So... you have a character that has visions, a character that prolongs his life by attempting to beat death, Death himself following them around taking lives in his wake, some dark humor, and (spoilers!) an ending where those he affects by his extended life end up with his same fate. Dude... The Seventh Seal was the original Final Destination!
Seriously, though... the movie follows Antonius Block (Max von Sydow), a knight of the Crusades, who was supposed to die but instead challenges Death (Bengt Ekerot) to a game of chess. If he wins, he gets a reprieve, but he does get to an extension as long as the game goes on. He continues traveling with his squire Jons (Gunnar Bjornstrand), and eventually meet up with a man-and-wife actors troupe, Jof (Nils Poppe) and Mia (Bibi Andersson). Together, everybody ponders the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. Oh, and Jof occasionally has visions of things that nobody believes he actually has.
I've known about this film since I was a kid, mostly for the chess playing bit (in part thanks to Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey). It's too bad, however, that in the 90 or so minutes of this film, that only takes up roughly 5 minutes throughout the overall film. The majority of the movie follows the characters speaking about life and death and more life and more death and the mysteries therein. In other words, the movie is nothing but philosophy. Some might find that interesting. Others might find it painfully dull. Me? I land somewhere in the middle, landing closer to the side of interesting. But I can't deny that after an hour of what feels like the same conversation, one tends to drift off.
It actually works mostly for 2 reasons: the writing and the acting. The writing is pretty damn fantastic and quite poetic in nature. Like I said, the entire thing is rather philosophical, and the way the characters speak to each other is quite beautiful. But if the acting wasn't there to believably deliver those words, it wouldn't have worked. But it does.
And the most surprising aspect of the film was the fact it had attempts at humor. Of course, none of it made me laugh out loud, but I did find parts amusing. Jof, in particular, was a fun character. And Jons the squire had a few good lines (like having written a song about a randy fish).
For the film itself, the writing, acting, and cinematography were excellent. The overall direction and production of it was great. But I think, though, that I liked the idea of the film more than the film itself. I liked what it represented and what it discussed. But the final product was a bit too dry for me.