I haven’t talked about this before, but it is something that needs to be said. I cannot stand Ingmar Bergman films.
Outside of some scenes in “Wild Strawberries,” every Bergman film I’ve watched in the past has been more of a test of patience and not an enjoyable experience. Films like “The Seventh Seal” and “Persona” infuriate me with their snail-like pace, lack of interesting or captivating sequences and characters that would rather stare off into space instead of doing something. While Bergman’s films are certainly artistic, that doesn’t mean anything to me if his films are not entertaining. The most story we usually get out of a Bergman film is characters walking and contemplating what it means to live in Sweden.
Now I can add “The Virgin Spring” to that collection of nearly sleep-inducing movies. This is Bergman’s take on a 13th-Century Swedish ballad called “Tore’s daughter in Vange,” about the rape and murder of a young Sweden girl, only for these same men to show up at the house of the girl’s father, a man of God. The father eventually finds out about what happened and is torn between his love of God and his need to avenge the death of his daughter.
Most of “The Virgin Spring” is spent with this girl, Karin, an unspoiled flower that wants to see the world and have people notice her, and her friend Ingeri, a rambunctious spitfire who is pregnant and seems to despise Karin, as the two roam the forest to reach a church and drop off some candles. And that’s about it. They don’t do much of anything while traveling, until the dreaded scene arrives.
The film does get interesting once the criminals show up at the father’s house, since he is very open to helping these men in their time of need, offering them food and place to sleep. It is jarring to see that hospitality turn into rage and disgust so quickly and watch a good man do terrible things. You can see the wheels turning in his head as he jumps from revenge to his love of God.
Overall, “The Virgin Spring” is one of the better Ingmar Bergman films I have seen, but it was still tiring to sit through and watch a lot of nothing happen before anything got interesting. For an hour and a half-long film, this one felt like it lasted over two and a half hours with how slow and uneventful it was.
Final Grade: C