Watched: September 19 2018
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Starring: Max von Sydow, Birgitta Valberg, Gunnel Lindblom, Birgitta Pettersson, Allan Edwall, Axel Düberg, Tor Isedal
Runtime: 1h 29min
Ingeri (Lindblom) is an unwed pregnant servant for a prosperous Swedish family. Angry at her circumstance and jealous of spoiled rich girl Karin (Pettersson), she prays to Odin for justice while the rest of the household are Christian.
The two young women are sent to church to deliver candles for mass, but Ingeri is spooked by the forest (and an appearance by Odin himself, probably) and Karin goes off on her own. She runs into a trio of goat herds who she invites to share her meal but being pampered and naïve, she does not sense the danger they pose until it’s too late.
With Ingeri watching from the trees, two of the three men rape and then kill Karin, steal her clothes and valuables, and then leave her half naked body in the woods to rot. Later that night, the brothers seek shelter with Karin’s parents Märeta (Valberg) and Töre (von Sydow). The now worried parents only discover the brutal truth when their guests try to sell Märeta Karin’s distinctive and expensive dress, spotted with blood. They start preparing their revenge…
The Virgin Spring is like a dark and brutal fairytale – Karin is the innocent princess and Ingeri the dark witch (although she does seek redemption in the end). The three headed troll popular in Scandinavian folklore is also present, and there’s friction between the old faiths and beliefs and the relatively new Christian faith (which technically raped its way through Scandinavia, so the roles are slightly reversed) which we also often see in traditional fairytales.
The rape scene is extremely uncomfortable to watch, even by today’s standards (as, indeed, all rape scenes should be) and the tension throughout the movie is palpable. For us Norwegians though, the appearance of Allan Edwall as a beggar residing with the prosperous farmers is a welcome distraction from the horror. Anyone who grew up in the Nordic countries in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s are familiar with him from his roles in several films based on Astrid Lindgren.
This is a fantastic, tense and uncomfortable movie about jealousy, hatred, revenge and redemption, and we truly recommend it. Even if you have no relationship with Allan Edwall.
What we learned: Hell hath no fury like a parent bereft. Also, try not to summon the old gods if you’re not 100% sure you can handle it. Just a little tip for you.
Next time: The Village of the Damned (1960)