321 The Virgin Spring

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
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karmajuice
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Re: 321 The Virgin Spring

#76 Post by karmajuice » Mon Dec 01, 2008 8:01 pm

So I watched this last night for the first time.

Several things in the film stood out for me, enough to merit my ruminating on them. I'll start by saying that I enjoyed it. There's something about period Bergman that feels so authentic and real, I cannot imagine cameras and a crew standing around as the action takes place. The same is true of period Kurosawa, though, so maybe it's just a combination of a language I don't understand and a setting I'm not familiar with (unintentional historicization, except it works counter to the Brechtian effect because I become less aware of the camera, of the work's artificiality, rather than more aware).

To start at the beginning, I feel like Ingeri is very much a vessel for the viewer; a few other characters also serve this purpose, namely the boy (we get some POV shots with him), but we identify with Ingeri's perspective most often. The film has a very cinematic opening, with Ingeri blowing on the fire, the light growing brighter as she does, and the flame starting in the foreground, which I associated with a projector starting up: Ingeri ushering us into the film. As the film continues, we are probably alone with Ingeri more than any other character (her preparing the food, her flight from the old man, etc); I don't even know if we see any other character alone, with brief exceptions like Von Sydow wrestling the birch tree down.
The other notable scene with Ingeri is of course the rape and murder of Karin, where we play voyeur with Ingeri while it takes place. Not only are we watching, but we are having roughly the same reaction as Ingeri: a strong desire to see it stopped, possibly some guilt, possibly some excitement. Ingeri holds a rock and we want her to use it, but we do not stop what's going on on-screen and she does not stop what's going on in front of her -- she lets the rock fall (and it tumbles into the water, and I wonder whether this is connected to the image of water at the end). Our actions mirror Ingeri's. (The scene itself is remarkable, mostly for the moment immediately following the rape).

The other detail that struck me most profoundly had to do with Von Sydow's revenge. I was fascinated by the ritualism of the act. He did not murder them in haste or fury, but went about it very deliberately, took down the birch and bathed in the sauna, arranged the things on the table, sat in his chair (like a throne). The act almost comes across as human sacrifice, it's so measured, as though following some practiced routine; this has interesting implications considering the paganism/Christianity duality in the film.
The routine also felt familiar, after reading The Kalevala recently. Finland has a very different mythology than Sweden, but I noticed a few distinct similarities (saunas, emphasis on preparation, peasant/farmer protagonists). As traditional or mythological folk texts, this story and the stories from The Kalevala felt similar, in some ways.

Other, miscellaneous tidbits:
-As I mentioned, the rape scene and the scene with the birch left an impression. The monologue the man tells to the boy also stands out, and the strange man/mystic/shaman in the woods.
-For those who may not know, the crow in the woods is not some arbitrary creepy bird. The crow is the messenger bird of Odin, the god Ingeri beseeches when she asks for Karin's misfortune.
-The frog in the bread baffled me. Does this have some significance I'm not aware of? Or is it just a bad practical joke that results in a slightly awkward moment preceding the rape? I get the hint of some meaning, but in the end it just seems kind of absurd to me.

And to wrap up my post, the ending. I'm not sure I can describe my reaction to the titular event, as Narshty calls it. The water began flowing and at that moment my body effervesced -- that's the best I can explain. It's the feeling people call breathless or speechless, that strange and sudden lightness that can come over you. It's not rare for me to react this way to a shot or a moment in a film, but it is rare to feel it so intensely as I did this time. The moment is swift and unobtrusive, maybe sublime. It came so unexpectedly, and the resemblance between her hair and the water seemed like an in-camera transition, beautifully woven together, giving a distinct visual connection between Karin and the spring.
Nearly every Bergman film I've seen seems to have one single supernatural element, and I find the technique interesting (examples include Death in The Seventh Seal, the dream in Wild Strawberries, the dead sister talking in Cries and Whispers).
isn't it possible to interpret [the spring] as a favourable nod towards paganism instead of christianity?
I see it as a perfect fusion of the two, an acknowledgement that these people will forever contain both religions within themselves (and perhaps suggesting that the one cannot or should not exist without the other). This is best exemplified when Ingeri baptizes herself in the water, which seems to be an acceptance or an expression of both religions in equal measure.

So ends my random spiel of the day.

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aox
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Re: 321 The Virgin Spring

#77 Post by aox » Wed Sep 02, 2009 9:50 am

One thing I am confused about regarding this discussion is why Paganism is getting the negative spin? What specifically about Paganism is 'immoral'? What specifically about Christianity is 'moral'?

It seems the two vagabonds 'not being Christian' (and that is an assumption in and of itself) is merely incidental and functional to the story.

