Swedish actor Nils Poppe died this week at 92. He was the comedian who played the jester in The Seventh Seal; an important role in one of the best movies ever made. Anyone who hasn't seen this 1957 masterpiece should go rent it right now. It is one of the most profound religious works of the 20th century in any medium. It takes a look deep inside despair and somehow comes out laughing.
The character played by Nils Poppe is essential to the joy of the movie. He is a member of a troupe of traveling actors, a gentle and happy man whose faith offers the audience an alternative to the brooding doubts of the movie's main character, the troubled knight played by Max Von Sydow.
Poppe's character has religious visions, and it's significant that Bergman presents the final sequence of the film largely through this character's eyes. It's the famous "Dance of Death" sequence.
JESTER: "I see them, Mia! I see them! Over there against the dark stormy sky. They dance away from the dawn and it's a solemn dance toward the dark lands, while the rain washes their faces and cleans the salt of the tears from their cheeks."