• Daybreak (Also known as Dame Sobh)
• The Seventh Seal
In this journal, I would like to compare and contrast some themes found in The Seventh Seal and Daybreak. Even though both fields are from completely different countries, with completely different cultures, and starkly different languages, we can draw several shared themes.
The first theme I would like to discuss that was mentioned in my last post was that of the unknowable. Both films aim at putting you in the position of the lead character. Both films put you in this position where you’re given as little information on the situations as the main characters. In The Seventh Seal, you’re not told whether or not God exist, or whether or not there is a meaning to existence. This is shown throughout Blocks journey through Sweden as he tries to find answers. We are not given enough information, just like Block, to knowingly come to a conclusion on meaning and Gods role in society. Throughout the film we are hinted at the existence of God (mainly through Jof and not the grotesque mutilating worship), but not enough to come to any solid conclusions.
In this same way, we’re put in the position of Mansour. The film takes the same technique of putting us in Mansour’s position, and does a beautiful job of allowing us to feel those raw uncertain emotions that plague Mansour. Throughout the film, I was at the end of my seat, wondering if the deceased guy’s family would show up to the next meeting. I was there with Mansour in my anxiety and anger at the lack of attendance from the family. It’s a beautiful thing when a film can provoke such emotions from it’s audience, and Daybreak does a beautiful job at bringing the audience into the film.
One image that strikes me throughout Daybreak is that of the tunnel and the train. They represent the journey made throughout the film. In The Seventh Seal’s case, we have the knight on his journey back to his plague ridden homeland, as well as his spiritual journey to find meaning. In Daybreak’s case, we have the flashbacks of his journey from living in the country side to the city, and then we have the emotional journey as he awaits forgiveness or extinction.
Both films play on this role of death in powerful anxious-inviting ways. In The Seventh Seal, we’re on the other side of the chessboard, watching as piece consumes chess piece, and wondering for how long Block can pull it off. In Daybreak were sitting nervously in Mansour’s cell, attending each execution meeting, only to be disappointed and emotionally sapped. Both characters have death hovering inches away. In Blocks case, it’s literally inches, while in Mansour’s we can feel the presence of it. In Daybreak, we can find death in the night before Daybreak, while we wait for Mansours judgment.
Both characters (and we the audience) are placed in this powerful position of unknowing. The only thing that’s absolutely certain in both cases is death, however this theme is slightly morphed in Mansour’s situation. In Daybreak, not even death is certain! Sure it will come at some time, but we don’t even know when! Even when we mentally and emotionally prepare ourselves, we’re only let down, and left with the task of mending our hope together over and over again. It makes you wonder whether Mansour’s Theocratic State of Iran is warping ‘justice’ through this system. Mansour gets the humanity sucked out of him. The mental and emotional preparation sucks the life out of him, and for this occurring every single time ends up leaving Mansour in a state beyond human. Although we do not know when physical death and punishment will arrive (or in it’s place, forgiveness), Mansour dies emotionally and mentally. Throughout the film we’re witnessing an empty man, whose already tasted death, but in another form. Which is worse; the death brought by the executive, or the death brought by it’s postponement?
What can this all tell us about the human condition? In Mansours case, can we find humans in situations worse than physical death? What is worse; the actual time of death, or the knowing moments leading up to them? They’re firm questions without answers.
This stage of not receiving answers is what makes these films so eerily realistic! What is more certain in life than not being able to predict tomorrow? No one can hop into tomorrow, or an hour in the future, and see what they’ll be doing. For all we know, we can be hit by a car on our way to work, and die instantly. In an instant, our most prized possession (life) can be drained from us, without even our awareness. What can this teach us? Life is extremely frail. We rarely dwell and celebrate such a fantastic delicacy. It’s such a blessing to live, to question, and to seek; yet we can’t even admire the most fragile and important component of our human existence: Existence itself!
What can these films teach us? I would rather say what these films can show us. Besides showing us how fragile life is, it shows us two characters who have became aware of it’s tender state, and how powerful the thought of losing life can be. Just as we stand side by side with our characters as they take step-by-step into the unknowing future, we should take away from this film a sense of humble gratitude for our frail existence.
As shown, the future is so unknowable! Nothing is truly certain. After fighting in the crusades, and nearly dying in battle on a daily basis, Block finds Death not on the battlefield but on a beach! I’m sure that’s the absolute last place he’d expect it! The irony of fighting 10 years in war, only to confront Death on the shores of your beloved home-country… It really puts into perspective the comment I made about stepping out of your car and life’s frailty.
Daybreak does the best job out of the two at portraying this unknowable. It fools us into believing a dream of Mansour’s execution as the end, and then sucks us from this dream, into his terrible reality. It’s as if the director really wanted to hit the message home by giving us one last tease. Then to really put things in perspective he left us at a cliffhanger. This wasn’t a normal cliché. This cliffhanger left us in the now.
This cliffhanger left us reminding ourselves of the moment, and once again, that ultimate unknowable: Tomorrow.