Blindspot: The Virgin Spring

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Set in the medieval times, the world is teetering between Christianity and Paganism. The film opens up to an unkempt pregnant women Ingeri (Gunnel Lindblom) praying to pagan God Odin to have misfortune fall on her foster sister Karin (Birgitta Pettersson). Karin is a girl moving through the age of adolescence: She is naive, quite full of herself and continually spoiled by her mother. It’s understandable why Ingeri doesn’t receive the same attention from man of the household Tore (Max Von Sydow) and his wife Mareta (Birgitta Valberg); who allowed Ingeri to reside in their residence but look down upon her due to her lack of faith.

Karin is required to delivery candles to the church in the honor of the Virgin Mary, but not without Ingeri joining the journey. A virgin and a girl who recently cast evil upon her now venture off into the forest. During a brief separation of the two girls, Karin encounters three herdsman. Through talks of flattery, they woo Karin into having a picnic with them. In the midst of this pleasant meal, things go wrong  far too quickly resulting in Karin being savagely raped then murdered by the men, then stripped of her quality garments.

Afterwards the men seek shelter, and ironically end up being takin in by Tore. In return to the hospitality, one of the men offer Mareta, the garments they stole, but she quietly let’s then know she has to ask her Husband. As soon as Tore finds out about the garments, there is only on thing on his mind and that’s to avenge his daughters death.

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This film has gone through a few remakes: Wes Craven’s The Last House On The Left (1972), followed by David DeFlaco’s Chaos (2005), and in the more recent years Dennis Iliadis’ remake of the 1972 also titled The Last House On The Left (2009). I’ve been meaning to get around to the 1972 version after watching the 2009 remake. There wasn’t a lot going for it that wasn’t already done before but it had aspects about it, i.e the parents revenge, and why the girl was raped in the first place; which led me to believe maybe the original handles it better. Little did I know the 1972 version is not the original; After my admiration for Bergman’s films began to flourish The Virgin Spring came up and due to it’s familiar plot I added it to my list.

Surprisingly, The Virgin Spring was extremely straightforward, even for a Bergman film. Though it’s not a bad thing because it delivers everything it promises to give but I can’t help feeling like it could have explained more on Ingeri’s relations with the family, or spend a little more time on the family dynamic. However by not doing that, it let the film live in the realm of reality, as if a hidden camera was attached to a man following them around.

Sven Nykvist, the long time cinematographer of Bergman’s films shoots yet another film full of wonderfully composed and lit shots. The film is riddled with memorable black and white shots, with my personal two favorites being the butcher knife the Tore sticks into the table, and when he goes up to tear down the tree.

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That notion provides for an uncomfortable rape scene. The camera hides behind a few branches while the men rape her which makes it feel like you are peering through those branches and can’t do anything to prevent it. The sounds that accompany this sequence and most the film are all natural. The struggle for the men to remove her clothes and sounds of them ready to consume her as if they were wild beast. The sounds of the twigs breaking and scuffle on the ground keep it in reality which doesn’t let it become unrealistic. Following this same type of filming, Bergman and Nykvist placed the camera away from her body as the men stripped the garments from her dead body. It gave the impression that you are a bystander who arrived to the seen after the tragedy occurred.

The father’s revenge was well executed and shockingly violent for 1960, or at least from what I’ve come to know as violence for that period. It never came off as cheesy asides from Tore throwing a kid at a wall which killed him. Afterwards is where it becomes very apparent that this is truly a Bergman film. Tore returns to the place where is daughters body remains, walks away from the body and begins to question God’s reasoning behind this horrendous act. “God you allowed this to happen to an innocent child…I don’t understand you, yet I still ask for forgiveness”. Director Ang Lee pointed out that the camera also remains detached from conventional angles. The camera films from behind Tore as he makes his pleas to God, and Lee summarized that it was completely different to anything he’s seen and expected a dramatized shot of the camera looking down on Tore.

The Virgin Spring proves to remain effective 54 years after it’s release by keeping things realistic and unconventional angles in important moments. Although it could have benefited by exploring a few other aspects which could have made it truly interesting but what do I know, this film won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film. It may not be one my favorite Bergman films, but a good film nonetheless.

My Rating: ★★★½ / ★★★★★

Dir. Ingmar Bergman
IMDb 8.1/10 – Rotten Tomatoes 94%
Academy Award – Best Foreign Film
Academy Award Nomination – Best Costume Design
Palme d’Or Nomination – Ingmar Bergman

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“Bring me the slaughtering knife”

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