The Virgin Spring ★★★★½

Having never seen an Ingmar Bergman film before, The Virgin Spring sure was quite the first impression. Moreover, being a full feature length film that clocks in at a meekly 89 minutes, it's impressive how the The Virgin Spring manages to leave a powerful impact despite its meager length and even more so premise. Especially when virtually all of the plot details are spoiled in the Letterboxd synopsis.

As the synopsis states, a young woman is murdered and raped by a group of savages who then attempt to seek refuge in the farmhouse of said woman's parents. Upon discovery, their parents hatch a plan to avenge their daughter. On paper this reads as a straightforward, even painfully simplistic, story about tragedy and revenge. However, I think that the real meat and potatoes, the more potent overarching point of the narrative lies in the context of the woman's family. Specifically how they deal with the situation, being a family of devout Catholics. The idea of a lifelong God fearing father driven to a mindless blood-lust in the name of revenge. The idea of a man lead to contemplate an almost sense of betrayal by God. The figure of worship who stood by when his daughter was raped and stood by when he was blinded by rage and committed the gravest sin of all. And, to be fair, it's probably not as black and white as I'm putting it. More, what is the role of God in such horrific events, IE. The silence of God in these damning times. Is murder justified in a blind fit of revenge? Guilt, cope, and the role that God plays. Point is, shit's got more layers than a lab grown onion.

And even given the passage of time, while much of it is dated, The Virgin Spring is still a disturbing watch today. Partially due to the depiction of Karin, the young woman, given her innocent and caring personality. The blunt and unflinchingly raw manner that events unfold are honestly more disturbing than much of the overproduced violence seen in media today. Performance wise, The Virgin Spring shines. Most notably, Birgitta Pettersson is wonderful as the tragic but achingly pure Karin. As is Max von Sydow as the commanding stoic, but caring, father Töre.

Furthermore, as dark as the subject matter is. This is a pretty quiet movie. Much of the first half takes place entirely in the wilderness and the viewer is presented with plenty of beautiful shots of the scenery. It's the lack of music too that adds a very peaceful quality to the film, something that makes it even more disturbing and realistic when the major events do occur.

The Virgin Spring is a seminal film and even more seminal spiritual allegory chalked full of symbolism dealing with themes of faith, self imposed justice, and the brutality of man. Disturbing and as nihilistic as ever, The Virgin Spring is a fine film that I predict will be etched into my memory for a long time. I'm not sure if this was the best place to start with Bergman's filmography, but for what it's worth, it has me hooked.

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