In 14th-century Sweden, a young virgin is raped and murdered by three herdsmen after her half-sister has invoked a pagan curse. When the father avenges his daughter’s death, a spring bubbles up from the spot where she died. As a characteristic illustration of the hypocrisy with which he appeared to suggest society regarded youth and beauty, the film echoes earlier Bergman, and with its matter-of-fact approach to violence it certainly anticipates the later works. As in all his films, the question of guilt and responsibility is dominant. Although staged with deceptive simplicity in reconstruction of the original text, Virgin Spring uses the medieval conflict between the demands of Christianity and those of the traditional Norse gods to show a moral dilemma that is wholly contemporary. Virginity is accepted in Virgin Spring as the symbol of purity and goodness, and the destroyers of it are not just the physical embodiment of evil (and a medieval punishment for blasphemy was the removal of the offender’s tongue), but all who have sinned in any way. Thus the characters’ lapses and indulgences make logical both the tragedy and the miracle of what follows. In this light, seen as a struggle between the animal and the intellect, with moral implications, Virgin Spring leads directly to The Silence.1959.English subtitles.Black and white.88 mins.