In The Mystery of the Shemitah, the author uses many graphs to depict America’s economic cycles, with significant rises in the S&P 500 during bull markets, which are inevitably followed by sometimes precipitous declines or crashes leading into a bear market. He further suggests that if one were to similarly graph ancient Israel’s economy, because of the mystery of the Shemitah, it would track very closely with America’s economy, and exhibit similar trends with sharp increases and rapid declines as Israel observed the Shemitah every seven years. This theory is without merit on multiple counts.
Thankfully, Bergman leaves us with some hope. Poppe, Andersson, and child don’t go to the knight’s castle, and they don’t die with the others, so while they’ll end up as worm-food eventually, they have more time. And I love the scene roughly halfway into the picture when von Sydow and the others first meet up, and have a meal of milk and strawberries. It’s pleasant and tranquil, and while the chessboard is nearby, it’s off to the side, and it’s of no great importance in the moment. None of the cheerful conversation here takes any of the sting out of that final shot of Death leading the knight and the others across a hilltop, dancing the only steps left to them. But it’s something . We may all be the punchline in some cosmic joke that no one will ever hear, but we can still be kind to one another. Just because the connections and passions that make life worth living are also what make us fear death doesn’t make them any less joyous. For right now, as I type these words and look out to the morning, that’s good enough for me (5/31/1979–).