a cigar?” He pushed the bejewelled cigar box solicitously.
“If you don’t mind I am rather curious to know whom you have conned into a war!”
“It is……. er ……. with your country!” he said, in one breath, feeling a little embarrassed. “No hard feelings” his hand on my shoulder now.
“You can sit around. Here you are among friends.” The banker added soothingly.
“The war would not last longer. A war before lunch. Ha!” I mimed him in my mind.
And the lunch while it lasted with all the sniveling courtesies of a  desert dweller’s hospitality by the host, these were mere frills to the main course a crock of camel turd. But as a guest I had to play my part: I complimented him for his food and refuse politely second helpings ladled out as though there was nothing of a war or haste. After the tables were cleared he poured the first rate vintage of ’68 I had (the shame of it) forgotten that there was a 50-megaton war in my backyard we were supposedly enemies at least before lunch.

Only later I realized how deadening were habits and politeness that I could sit with my enemies as though my moral sense was cast iron proof.

Read Full Post »

In one of my earliest posts I had given an anecdote on Matisse. A woman acquaintance of the artist called on him and after looking at the finished work she observed that he made her arm too long. She relied on her eyes. Whereas he had presented as what she represented to him. Both relied on their subjective feelings. At a moral plane of Truth there must be a common centre to which the sitter, the artist and the woman were trying to rest their conclusions as to their reality. The sitter has an opinion of herself and so has the viewer whether it is her portrait or the real. With such differing viewpoints is it necessary for Matisse to represent his sitter in any other way than what she represents to him?

How does the artist make his perception clear to others? He would probe beneath her physical appearance and place her on two dimensional plane: he delineates a higher truth in terms of line, color, texture and composition. Had it been her exact copy that was intended an artist might as well relied on photography for the purpose. An artist destroys the illusion of physical reality which is ephemeral so he may bring out the inner reality as perceived by him. A Scientist who from evidences arrive at a theory is in search of truth. An artist merely uses the two dimensional plane to describe a mood that whether it a live model or a landscape transcends the visual symbols he employs. There is an inner logic and truth which is outside the reality he is looking at.


Read Full Post »

Oneness of things allows so many factors to come into play where no nation can for long brutalize others for their own ends. No nation may foretell from where their destruction shall come. Nature plays her part and also wars are means to bring about the nation’s downfall. Again we see England in the post WWII, all their glory drained from them. From cause and effect what lesson can we draw? Is it not that there is a moral factor in the manner the might of nations are brought low?
God’s judgment on Babylon was as much a political necessity as well as His providence on a nation under oppression.(Dan 5.) Once again we see the state of Israel being plucked out of holocaust. When I see the oppressed turn the oppressor themselves, in the way Palestine is treated I can very well imagine: the nation have invited a moral judgment on themselves. Who shall serve as God’s instrument is not for me to say.

Historical necessity is often a synonym for moral imperative.


Read Full Post »

We shall see a nation is not so much as good in setting any lasting value either in morality or in public good as an individual. The rise of Mafia is a  case in point.
The Mafia was originally comprised of a few families who migrated to the USA from Italy. Soon they established contacts in their adopted homeland and also gained political strength. They could pull strings and get what they wanted. In the era of gilded age money opened doors. So they prospered and  drew strength from the mass exodus of poor Italians to the USA at the turn of the 20th century.  The poor immigrants hardly spoke English and didn’t possess the necessary social skills either. They had to compete with the Irish community that had already established in Chicago. Besides Police force was filled with members from the Irish community. Mafia offered the newcomers their protection and found them jobs a service that, of course, came with a price tag.
After Mussolini came to power in Italy in the late 1922 he muzzled in the Mafia. In the USA Thomas E.Dewy in his role of District Attorney succeeded in sending the powerful Mafia boss ‘Lucky‘ Luciano to jail but the WW II intervened.
At a time Nazi Germany had sent their U-boats to create havoc on the Atlantic shipping lane Mafia secretly succeeded in scuttling Normandy berthed off the NY harbor. U.S government asked Navy intelligence to cooperate with the Mafia since labor unions backed by them effectively controlled the ports. Before the Allied invasion of Sicily the U.S government struck a deal with the mafia chief. As part of the deal ‘Lucky’ Luciano was released. Italy lost the war that proved as a shot in arm to the fortunes of Mafia.
Edgar J. Hoover was the FBI chief from 1920 for a period of 50 years and Mafia as reports go, was blackmailing him. His sexual predilections are not of interest as how much he contributed to the phenomenal growth of Mafia during his tenure as the head of FBI. In 1957 at Palermo a few clan chiefs including ‘Lucky’ Luciano, Joseph Bonnano and others held a meeting where an important decision was taken: Mafia would henceforth deal in heroin. It was a very lucrative business. As a result of that meeting shortly thereafter heroin was flooding into the streets of USA.

