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The Virgin Spring

(1960, Bergman)

"A day can start out beautifully yet end in misery."

That's the chance we take every time we wake up. We make plans and try to stick by them, but only one minor deviation can result in unexpected, or even catastrophic outcomes, and alter the course of our day dramatically. A beautiful day turned into misery. That is the situation in which the characters of this Ingmar Bergman's film find themselves.

Set in medieval Sweden, The Virgin Spring starts with Karin (Birgitta Pettersson), a young woman sent to take candles into church by her parents, Töre and Märeta (Max Von Sydow and Birgitta Valberg). But when their day turns to misery, they have to think about their response against those that caused it.

This is my 6th Bergman film, and I have to say that each film of his is a revelation in many ways. Be it for the mind-boggling and emotionally charged depth of Persona, or the striking use of colors and sounds in Cries and Whispers, or even the sexy but fun simplicity of Smiles of the Summer Night. The Virgin Spring goes for a more straightforward, raw approach, but without losing that emotional anchor of his other films.

With this film, Bergman extends one of his main themes, which is the questioning of God's purposes in the things that happen to us, and end our days in misery. But on his way to that questioning, he walks us through a valley of dread and death. It is a bit of a tough watch, as things unravel, but Bergman keeps us focused on our main characters: Töre and Märeta, and how they think, rethink, and think again of their reactions to tragedy.

All of the performances are great, with Von Sydow and Valberg having the meatier roles; but Pettersson does a pretty good job of transmitting the innocence and naïvete of a young woman starting a beautiful day, not knowing the misery that awaits her. But even though he may question, Bergman manages to reassure us that the misery and tragedy can recede, and make way for another beautiful day.