The Fifth Seal is a Hungarian film directed by Zoltán Fábri, based on a novel of the same name by Ferenc Sánta. It won the Golden Prize at the 1977 Moscow International Film Festival.
Set in Budapest in 1944 towards the end of the Second World War, it tells the story of a group of friends, Miklós (Lajos Öze) a watchmaker, László (László Márkus) a book seller, János (Sándor Horváth) a carpenter, and Béla (Ferenc Bencze) a barkeep. They hang out in the dim light of Béla’s establishment, drinking, smoking and telling tales. One day a fifth man (István Dégi) joins their table and unbeknownst to them all, an innocent hypothetical question will change their lives forever.
The underlying question that the film deals with is a philosophical one. Given the choice, would you rather be reincarnated as a vicious and evil tyrant who commits terrible acts, or a good and noble slave who suffers through life? A choice that these four men ultimately face when they are arrested, imprisoned, and tortured for no apparent reason; and one that makes the viewer ponder about themselves and humanity as a whole.