Follow TV Tropes


Film / The Virgin Spring

Go To
"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 (Birgitta Pettersson) off to carry candles to church for matins. Accompanying her is Ingeri (Gunnel Lindblom) 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 club, 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 (who was specialized in medieval history), 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.

Provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: Expands a brief folk song to a 90-minute film, fleshing out the characters and introducing themes of faith and class that are nowhere in the original.
    • Adaptation Distillation: The film drops the twist at the end of the song where the rapists turn out to be the estranged sons of Töre and Märeta.
  • An Aesop: Faith can punish even good people. And do not think for even a second that "God" will protect you from misery or death.
  • Arch-Enemy: Tore has the two shepherds who raped and murdered his daughter.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Ingeri is horrified when she becomes convinced that her prayer for Odin to punish Karin was actually heard.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: The two unnamed shepherds who raped and killed Karin.
  • Children Are Innocent: The youngest of the shepherds help his older brothers capture Karin when she tries to flee but is completely traumatised by her rape and murder. It's rather obvious he had no idea what they where going to do to her. For the rest of the film the guilt drives him nearly insane. Märeta tries to shield him from her husbands rage to no avail.
  • Creepy Crows: A creepy raven squawks as Karin and Ingeri approach the creepy old man's sinister cabin. It reappears at the end, almost as if to gloat.
  • Deadly Euphemism: When the rapists offer to sell Karin's clothes to Märeta, she grows pale with shock, then forces herself to remain calm and tells them she'll ask her husband "what payment might be fitting for such a valuable dress."
  • Death of the Old Gods: The Sweden of this movie is almost completely Christianized, and Odin is reduced to hanging out in a shack in the woods trying to sucker in stray worshippers.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The movie goes a long way reproducing the mentality of the medieval Swedish countryside, a lot of which will appear strange to a modern audience. At the same time it averts this trope, exposing the rather liberal and cheerful relationship between Karin and her parents, standing in a striking contrast to the sheep-like obedience expected of every child that, according to most people, was prevalent in that time period.
  • 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.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The reason nothing on this page is spoiler tagged. By the time a viewer comes across this film nowadays they will probably know that Karin will be raped and murdered and Töre then kills the rapists when they come to his farmstead.
  • 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.
  • Hate Sink: The two shepherds stumble upon an innocent girl in the woods, and decide to rape and murder her for the hell of it. They unwittingly seek shelter in her parents' house that night, and decide to try and sell her clothes for a quick buck. This backfires immensely, as the girl's father brutally murders them both.
  • 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.
  • It's All My Fault: Ingeri and Märeta both blame themselves for Karin's rape and murder, Ingeri because she wished for Karin to be harmed and then did nothing to help her and Märeta, because she was envied Karin's closer relationship with her father.
  • The Late Middle Ages: The setting.
  • Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: Karin is blonde-haired, Christian, 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 (his raven, his one eye and his apparently magic high-seat are clear indications of this).
    • The three shepherds are never named.
  • Oblivious Guilt Slinging: The Beggar wants to soothe the young boy by telling him about how Jesus will always take care of good people like him ... after first going into detail about what will happen to murderers and rapists. It doesn't exactly calm him down.
  • Oh, Crap!: It doesn't even occur to Karin that the three shepherds could be dangerous ... until they start commenting on her slim waist and she recognizes the mark on the goats they stole. By then, it's too late.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: A reasonably happy and successful couple's young (and only) daughter is raped and killed by strangers.
  • Pietà Plagiarism: When Märeta cradles her daughter's body.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Karin's heavily embroidered yellow silk gown, especially by the standards of the 14th century. (Until the 16th century, silk had to been imported from the Middle or Far East and therefore was extremely expensive.)
  • 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.
    Töre: You see it, God. You see it. The innocent child's death, and my revenge. You allowed it! I don't understand You. I don't understand You. Yet, I still ask Your forgiveness. I know no other way to be reconciled with my own hands. I know no other way to live. I promise You, God... here on the dead body of my only child, I promise You that, to cleanse my sins, here I shall build a church. On this spot. Of mortar and stone... and with these, my hands.
  • Rape and Revenge: Töre takes revenge, killing both of the rapists—and the innocent boy as well.
  • Rape as Drama: Poor, poor Karin...
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Töre goes on one at the end of the film.
  • Sauna Of Angst: Töre purifies himself by taking a sauna bath before becoming a murderer.
  • Spoiled Sweet: Karin is pampered and spoiled, especially by her mother, but she's still essentially good-hearted and kind young girl.
  • These Hands Have Killed: Both shown and discussed, as Töre decides that God must exist if only so that someone can forgive what his hands have done.
  • The Unintelligible: The mute shepherd only speaks in unintelligible sounds which are interpreted by the thin shepherd.
  • Violence Is Disturbing: The mute shepherd clubbing Karin to death is done in a brutish manner and Karin crawls in the dirt for a moment afterwards with blood on her face. Töre's subsequent killing of the shepherds is dirty and primitive, especially when he wrestles the boy from his wife's hands and hurls him straight into a wall.
  • 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.
  • Would Hurt a Child: In his rage (and acting on false information from Ingeri) Töre kills not only the two rapists but their traumatized little brother as well.