If anyone is interested to know the figures of hard drug users before 1957 and after one only need to go through the figures that are in public domain.

Moral of this narrative is that nations preach moral values but statecraft is often in breaking them than scrupulously keeping their nose  and hands clean. No nation has ever achieved the perfection it so vociferously trumpets from rooftops. Even under the most tyrannical regimes like Third Reich or the Soviet empire (under Stalin) rules have been broken with impunity. Why? The reason is simple: a nation is run by men. If a man in a very sensitive or vital point for example J. Edgar  Hoover or Lavrenti Beria, the secret police chief, NKVD (a notorious pedophile) can be influenced, the entire chain of command is at risk.Then policy makers need to ensure that they are reelected ; so they  often take shortcuts for short term remedies than sticking to any moral principles.

Now the question is: is the conscience of an individual( and his freedom to exercise his judgment) of paramount importance or that of a nation?


Read Full Post »

As a Christian and humanist I believe God as the creator of the cosmos. Man as a  steward has his place whatever be his belief, gender, age or status.  What was God’s command to Adam regarding his creation? He gave dominion of all the beasts of the field, birds, herbs to Adam. (He didn’t say,’ slash and burn rainforests for quick profits’.) In that command lay the moral essence of man.
When one neglects one’s moral sense one is setting a trap for oneself.  Since I had cited Napoleon in an earlier post let me come back to him. Napoleon neglected his role as a steward. His ambition and his brilliance as a strategist got in the way, I suppose. In terms of transactional energy Napoleon could marshal energy of all those who followed him to battle or who espoused his cause in the Chamber of Deputies. Bonapartism was a force to reckon with. For example at first there were 100 deputies in the French Chamber. But by 1898 there were none. Bonapartism was dead within 77 years after his death. He was weighed in the balance of morality and found wanting.
Moral sense when properly put to use earns you dividends.
Tailspin: Man is body and spirit. As he sows while in body must reap in that inner world I shall name as Spirit world. Transactional energy is directional in that no victor can rest on his laurels. He must move on as the Little Corporal did. Moral Sense operating in the Spirit Realm makes use of men and events as a warning to all. Energy is its weapon.

Read Full Post »

Alcibiades made enemies wherever he went. He also had as many loyal friends and Socrates found he had a natural inclination for virtue. Alcibiades was capable of both good and evil only that he had to be tested by events to show what he really was.
Pericles was his guardian and the great man himself in his time was accused of sacrilege. During the construction of Parthenon there were accusations that part of the gold intended for Athena was stolen by Phidias the sculptor. His accusers suspected the great man also had a hand in it. It was never proved.
Later when Alcibiades got involved in a similar charge during his Campaign in Sicily he shrugged it off. He was sentenced to death in absentia and when he heard of it he remarked, “They shall know I live still.” He knew the past was a weight too much to be thrown off by anything he said.
We are in harms way by our past. Our forefathers who made material riches as an indicator of success have in a way done great disservice to us. We have gained ambition but not wisdom; Instant gratification has become our watchword. Since fashions of the world quickly change we are driven to join its bandwagon. We have in a way become prisoners of the moment as well.
Some take short cuts and when they are caught and disgraced aren’t we being unfair to point out them as guilty? None of us can escape our own part in this equation of life with morals.
Eleventh Commandment: Thou shaltn’t be found  out.

Read Full Post »

In His Best interests©
The old teacher of Jai Paramartha came to him one day and said: “How is your standing with the king?”
“Then why don’t you run an errand for me?” the teacher asked him. “I want you to recommend me for the post of tutor for royal children.” The master said, ”the king will surely oblige you.”
“No master.” The old pupil excused himself. When asked for the reason he replied, ”Conflict of interests.” Jai Paramartha added,” I was hoping to fill that post myself.”
“Why would you need a job which fits me nicely?”
“Because I have aged parents and a few others to support.” Jai Paramartha said firmly.
Self represents what is the best in a man to the visible world. The mystic is after Truth but he must pass his apprenticeship first. Self requires him to fulfill his obligations to those around him without which he cannot be called mature or sensible.
* Self is the starting point as eternity is begun with managing seconds, hours, days and months. Don’t spoil it all with selfishness.

