Friday, 26 February 2016

I've Just Seen: The Virgin Spring (Jungfrukällan) (1960)

The Virgin Spring (Jungfrukällan) (1960)

Director: Ingmar Bergman

Each Bergman film I watch makes me love the director even more. While The Virgin Spring is not one of his most famous filmss or his best, it is a natural companion to The Seventh Seal, being set in medieval Sweden, and involving a crisis of faith for a character played by Max von Sydow.

There is a moral complexity to this apparently simple story of parental revenge. The titular 'virgin' Karin is a slightly spoiled young woman, who falls foul of some herdsmen; they return her generosity (she shares her meal with them) with rape and murder. We the audience spend the whole time thinking "No, don't interact with them!' while she displays the Christian teachings her parents have taught her, teachings which would usually be applauded. Her parents reaction to her awful death is to kill as well, an understandable act that goes against their beliefs (turn the other cheek, do not kill).

The film was controversial at the time for its rape scene. Though some of the impactis now lessened, such scenes are not uncommon in modern film, the passive bystanding perspective of the camera, and the quietness of the act itself (Karin cannot scream) makes it insidiously shocking. I felt her fear without even seeing her face.

The ending reminded me of the end of Ordet with its apparent sign of God's presence. This gives the film a more positive ending than The Seventh Seal, where God remains silent. As always with Bergman the cinematography is beautiful, the black-and-film working to place us in the medieval period, and underscoring the moral dilemmas at the centre of this story. It is sad, beautiful and quietly powerful.


  1. I really need to catch up with this one.

    1. Do look out for it, definitely worth your time.

  2. "The Virgin Spring" is one of the movies in the six- or seven-way tie for my favorite Bergman film. That may get worse in March as Turner Classic Movies is showing a lot of Bergman movies and I'll probably be seeing a few that I've not seen before - notably "Scenes from a Marriage" and "Cries and Whispers."

    If pressed, I'll name "Smiles of a Summer Night" as my absolute favorite.

    Trivia: According to John Waters, "The Virgin Spring" is the first movie to show someone vomiting onscreen.

    1. Scenes from a Marriage is long but good; the two performances are fantastic, managing to be infuriating and sympathetic throughout.

      I would trust John Waters on that: if anyones knows, he does!