How Did “The Seventh Seal” Coin the Term “Bergmanesque,” Referencing a Bleak Psychological Worldview?
Film scholars created the term “Bergmanesque” to describe films in which the central characters are undergoing some sort of inner turmoil about their existence and life. Webster’s dictionary defines it as such:
adjective: of, relating to, or resembling the work of Swedish film and theater director Ingmar Bergman < … the film ends with an effusive Bergmanesque tribute to illusion. — David Denby, New York Magazine, 30 Mar. 1992>
The Seventh Seal (1957) was the most popular and iconic of Bergman’s films, and fully demonstrated what would become the Bergmanesque worldview in its subject matter. A knight seeks answers about life and death, and questions the existence of God, while the Black Plague is throwing the world into turmoil. The film closes with no definitive answer on God, and suggests that the only power higher than mortality is death.
Deborah Netburn of LA Times: “Bergman was one of the few directors distinctive enough to inspire his own adjective. The term “Bergmanesque” describes a specific worldview—a bleak psychological chronicle of people living in a world that God has abandoned—evidenced in films the director never even made. There are other directors who have similarly been honored with having their names turned into adjectives—Hitchcockian (smart psychological thriller), Wellesian (strong visual style) and Altmanesque (rambling, character driven).”