Read Full Post »

The Seventh Seal (Swedish: Det sjunde inseglet)
“All my films can be thought in black and white,…” so wrote Bergman in Images: My Life in Films. I cannot think of this film in color especially since I first came across the iconic still from the film, of Death in black and the knight in white playing chess under a lowering sky.  It is a stark and allegorical medieval play made infinitely enjoyable by the way Bergman brings the  viewer’s mind and emotions all into play at the same time. Unlike Wild Strawberries which was personal and centripetal in its direction,- of a man’s life coming to a point ( his dream sequence being symbolic), the present film is centrifugal and is symbolic all through. The Seventh Seal has the wide sweep of a Cosmic stage on which the seven angels appear in a processional bearing the Apocalyptical resolution from the Highest. The analogy is apt I think, as the title refers to a passage about the end of the world from the Book of Revelation, used both at the very start of the film, and again towards the end,  “And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour” (Revelation 8:1). This film has been interpreted in so many ways but given the allusion to the verse in no uncertain fashion as stated above, we can safely treat the film as Bergman’s reassessment of his faith of the role of God of his fathers-his father was a clergyman- and he deals with it in cinematic terms for the world at large. Of the 50 and odd films he has done, this is one of Ingmar Bergman’s own rare favorites and we can see the reason why.
The knight’s faith is dented by war, and he is in a crisis. With such a moral dilemma hovering about he is returning to his castle and the land is in the grip of plague.  He doubts whether God actually exists and how to deal it cinematically? Bergman does it in terms of images by inverting the accepted norm ( priests as men of God, for instance) on its head, naturally. Thus when he tells the priest how he challenged Death to a game of chess and reveals his strategy, the “priest” turns out to be none other than Death! In another powerful scene where a witch is to be burnt the same idea is reinforced by the knight asking the witch to see Satan. He wants her to ask from him whether God exists or not. When the witch summons Satan and she says ominously ‘the priests see him, the soldiers see him.’ Satan is not shown but we are to assume the Satan is personified by priests and soldiers.
Wild Strawberries and The Seventh Seal starred many of Bergman’s ‘stock actors from the 1950s: Max Von Sydow as Knight Antonius Block, Bibi Andersson as Mia, the wife of Jof the jester; and Gunnar Björnstrand as Block’s squire Jöns, a pragmatic Sancho Panza to Block’s spiritual Don Quixote. While Björnstrand is nominally the third lead in the film the most pithy and memorable lines of dialogue are given to him.
Bergman developed the film from his own play Wood Painting.

Antonius Block (Max von Sydow), a knight, returns with his squire Jöns (Gunnar Björnstrand) from the Crusades and finds that his home country is ravaged by the plague. To his dismay, he discovers that Death (Bengt Ekerot) has come for him too. In order to reach his home and be reunited with his wife after ten years of war, he challenges Death. Since we are dwelling on medieval ideas of Cosmogony and moral certitudes, of a time when the Church had assigned specific meanings for colors( Blue of the sky stands for God’s love etc.,), let me point out that the knight is in white, representing the color of life and purity, whereas Death is black, the color of darkness, despair, and, ultimately, death.
The knight wants to play a game of chess. “It suits me well”, Death comments.

The knight realizes that he would rather be broken in faith, constantly suffering doubt, than recognize a life without meaning and they engage into an ongoing chess game.

