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Chris Kavan's Movie Reviews (3228)

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Virgin Spring, The ( Jungfrukällan ) 
Crime, Punishment and the Grace of God
3.5/4 stars

On the surface, The Virgin Spring seems like a simple story of murder and revenge in medieval Sweden, but beneath this veneer is a battle of old and new religions and the very nature of God.

You think you’re watching a classic good vs. evil, but instead you are treated to shades of grey where right and wrong are blended. You have Ingeri, a “wild woman” – pregnant, invoking Odin, the old god looking unkempt and rough. Then you have Karin, the spoiled, perfect daughter of the house who has no problem getting what she wants while remaining the ideal Christian virgin.

Ingeri is jealous and upset enough to want to curse Karin and her perfect life. Even Karin’s mother harbors some resentment at her daughter because of the relationship she has with her father. A trip to bring candles to the local church will bring all this to light and more. After Karin fails to return from her trip, the parents, along with the servants, entertain a trio of guests. Little do they know the three hide a dark secret.

After the youngest member of the group flings aside his dinner, suspicions rise. More so after the mother finds the youngest after an attack. One of the men offers her some well-tailored clothes from their “sister”, but the mother knows these clothes – they belonged to Karin. After finding blood on them, she informs her husband, who exacts revenge.

However, this simple revenge story is bolstered by the characters views of themselves the religion that surround them. Something as simple as a prayer before a meal turns into an accusation. Feelings of jealousy and envy turn into curses and a reason to condemn oneself. An old man becomes Odin personified, complete with trinkets and warnings.

At the end, Bergman posits the question that many have asked – why does God allow bad things to happen to good people. There is no answer to be given here, it only leaves us to reflect on what we have witnessed and really let everything sink in.

Religion isn’t the only theme present. Bergman makes good use of nature – fire and water – to move the story. Fire is presented in moments of great passion – a plea to Odin to start and at a moment of revenge. Water is cleansing – the most telling is the end, the movie is called The Virgin Spring for a reason, after recovering the daughter’s body, a spring wells up where she had been and those who had felt

Finally, one cannot overlook the controversial rape scene. By today’s standards it would not stir up much notice, but it was a very risky addition in its day. Even now, it has a menacing power that makes you squirm in discomfort. The impact of showing such a scene is immediate; it might have been risky, but I think Bergman made the right decision.


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