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Tommaso
Joined: Fri May 19, 2006 10:09 am

Re: 321 The Virgin Spring

#78 Post by Tommaso » Wed Sep 02, 2009 10:46 am

I'm not quite sure what you mean regarding the 'negative spin'. I can't see it in the discussion, rather on the contrary. The roles of Paganism and Christianity in the film itself seem to be very ambiguous, if I look at the various opinions about their relationship here. And certainly there is nothing immoral at all about Paganism. However, for a Christian living in the Middle Ages, Paganism would almost by definition be 'immoral'.

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aox
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Re: 321 The Virgin Spring

#79 Post by aox » Wed Sep 02, 2009 11:00 am

Tommaso wrote:I'm not quite sure what you mean regarding the 'negative spin'. I can't see it in the discussion, rather on the contrary. The roles of Paganism and Christianity in the film itself seem to be very ambiguous, if I look at the various opinions about their relationship here. And certainly there is nothing immoral at all about Paganism. However, for a Christian living in the Middle Ages, Paganism would almost by definition be 'immoral'.
I was responding to this conversation:
bunuelian wrote: The film itself has been something of a disappointment for me. The supposed commentary on the tension between Christianity and Paganism is grossly over stated in the literature: there's absolutely no tension at all! Christianity is clearly the superior choice, and Paganism is just a weird, impotent, and gross thing for the perpetually dirty characters who live on the fringes of the story (except when they're raping someone). The film doesn't waste any time in saying, "Thank God there's no more Paganism!" And of course, the audience probably leaves thinking that Christians would never, ever rape a woman - and the sexual violence continues unabated. That one of the Pagans can't speak doesn't help matters. The history of this supposed tension has been written by the Christian victors, who have done all they can to conceal the suffering of sexually abused women by denying the sexuality of women altogether.
tartarlamb wrote: I agree that the film falls a little far back into theater or relying on theatrical devices at points,
Morbii wrote: A little bit off the subject (but not completely): were the herdsmen actually pagan, or do we just assume that because the other characters that were a bit off-kilter were as well (I don't remember them being pagan, butI might be wrong).
but to your point, I agree that in the Middle Ages Paganism would have been seen as immoral and that the location and setting of the film lent itself to this plot device. This is why I said that it was incidental (if they are in fact Pagan).

My question is, why not assume these men were Atheists, Agnostics, Jews or even Christians? I haven't seen the film in quite a while, but did it explicitly say at some point that these men were Pagans?

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Tommaso
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Re: 321 The Virgin Spring

#80 Post by Tommaso » Wed Sep 02, 2009 11:27 am

Yes, I assumed you were referring to Bunuelian's post mainly. I can't speak for Bunuelian, of course, but re-reading his comment that you quoted it seems to me that he was referring to the film and its depiction of Paganism and was criticizing Bergman's supposed stance that 'Christianity is superior'. Although I don't think that this was Bergman's idea, in any case Bunuelian's post doesn't indicate any negativity towards Paganism to me.

I too remember the film very imperfectly, but it is clearly set in a period when the christianisation of Sweden was still in its beginnings. In other words, the majority of the people living there were still followers of the old religion, i.e. Paganism or more precisely, Odinism, or at least retained much of its influence. The foster-child, Ingeri, at one point prays to the old Gods, even though she lives in a Christian environment. So, I don't recall whether the goatherds are indeed explicitly named to be Pagan in the film, but given the historic period I think we can safely assume that they are not atheists, agnostics or Jews.

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Feego
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Re: 321 The Virgin Spring

#81 Post by Feego » Wed Sep 02, 2009 12:06 pm

While I don't think it is specifically pointed out in the film that the goatherds were Odinists (is that the correct word?), the scene that seems to suggest that they are at the very least not Christian is the dinner scene. While the family prays, the goatherds begin to eat, and it seems not only that have no interest in the prayer but that they are not familiar with it at all. At least, that's the impression I got, and I just watched the film for the first time last week.

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Mr Sausage
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Re: 321 The Virgin Spring

#82 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Sep 02, 2009 2:49 pm

Feego wrote:While I don't think it is specifically pointed out in the film that the goatherds were Odinists (is that the correct word?)
I always thought "Odinism" signified the modern (twentieth century) revivial of old Germanic pagan religions, also known as neo-paganism, and that the historical religion is simply called Norse (or Norse paganism).

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: 321 The Virgin Spring

#83 Post by matrixschmatrix » Sat Apr 14, 2012 1:54 am

Just saw this for the first time- the impression I got is that the goatherds had no particular adherence to any ritual, and that is perhaps the greatest judgment the movie has against them: it seems much more interested in the ritual of religion than in any other aspect, particularly in von Sydow's preparation for his vengeance and in the sense that he must likewise find a ritual of repentance to find peace with himself at the end of the film. His faith in God is obviously shaken, and he admits as much, but building a church is a physical act he can perform to recreate a sense of order in his world.

