Film / The Virgin Spring

"Bring me the slaughtering-knife."

The Virgin Spring (Jungfrukällan) is a 1960 Swedish film directed by Ingmar Bergman and starring Max von Sydow. It is partly based on the Swedish medieval ballad ''Töre's daughters in Vänge''. Von Sydow is Töre, a prosperous 14th century Christian farmer who sends his innocent virgin daughter Karin off to carry candles to church for matins. Accompanying her is Ingeri the servant girl, who is heavily pregnant. Ingeri is a secret pagan, and she resents Karin so much that she prays to Odin to bring a curse down upon Karin.

Ingeri and Karin have an argument on the way and part. Ingeri enters the cabin of a mysterious old man, who shows her pagan sacrifices he has made, speaks of "three dead men riding north", and promises to give her strength. He makes obvious sexual advances towards her, and she flees in terror.

Meanwhile, Karin encounters three shepherds, two adults and a boy. They have a pleasant picnic together, until the mood darkens, the two adult shepherds turn mean, and they rape her. One of the rapists then bashes Karin in the head with a rock, killing her. The two shepherds take Karin's possessions and strip the fine silk dress from her body before heading south. They then stop to take shelter—at Töre's farm.

The Virgin Spring was written by Ulla Isaksson, and thus is one of the few Ingmar Bergman films that Bergman did not write as well as direct. It won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Twelve years later, it was remade by Wes Craven, with a lot more blood and gore, as The Last House on the Left.


  • Adult Fear: A reasonably happy and successful couple's young (and only) daughter is raped and killed by strangers.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: The two unnamed shepherds who raped and killed Karin.
  • Creepy Crows: A creepy raven squawks as Karin and Ingeri approach the creepy old man's sinister cabin.
  • Don't Go in the Woods: The forest is a dark, scary place where pagan gods reside. Karin is killed there.
  • Foreshadowing: A conversation between Karin and Ingeri where Karin says she'll stay a virgin until marriage and Ingeri spitefully asks what she'll do if a man throws her down behind a bush to ravish her.
  • God in Human Form: It is implied that the scary old man in the cabin actually is Odin, who has appeared to grant Ingeri her wish. (Like Odin, the old man only has one eye.)
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Pregnant, unwed, servant girl Ingeri hates the pampered Karin and calls down a curse upon her.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Innocent virgin Karin. Possibly subverted, as Ingeri calls her out for dancing and flirting with a boy, but Karin insists that she was only looking for a husband for Ingeri.
  • Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: Karin is blond-haired, innocent, and a virgin. Ingeri is a dark-haired pagan, and at least eight months pregnant. Karin rides her horse side-saddle, while Ingeri rides like a man would.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Töre after he kills the boy, whom the audience knows is innocent.
    • After they find Karin's body, a hysterical Ingeri cries that it is all her fault, for calling down Odin's wrath, as well as for standing frozen and watching while Karin is attacked.
  • No Name Given: The old man in the cabin, who says he has no name "these days", and who may be the god Odin.
  • Pietà Plagiarism: When Märeta cradles her daughter's body.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: After finding Karin's body in the woods, Töre cries out to God, saying that he doesn't understand why God would allow this to happen. But then he asks God for forgiveness for murder, and promises to build a church on the spot of his daughter's death.
  • Rape and Revenge: Töre takes revenge, killing both of the rapists—and the innocent boy as well.
  • Rape as Drama
  • Spoiled Sweet: Karin is pampered and spoiled, especially by her mother, but she's still essentially good-hearted and kind.
  • Virgin Sacrifice: Seemingly alluded to with the visual Title Drop at the end. After Töre pledges to build a church on the spot where his daughter died, they lift up her body, and a spring bursts forth from the ground.