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The Virgin Spring (The Criterion Collection)

4.8 out of 5 stars 67 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Three medieval herdsmen seek shelter with a man whose daughter they have raped. Directed by Ingmar Bergman. Oscar for best foreign-language film.

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Max von Sydow, Birgitta Valberg, Gunnel Lindblom, Birgitta Pettersson, Axel Düberg
  • Directors: Ingmar Bergman
  • Writers: Ulla Isaksson
  • Producers: Ingmar Bergman, Allan Ekelund
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Closed-captioned, Full Screen, NTSC, Special Edition, Subtitled
  • Language: German, Swedish
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: January 24, 2006
  • Run Time: 89 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000BR6QIW
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #63,001 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Virgin Spring (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: VHS Tape
Most Bergman novitiates will probably start with "The Seventh Seal," but "The Virgin Spring" is one of his most easily approachable films and a good intro for those unfamiliar with Bergman's ouevre. The film has more plot than later Bergman works, which makes it accesible for American audiences (indeed it won the Academy Award for Best foreign film). The story concerns the rape and murder of a young girl on her way to church, and the revenge exacted on her killers by the girl's family. Bergman took the idea from a Swedish folk ballad and transformed it into a dark medieval tale of murder, vengeance, religion, and finally, redemption and forgiveness. The film contains many items which are hallmarks of the Bergman style (overt use of symbolism, the questions of faith and the existence of God) as well as marking the early work of the incredible Sven Nykvist, Bergman's chief cinematographer. The scenes of violence are contrasted with scenes of tranquil beauty (Karin riding through the forest, the final tableau). Many critics regard this as a minor work in the Bergman canon. While that may be, it remains a dark, beautiful entry in a challenging body of work. It may be minor, but it's still Bergman.
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Bergman was the son of a Christian pastor and a lifelong atheist. He spent considerable intellectual capital trying to work out why humans were so desperate for a God. He also devoted significant artistic effort to depicting a world where people call out to God but God doesn't answer.

The Virgin Spring is set in medieval Sweden, a time when Christianity was ascendant, but some people still prayed to their old pagan gods. In the opening scene, Ingeri, a foster daughter, invokes Odin to call down a curse on Karin, the favored only child. In the next scene, we see the patriarch Tore (Max Von Sydow) and his wife Mareta (Birgitta Valberg) praying to a lurid statue of Christ on the cross. The rest of the movie goes deep into this tension between the forbearance of Jesus and the bloody justice of the Norse pagan gods.

The story, based on a 13th century Swedish ballad, is simple and stark. Karin, accompanied by Ingeri, sets off to deliver some candles to the church. While riding through the woods they get separated. Ingeri meets an old hermit, a pantheist, who shows her his secret stash of magic relics. Repulsed, she flees deeper into the forest. Karin meets two goatherds and their younger brother, and offers to share her lunch with them. They lead the naïve girl to a glade by a stream, and there they rape and murder her. They strip her of her fine clothing, intending to sell it, and flee.

Unfortunately for them, the first farm they come to is Tore's. Unaware of what has happened, Tore gives them dinner and a bed for the night. After dinner, the goatherds offer Karin's blood stained dress for sale to her mother. Hiding her shock, she hurries away to tell Tore.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
It is surprising. Yet, this is the gist of "The Virgin Spring", a film based on the 13th century Scandinavian ballad "Tore's Daughter at Vange", recounting the rape of a virgin girl, the father's revenge and a spring miraculously flowing from the spot where she is killed.

What at first may seem an ordinary tale becomes a sublime morality play, thanks to director Ingmar Bergman's incorporation of symbolic images, psychological tension and imaginative cinemagraphic techniques, fittingly designed so as to complement cameraman Sven Nykvist natural, three-dimensional style. Bergman then puts this all to great effect by pitting Christian virtues of kindness, purity and familial love against the savagery and superstitions of Norse paganism.

He portrays New Testament symbols through the patriarch Tore (Max von Sydow) reciting grace while sitting at the centre of the dining table in a manner reminiscent of Da Vinci's portrait of The Last Supper. His wife Margeta's (Birgitta Valberg) piety is shown when she prays before a crucifix, then inflicts pain upon herself to suffer Christ's agony. Their daughter Karin's (Birgitta Pettersson) innocence is reflected in a clean-faced girl dressed in a silken dress made by "fifteen seamstresses" and the grace she recites before the goatherds when she breaks and shares bread with them.

In contrast, paganism is portrayed in the pregnant foster sister Ingeri (Gunnel Lindblom) whose face is besmirched and dressed in an unadorned and dirty garment. She curses Karin by invoking the Norse god of death and war Odin, then places a toad in a loaf of bread (symbols of death and the devil), not so much out of pagan ritual, but jealousy and spite of her.
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Format: VHS Tape
Great photography!
Great Acting!
Great Story!
You will find yourself lost in this story about a father's revenge. The actors never let you think for a minute that you are not watching an actual film of medieval times.
There are a couple of very violent and disturbing scenes that are necessary for the story. All the lead actors are great. I especially liked the performance of the pregnant brunet girl who is jealous of Karin.
The filming makes you feel as if you are recalling a long forgotten memory or dream. Don't pass up the chance to see this film.
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