Gerald Mast writes,

“Like the gravedigger in “Hamlet”, the Squire [...] treats death as a bitter and hopeless joke…”
Bergman contrasts the despairing unbelief of the knight and the bitterness of his squire with the simple spiritual faith of the acrobat player Jof (Nils Poppe) and his young wife Mia (Bibi Andersson), who, together with their infant son Mikael, may be symbolic of the Holy family. The squire (Gunnar Björnstrand), while forcefully atheistic and cynical, displays a sensitivity that drives him to protect and aid those he can, and to sympathize with those (like the witch) he cannot.( wikipedia)
Although the knight tells a “priest” (Death in disguise) that he is going to defeat Death by “a combination of the knight and the bishop”, he will eventually still lose. But the knight achieves one significant act that gives his life meaning: he allows the young couple and their child to escape. Ironically, while the young couple are seen fleeing in the background, Block tells death “Nothing escapes you.” Death bears a wide a grin and replies “Nothing escapes me. No one escapes me.” While the knight and his followers are led away over the hills in a medieval dance of death, seen by Jof as a vision, the young family live on and walk into the sunrise.
The famous, final dance of death was spontaneously created: Bergman had finished the day’s shooting when he saw a beautiful cloud in the sky, and, unwilling to let the image go unfilmed, hurriedly got crew members to dress in the costumes of the already-departed actors and form the silhouetted procession. The scene was shot in just a few minutes, without rehearsal. How about that for inspiration?
Dance of death may be over many tongues of flame into which doubts and certainties of mankind are fuel merely.

Directed by     Ingmar Bergman
Produced by     Allan Ekelund
Written by     Ingmar Bergman
Starring     Max von Sydow
Gunnar Björnstrand
Bengt Ekerot
Nils Poppe
Cinematography     Gunnar Fischer
Editing by     Lennart Wallén
Running time     96 min.
Language     Swedish
Budget     $150,000 (estimated)
Over the years THE SEVENTH SEAL, long hailed as a masterpiece of cinema, has suffered a decline in its reputation perhaps from certain quarters that find his theme of moral quests exaggerated at the cost of accepting life for what is. ‘However, there can be no doubt that the film’s imagery is among the most memorable ever put on screen—even if one questions the profundity of Bergman’s speculations on the nature of good and evil, God and the Devil, his image of Death wandering the countryside remains unforgettable”- Ack:faculty.goucher.edu

* Gunnar Björnstrand – Jöns, squire
* Bengt Ekerot – Death
* Nils Poppe – Jof
* Max von Sydow – Antonius Block, knight
* Bibi Andersson – Mia, Jof’s wife
* Inga Gill – Lisa, blacksmith’s wife
* Maud Hansson – Witch
* Inga Landgré – Karin, Block’s wife
* Gunnel Lindblom – Girl
* Bertil Anderberg – Raval
* Anders Ek – The Monk
* Åke Fridell – Blacksmith Plog
* Gunnar Olsson – Albertus Pictor, church painter
* Erik Strandmark – Jonas Skat

