Friday, February 24, 2006

The Virgin Spring

1960 Oscar Winner Best Foreign Language Film

Dir: Ingmar Bergman

Lots of synergy in this film from my recent viewings. Bergman and Allen, obviously. Hannah and Her Sisters featured Max von Sydow, who also stars here. And the introduction to this brand new Criterion DVD production is given by Ang Lee of Brokeback Mountain. He says it is the most influential film upon his work; indeed, it was the first "art" film that he ever saw, somehow making its way into Taiwan in 1972.

As one should expect from a Bergman Oscar winner (so many others deserved that title as well), the movie is brilliant. Bergman has adapted a 12th century folk ballad, and the story contains all of the operatic and mythic elements that one would expect from such a tale. Two sisters are on their way to church where one is assaulted by bandits. The evildoers arrive later that night at the girls' home, failing to recognize that they are seeking shelter from their victim's father. The resulting narrative explores Bergman's two favorite issues, guilt and faith.

The film is highly allegorical, almost fantastical, and this mysticism adds an ethereal element to the often hyper-realistic Bergman (Seventh Seal notwithstanding). The film is exquisitely shot as well, with lush forests transitioning to cramped cottages as the story develops. The Criterion people have done an unbelievable job of making the film jump off the screen, the forest scenes bathed in sunlight positively glowing but still razor sharp in resolution.

Bergman's frank treatment of God's apparent abandonment of His children at times of suffering is powerful and engaging. The film is particularly lyrical and visually satisfying. Another tremendous entry in his almost unparalleled canon.

BDE? I'm getting close.



Anonymous Anonymous noted on 2/25/2006 07:05:00 PM that...

I watched The Virgin Spring after the faith trilogy. This made me jump from my seat when I saw the miraculous welling of the spring at the end of the film. This was apparent manifestation of God's presence seemed uncharacteristic of Bergman whose later films (which I watched earlier) are marked by a complete abandonment of mankind by God.
If this film questions God's intentions and motives, the next three films question the nature and later the very existence of God.
What are your thoughts on this progression?  

Blogger paroske noted on 2/25/2006 10:59:00 PM that...

Let me run this up the flag pole.

The sort of folk tale that inspired The Virgin Spring is pre-modern, a working through of how worshiping a God is possible in a world defined by savagery and suffering. Early Americana is replete with such tales "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," "Little Bessie," etc.

But the Faith triology is thoroughly contemporary, where the assumptions that propelled belief in an Almighty are allowed to be questioned. So you have "Winter Light," the stark absence of God. Or "Through a Glass Darkly," where faith is literally a by-product of hysteria.

Bergman has received the tradition of religion from his ancestry, "The Virgin Spring" and countless other tales (the Church included) handed down through the centuries. God must exist, it is assumed; but how bad things happen, who can I do bad things?

But now, the freedom to explore is greater. Hence, the Faith Trilogy answers the question that Max von Sydow could only ask in "The Virgin Spring." And no tributaries open up for us on Bergman's desolate, craggy islands.