Jungfrukällan (The Virgin Spring) 1960

The Virgin Spring

Critics Consensus

The Virgin Spring marks one of Ingmar Bergman's most controversial dramas, although its uncomfortable exploration of divine justice -- or lack thereof -- is undeniably thought-provoking.

87%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 23

92%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 8,299

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Movie Info

Devout Christians Töre and Märeta (Max von Sydow, Birgitta Valberg) send their only daughter, the virginal Karin (Birgritta Pettersson), and their foster daughter, the unrepentant Ingeri (Gunnel Lindblom), to deliver candles to a distant church. On their way through the woods, the girls encounter a group of savage goat herders who brutally rape and murder Karin as Ingeri remains hidden. When the killers unwittingly seek refuge in the farmhouse of Töre and Märeta, Töre plots a fitting revenge.

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Critic Reviews for Jungfrukällan (The Virgin Spring)

All Critics (23) | Top Critics (3) | Fresh (20) | Rotten (3)

  • Sven Nykvist's luminous black-and-white photography conspiring with the austerity of Bergman's imagery to create an extraordinary metaphysical charge.

    January 26, 2006 | Full Review…
    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • It is far from an easy picture to watch or entirely commend. For Mr. Bergman has stocked it with scenes of brutality that, for sheer unrestrained realism, may leave one sickened and stunned.

    May 9, 2005 | Rating: 1.5/5 | Full Review…
  • The period details are magnificently worked into the narrative, and the pace and economy of the tortured Swede's storytelling make his metaphysics infinitely easier to take.

    January 1, 2000 | Full Review…
  • Its finest moments are its most self-consciously mythic, when the archness of the performances and the painterly gloom are allowed to attack Big Questions About God.

    September 24, 2020 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • There is too much heavy symbolism and too many stagey groupings, both typical Bergman faults.

    February 10, 2019 | Full Review…
  • Overwrought and ineffective...

    January 17, 2019 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Jungfrukällan (The Virgin Spring)

  • Apr 21, 2016
    In watching these old Ingmar Bergman movies, the thought occurs to me that Bergman was to cinema what the golden age of Russian literature was to writing. His films have a certain depth to them, and feel meaty with their observations on human nature and their questions of religion and philosophy. 'The Virgin Spring', based on a 13th century Swedish ballad, is no exception. If you think about it, the story of 'The Virgin Spring' encapsulates quite a bit of the effect of religion on those who believe, starting with a girl needing to mind her chastity until marriage, and continuing on with a virgin must deliver candles for Matins. When a horrible thing happens to the girl, her companion and her mother both believe it's because of them, that God had listened to their jealous prayers, while her father is stricken and asks that time-old question, "God, how could you let this happen?" However, none of them challenge that most deeply held assertion, that God exists in the first place. After exacting brutal vengeance, including killing a child, the grief-ridden father asks God for forgiveness, and promises to build him a church on the site. He still believes in spite of it all, wants to remain upright in the best way he can conceive, and is both admirable and flawed at the same time. In telling this story with elements of Job ("Why?") and Exodus/Leviticus ("An eye for an eye"), Bergman examines human nature - the inclination to do evil, and the morality of vengeance - as well as the nature of God, and our relationship to Him. How you perceive the film's meaning will likely depend on your most personal views, but it will certainly make you think. As for the filmmaking, Bergman keeps his storytelling taut - every scene counts - and he captures plenty of great moments, including some beautiful shots of the outdoors in Sweden, and heavy emotions on the faces of his actors. One scene in particular made the film controversial, however, and no review would be complete without mentioning it. The rape is horrific, and seriously disturbing. We see evil coming as Bergman masterfully builds up tension, but are still shocked - both at the incredible cruelty of the men, but also at Bergman keeping the camera on them as they commit the act (especially for 1960). He knew he didn't have to show a lot of flesh to show how vile, disgusting, degrading, and animalistic a rape is, and it's a shame the film was banned in some places given the prevalence of rape in society. The scene speaks to the darkest aspect of man, and yet oozes authenticity. As to whether religion casts a darkness of its own on man, the shadow of ignorance, or gives his life meaning and elevates him over nihilism and chaos, the reader will have to decide, but I believe Bergman is in the latter camp with this film. He is a bit over the top at the end, hitting us over the head with the miracle of the 'virgin spring' that gushes forth, and while that's presumably how the 13th century legend goes, it's the reason I knocked my rating down a bit for what is still a very good film.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • May 17, 2015
    Based on a medieval Swedish tale, The Virgin Spring is twisted tale of morality, justice, revenge and salvation. A young girl from a wealthy family was raped and murdered on her way to light candle in the church for virgin Mary, the rapists sought shelter in the girl's family and upon learning the crime they did, the girl's father executed his own brand of justice. The theme of religion was particularly important, you have Ingrei the pagan servant who is secretly resentful of Mareta, she failed to help her and allowed her to be killed as Odin's wrath. Mareta represents the goodness of the faithful, while Tore is God who smites evil. I love the camera-work and lighting used, the long shot of characters were able to reflect the emotions of each character while close ups brought the tension and suspense into full effect. I love the light cast on the character's faces showing the contrast of light and darkness, reflecting the moral dilemma the characters faced. The acting was also excellent, from beginning to the end, there was not a single dull moment, everything was meaningful and the symbolism used was able to fully convey the ideas behind the film. It is a masterpiece which would be later adapted into The Last House on the Left.
    Sylvester K Super Reviewer
  • Jul 11, 2014
    A virginal girl is brutally raped and murdered, and her killers unwittingly take refuge in her parents' home. Simply stated, this is Bergman at his best. While there is a touch of the misogyny that Bergman featured in The Seventh Seal, as Birgitta and her sister turn into metonyms for light and dark female sexuality rather than fully fleshed out characters, the film nevertheless explore tough questions about the existence of God and humans' duties in response to cruelty and despair. Is revenge ethically, morally, or religiously justifiable? If God exists, why do bad things happen to good people? Should we or can we celebrate a deity in a world this fucked up? Filmmakers like Bergman aren't didactic enough to tell us the answers to these questions; instead, we get round characters who struggle with ethical dilemmas in intelligent and compelling ways. Overall, Ingmar Bergman is rightly celebrated as one of the world's best for good reason.
    Jim H Super Reviewer
  • Apr 10, 2013
    Beautiful film if startling for the period. Bergman's the Virgin Spring is graphic where appropriate but nonetheless marked with an odd spirituality. Not easy to view but it should be viewed by a serious film viewer.
    John B Super Reviewer

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