I think the overwhelming effect I get from the movie is one of people trying to force order on chaotic and uncontrollable events, whether through assuming guilt (as both Mareta and Ingeri do), through destruction, through prayer, or whatever other method. The story itself is obviously a terrible and harrowing one- and I don't think the movie considers Tore an inherently better person than the goatherds
SpoilerShow
both, after all, are child murderers
but of the goatherds the adults are not deeply characterized and the child obviously has no tools whatsover to deal with what he is seeing. The examination of character is in terms of those tools, which seem largely to be rituals, which allow each event to be slotted into its proper schematic place and the world to move on from them.

Am I mistaken in thinking Tore's own purification ritual is a pagan one? I know birch is an important symbol in Norse paganism, and though the line between a pagan symbol and a Christian one is always muddied by syncretism, the fact that it's a ritual he is aided in by the certain pagan Ingeri would seem to support that idea.

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swo17
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Re: 321 The Virgin Spring

#84 Post by swo17 » Thu Mar 15, 2018 3:12 pm


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domino harvey
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Re: 321 The Virgin Spring

#85 Post by domino harvey » Thu Mar 15, 2018 6:19 pm

Thrilled this is finally coming to Blu!

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Malickite
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Re: 321 The Virgin Spring

#86 Post by Malickite » Fri Mar 16, 2018 7:47 am

"New video interviews from 2005"

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ptatler
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Re: 321 The Virgin Spring

#87 Post by ptatler » Sun Mar 18, 2018 5:54 pm

Malickite wrote:"New video interviews from 2005"
Malickite wrote:"New video interviews from 2005"
Same ones that are on the DVD from the same year.

This upgrade means they can finally release an all-Blu version of the "Four Masterworks" set!

Bressonaire
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Re: 321 The Virgin Spring

#88 Post by Bressonaire » Wed Apr 11, 2018 8:09 am

There was a letter by Bergman about the controversy over the rape scene in the old booklet that's not mentioned for this upgrade, so it may have been dropped.

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dwk
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Re: 321 The Virgin Spring

#89 Post by dwk » Mon May 14, 2018 2:51 pm


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Rayon Vert
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Re: 321 The Virgin Spring

#90 Post by Rayon Vert » Mon May 14, 2018 10:06 pm

I guess virgin beaver was too obvious (or fitting).

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dwk
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Re: 321 The Virgin Spring

#91 Post by dwk » Tue May 15, 2018 12:51 am

I considered that, but this is a classy joint.

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domino harvey
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Re: 321 The Virgin Spring

#92 Post by domino harvey » Sat Jul 07, 2018 9:18 pm

Bressonaire wrote:
Wed Apr 11, 2018 8:09 am
There was a letter by Bergman about the controversy over the rape scene in the old booklet that's not mentioned for this upgrade, so it may have been dropped.
I checked both my copies and it was dropped from the Blu-ray. Here are the missing pages from the DVD:

Image
Image

I checked the scene in both copies and they look the same, ie I don't think Criterion removed this information because their new HD transfer is incomplete when the DVD wasn't. Perhaps Criterion did not wish to contribute a defense of a rape scene in our current climate? Too bad if so, as I think Bergman should be allowed to defend his art, especially since no one could watch this sequence and feel anything but dread and terror and sadness, all appropriate responses to an on-screen depiction of rape

Rupert Pupkin
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Re: 321 The Virgin Spring

#93 Post by Rupert Pupkin » Sat Jul 07, 2018 10:27 pm

I still have the DVD (I have bought the blu-ray) and was happy to have a full booklet instead of a leaflet ... I can confirm the editing of the movie is exactly the same, while this letter by Bergman is missing in the booklet.
I think that it's a problem of (c) issue for using this letter. The same think happens with some blu-ray "upgrades". Even when you got the booklet and not the leaflet, sometimes a lot of pages are missing.
I remember that's the case for "La Double Vie de Véronique" (there's a large booklet in the blu-ray, but incomplete in comparison to the small book in the DVD). Same for Two-Lane Blacktop blu-ray booklet vs DVD book...

I don't think that there a "consensus" auto-censure reason to remove this letter (which was really interesting, because in a way I.Bergman letter completes and answer (to) the interview on the Blu-Ray of Ang Lee who - at one moment - talked about the "rape scene"...). "Straw Dogs" by S.Peckinpah or instance had a new bonus for the blu-ray edition focusing of the rape scene editing and the whole movie controversy (a very interesting new bonus title A Controversial Classic which was not on the DVD).

I don't think that there is some other reasons than (c) issue which prevent Criterion to repress this letter, but since the booklet was a nice bonus to complete the bonus of the blu-ray (which are pretty light (despite I.Bergman audio Q&A (and these are just some excerpts). This is really unfortunate.

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tenia
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Re: 321 The Virgin Spring

#94 Post by tenia » Sun Jul 08, 2018 5:05 am

The bigger issue to me is that it won't make this movie history disappear : the movie WAS censored at the time, and Bergman HAD to defend himself and the movie, and these having public information for years. Removing the content from the booklet isn't going to change that, it's only make it looks as if they're trying to put the censorship under the rug.

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