The Virgin Spring (1960)

virgin spring poster 1960 movie ingmar bergman
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Weird story is fun to dissect and study, great looking

Rough subject not for everyone

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Virgin Spring

Studio:  Janus Films

Genre(s):  Drama

Release Date(s):  February 8, 1960

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

virgin spring bunnel lindblom birgitta pettersson

Hey, Karin. You got something brown on your nose…

Karin (Birgitta Pettersson) is a pure, innocent (yet lazy) Christian girl who is loved by her father (Max von Sydow) and mother (Birgitta Valberg) while her Odin worshipping sister Ingeri (Gunnel Lindblom) has brought shame to the family by becoming pregnant out of wedlock.  While delivering candles to church, Karin is attacked in the woods by two goat herders (Axel Düberg and Tor Isedal) who are travelling with their younger brother (Ove Porath) and left to die.  When the men arrive at the home of  Karin, a family’s revenge will seek to balance the loss.

Directed by Ingmar Bergman, The Virgin Spring (or Jungfrukällan) is Swedish drama.  Following Bergman’s The Magician in 1958, it is an adaptation of the medieval ballad Töres döttrar i Wänge.  The movie was released to critical acclaim but did have censorship and controversy surrounding the rape scene.  The movie won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film with a nomination for Best Costume Design—Black-and-White.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #321) and also included it with Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema boxset.

virgin spring birgitta pettersson axel duberg tor isedal ove porath

Yeah…let’s have a picnic with these strange men in the woods

I first really heard of The Virgin Spring due to its ties to Wes Craven’s horror classic The Last House on the Left.  I had seen Bergman films but hadn’t seen this movie.  Like most of Bergman’s work, it is a movie that can be watched and rewatched to try to determine what Berman is saying about religion, God, and revenge.  The first time I watched it I had no expectations so the second time I was able to look at it a bit more.

The Virgin Spring is a hard movie to watch because of the subject but also isn’t an easy movie to watch because of its meaning.  The movie is layered with symbolism and with the symbolism there comes tons of questions that are left up to the audience to determine.  With a basic story that often feels like a fairy tale with two sisters entering the big, bad woods, the movie becomes very allegorical.

virgin spring rape scene

Brutal in any version

One of the oddest aspects of the film has to be the pagan daughter Ingeri who is the half-sister of Karin.  She is the polar opposite of her sister with a dark, brooding, and dirty and disheveled appearance.  She worships the Norse gods and is treated poorly by her stepmother and her father who has an almost more than fatherly interest in Karin.  It leaves you wondering if her father is a convert and the end of the film implies that Ingeri’s sins are washed away by the spring which erupted from her sister’s resting place.  I find Ingeri the more sympathetic character who works hard for her life while her sister appears lazy and selfish…yet she’s the one put on a pedestal by her parents and the film.

virgin spring unnel linblom max von sydow

Let’s just call the movie “Everyone Hates Ingeri”

With the pedestal aspect of Karin, it is really odd how the revenge is handled.  The killings are ruthless and not even the boy who had nothing to really do with the death is spared.  Instead of a lot of questions about the morality of revenge, the movie instead goes to show the miracle that has come out of Karin’s death…which in a way seems to justify in a way the slaying of the men and the child.

The cast of the movie is great, and Bergman’s regular Max Von Sydow continues to hold his own in Bergman’s films despite often being cast way too young for the role.  He has a weight and age to him that helps him pull off the role.  Birgitta Pettersson is a rather light weight in the role of the titular “virgin”, but it does work by how her character is crafted.  Gunnel Lindblom is great as the shadowy sister (though it is pretty obvious that she isn’t as pregnant as her character is supposed to be in certain scenes).  I think the young actor who plays the boy also does surprisingly decent for the weight of his role but I wish in general that the herders had been more developed to add sympathy or hatred toward them.

virgin spring boy killed

Hey at least the kid’s ok…welp…never mind

The Virgin Spring looks fantastic.  The setting and great framing of each scene shows why Bergman is held in such high regard as a director.  The movie was made in a time where color could have been used, but black-and-white photography was so much more powerful for the film.

Bergman was a master and The Virgin Spring is just another example of why he has endured.  Although the movie might not be his best film, it is a great film and worth watching.  The drama has a lot of aspects of horror to it and that is why you can easily see how it developed into The Last House on the Left in 1972 and later its remake in 2009 despite having different themes and styles.  Bergman followed The Virgin Spring with The Devil’s Eye also released in 1960.

Related Links:

The Last House on the Left (1972)

The Last House on the Left (2009)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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