Memorable Quotes:
Antonius Block: I shall remember this moment: the silence, the twilight, the bowl of strawberries, the bowl of milk. Your faces in the evening light. Mikael asleep, Jof with his lyre. I shall try to remember our talk. I shall carry this memory carefully in my hands as if it were a bowl brimful of fresh milk. It will be a sign to me, and a great sufficiency.
Antonius Block: Nothing escapes you!
Death: Nothing escapes me. No one escapes me.
[In response to Death coming for him]
Jonas Skat: Is there no exemption for actors?
Antonius Block: I met Death today. We are playing chess.
Jöns: Love is the blackest of all plagues… if one could die of it, there would be some pleasure in love, but you don’t die of it.
Antonius Block: I want to confess as best I can, but my heart is void. The void is a mirror. I see my face and feel loathing and horror. My indifference to men has shut me out. I live now in a world of ghosts, a prisoner in my dreams.
Antonius Block: Who are you?
Death: I am Death.
Antonius Block: Have you come for me?
Death: I have long walked by your side.
Antonius Block: So I have noticed.
Death: Are you ready?
Antonius Block: My body is ready, but I am not.
Antonius Block: Have you met the devil? I want to meet him too.
Witch: Why do you want to do that?
Antonius Block: I want to ask him about God. He must know. He, if anyone.
Jöns: Who will take care of that child. God, the devil, the nothingness? The nothingness, perhaps?
Antonius Block: It can’t be so!
Death: Don’t you ever stop asking?
Antonius Block: No. I never stop.
Death: But you’re not getting an answer.
[Death approaches Antonius Block]
Antonius Block: Wait a moment.
Death: You all say that. But I grant no reprieves.
[Antonius Block lets Death choose which chess pieces to play]
Antonius Block: You drew black.
Death: Appropriate, don’t you think?
[the church painter explains why he is painting a mural about death]
Church Painter: Why should one always make people happy? It might be a good idea to scare them once in a while.
Jöns: Then they’ll close their eyes and refuse to look.
Church Painter: They’ll look. A skull is more interesting than a naked woman.
Jöns: If you do scare them…
Church Painter: Then they think.
Jöns: And then?
Church Painter: They’ll become more scared.
Jöns: Do you have any brandy? I’ve had nothing but water. It’s made me as thirsty as a camel in the desert.
Jöns: Our crusade was such madness that only a real idealist could have thought it up.
Mia: You don’t look so happy.
Antonius Block: No.
Mia: Are you tired?
Antonius Block: Yes. I have boring company.
Mia: You mean your squire?
Antonius Block: No, not him.
Mia: Who do you mean, then?
Antonius Block: Myself.
Antonius Block: Faith is a torment. It is like loving someone who is out there in the darkness but never appears, no matter how loudly you call.
Jöns: Love is as contagious as a cold. It eats away at your strength, morale… If everything is imperfect in this world, love is perfect in its imperfection.
Blacksmith Plog: You’re happy, you with your oily words. You believe your own drivel.
Jöns: Believe it? Who said? But I love to give pieces of advice.
Jonas Skat: Kill me. I’ll thank you afterwards.
Blacksmith Plog: Jons, between you and me, isn’t life a dirty mess?
Jöns: Yes, but don’t think of that now.
Blacksmith Plog: It’s what you make it.
[Jonas Skat is in a tree which Death is cutting down]
Jonas Skat: Hey, you scurvy knave, what are you doing with my tree? You might at least answer. Who are you?
Death: I’m felling your tree. Your time is up.
Jonas Skat: You can’t. I haven’t time.
Death: So you haven’t time?
Jonas Skat: No. My performance…
Death: Cancelled… because of Death.
Jof: And the strict lord Death bids them to dance.
Antonius Block: We must make an idol of our fear, and call it god.
Jöns: It’s hell with women, and hell without. Best to kill them all while the fun lasts.
Jöns: Love is nothing but lust and cheating and lies.
Jöns: Only fools die of love.
Jöns: But feel, to the very end, the triumph of being alive!
Girl: It is finished.
Blacksmith Plog: I’m going to pinch them in the nose with my pliers. I’m going to pound them on the chest with my little hammer. I’m going to crack them lightly on the head with my sledgehammer.
Antonius Block: This is my hand. I can turn it. The blood is still running in it. The sun is still in the sky and the wind is blowing. And I… I, Antonius Block, play chess with Death.
Antonius Block: Is it so terribly inconceivable to comprehend God with one’s senses? Why does he hide in a cloud of half-promises and unseen miracles? How can we believe in the faithful when we lack faith? What will happen to us who want to believe, but can not? What about those who neither want to nor can believe? Why can’t I kill God in me? Why does He live on in me in a humiliating way – despite my wanting to evict Him from my heart? Why is He, despite all, a mocking reality I can’t be rid of?
Antonius Block: I want knowledge! Not faith, not assumptions, but knowledge. I want God to stretch out His hand, uncover His face and speak to me.
Death: But He remains silent.
Antonius Block: I call out to Him in the darkness. But it’s as if no one was there.
Death: Perhaps there isn’t anyone.
Antonius Block: Then life is a preposterous horror. No man can live faced with Death, knowing everything’s nothingness.
Death: Most people think neither of death nor nothingness.
Antonius Block: But one day you stand at the edge of life and face darkness.
Death: That day.
Antonius Block: I understand what you mean.


* The church which Jöns and Antonius Block arrives at 15 minutes into the film is actually a model hung in the dead tree in the foreground.

* Ingmar Bergman based the entire iconography of the movie on murals in a church where his clergyman father used to  preach.

* The name of the character played by Gunnel Lindblom is never given and she speaks no lines in the film until the penultimate scene where she has the final line of the group being taken by Death: “It is finished.”

* The procession of flagellants chant the Dies Irae, a famous thirteenth century Latin hymn thought to be written by Thomas of Celano. Before stopping in the village they chant stanzas 1-4 and the Lacrimosa, stanza 18. These are repeated as the procession departs.

* The inspiration for this film was said to be drawn from the period films of Akira Kurosawa, of which Ingmar Bergman was a big fan.


check out A Night at the Movies: cinebuff.wordpress.com


Read Full Post »

Older Posts »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,509 other followers