Why Did Bergman Feel Jöns’ Character in “The Seventh Seal” Was More Appealing Than The Knight?

On the DVD version of The Seventh Seal (1957), the commentator reviews that the entire film is a conflict between Antonius Block’s (Max von Sydow) idealism and Jöns’ (Gunnar Bjornstrand) hedonism. Director Ingmar Bergman, he believes, made Jöns’ character and perspective more appealing than that of the knight. Given the nature of the film’s subject and the attitude of the two characters, Bergman favored the one who wasn’t driving himself mad with a feeling of hopelessness and a psychological battle with faith.

That same DVD commentary notes that several years following the release of the film, Bergman was asked at a press conference about his feelings on death. His response was “I was afraid of this enormous emptiness. But my personal view is that when we die we die, and we go from a state of something to state of absolute nothingness. And I don’t believe for a second that there’s anything above or beyond or anything like that, and this makes me enormously secure.”

More or less, that’s the same viewpoint taken by Jöns in the film. It’s arguable that Bergman based the squire Jöns on himself, and Antonius Block on the internal quandaries he was battling before coming to this ultimate philosophical position.

Bergman seems to maintain that even a firm belief that there is nothing greater to life than life itself, and the finality of death is in fact the end of one’s existence, is better than living in fear of a distant God or devoting all of one’s actions to the appeasement of something that may not exist. Jöns is a pragmatist, and it seems Bergman identified with that.