"The Virgin Spring" (AKA Jungfrukallan) is Bergman at his Best!


Swedish director Ingmar Bergman is regarded as on the great film directors of all time. He was nominated for 9 Academy Awards, while also fathering 9 children. He died in 2007 at the ripe old age of 89 but has left a legacy worth remembering.

The Virgin Spring was released in 1960 and has since been remade a number of times. Most notably by Wes Craven in his first film “The Last House on the Left” which was also remade in 2009 by Dennis Llidis. The story is pretty simplistic but brutally tragic. It deals with such issues as loss of innocence, revenge, religion, crime, and punishment.

The film is set in 14th century Sweden and centers on a wealthy family in a small rural village. The father, Tore, is played by Swedish actor Max Von Sydow who has had quite a prolific career that started back in the 1940s and is still working today at the age of 80. Maretta is played by Brigitta Valberg, another well known (in her country) Swedish actor. Karin is their fifteen-year-old daughter. She seems to mirror the rich, pampered, free-spirited teenagers of today. She is spoiled and very naive which comes into play later in the film. Maretta is quite the opposite, very reserved and prudish. Her father is a strong man, who loves his family very much. Karin has a step sister named Ingeri, who is her exact opposite in every way. Ingeri is a pregnant servant who prays to the Pagan God Odin for bad things to happen to Karin. This was a time when Christianity and Pagan beliefs were still at odds with each other.

Karin is excited to fulfill her duty as the virgin girl who brings the candles to the church. She and Ingeri set off on horseback through the woods to make the delivery when they come across a group of goat herders, two older men, and a teenaged boy. Karin’s innocent trusting nature is completely shattered when the two men rape and kill her. Ingeri hides in the woods and watches the events, she is horrified but passive. The men steal Karin’s clothes and stomp on the candles. Her innocence and life have been crushed. The boy of the group doesn’t take part in the actions but is quite disturbed by what he has witnessed. The men then unknowingly seek refuge from the elements at Karin’s parent’s house. Tore and Maretta are gracious hosts until they find out who the men really are. Tore kills the two men in the middle of the night and in a rage kills the boy too. The rapists and Tore have each killed an innocent child, but does that make them the same in the eyes of God? This film has heavy religious overtones throughout. When they find Karin’s body in the woods, Tore falls to his knees and although he questions the almighty why his daughter had to die. He promises to build a church on this site as atonement for his killing of the boy. As Maretta lift Karin’s body a spring flows forth. Is this a miracle? It’s the Virgin Spring a film by Ingmar Bergman. It went on to win Best Foreign Film at the 1961 Academy Awards. Watch for my reviews on the remakes, coming soon.