When disillusioned Swedish knight Antonius Block (Max von Sydow) returns home from the Crusades to find his country in the grips of the Black Death, he challenges Death (Bengt Ekerot) to a chess match for his life. Tormented by the belief that God does not exist, Block sets off on a journey, meeting up with traveling players Jof (Nils Poppe) and his wife, Mia (Bibi Andersson), and becoming determined to evade Death long enough to commit one redemptive act while he still lives.

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