Aug 24, 2013

The Virgin Spring


In terms of Ingmar Bergman’s most brutal and modern work, The Virgin Spring (1960) aka Jungfrukällan, like Persona (1966), seems to be one of the Swedish master auteur filmmalker's ‘least dated’ (not that many of his works have become outmoded) and most timeless films, which is all the more ironic considering it is a period piece set in post-Viking Age medieval Sweden when the country began to develop as a Christian nation yet still with paganism lingering in the background. In fact, The Virgin Spring was later ridiculously remade by a then unknown Wes Craven as the totally tasteless trash exploitation flick The Last House on the Left (1972), a nauseatingly nihilistic work that really reflects how the Occident has degenerated as the decades have passed, especially when compared to Bergman’s original arthouse film. Somewhat loosely adapted by screenwriter Ulla Isaksson from the 13th-century Swedish ballad “Töres döttrar i Wänge” (aka “Töre's daughters in Vänge”), The Virgin Spring is ultimately a more pessimistic work than its source and certainly demonstrates how Bergman, who was the son of a Lutheran minister and lost his faith at the mere age of 8, was quite cynical regarding Christianity and its influence on the Swedish people. With various references and allusions to the one-eyed Pagan God Odin—the central God of Norse mythology and the Allfather of the gods—The Virgin Spring is a film that depicts a people that who, although they have adopted the alien Judaic desert religion of Christianity, still have the old religion embedded in their souls and which expresses itself in many different ways, especially through nature and violence. Arguably the greatest ‘Odinist-themed’ film ever made, The Virgin Spring at various points depicts Christians as self-righteous know-it-alls whose smugness leads to their own demise, as well as the worship of Odin as, although innately ‘evil,’ much more visceral and natural as the sort of dark and deeply hidden soul of the Nordic collective unconscious, which reaches its most potent expression in acts of murder and violence, but especially revenge as demonstrated by Max von Sydow’s cold, calculating, and vengeful act towards the end of the film. Set in fourteenth-century Sweden, The Virgin Spring is a modern fable in a mystical setting about what happens when the virginal teenage daughter of a wealthy Christian family is nonsensically brutally raped and murdered by some demon-like goatherders and the perpetrators make the unwitting mistake of taking overnight sanctuary in their victim’s family home, only to share a fate similarly as brutal yet deserved as the blonde angel they senselessly slayed. Winner of Best Foreign Language Film at the 1961 Academy Awards, The Virgin Spring is a paradoxically aesthetically paradisiacal yet spiritually piratical, seamlessly assembled period piece depicting a Northern race in spiritual limbo who have yet to shed their Viking ways, but are willing to make a number of senseless sacrifices, often in vain, to understand and adapt to an alien religious creed that they now call their own. 

 Karin (Birgitta Pettersson) is a boastful and beateous, yet proudly pious and virginal teenage girl who belongs to a reasonably wealthy medieval Swedish family. Undoubtedly, Karin’s opposite is the family’s dark-haired servant girl Ingeri (Gunnel Lindblom), who, on top of being pregnant with a bastard baby out of wedlock, secretly worships almighty Norse god Odin and wishes that perennial good girl Karin was dead out of sheer and utter jealousy. When Karin is appointed to take candles to a local church, she does not take her mother Märeta’s (Birgitta Valberg) advice that, “the devil seduces the innocent and seeks to destroy goodness before it can blossom,” as the naïve girl is nice to everyone and eventually makes the mistake of talking to the wrong strangers. Ingeri joins Karin on her journey to the church, but when the closet-Odinist spots a raven—a bird associated with Odin—while walking through the forest, she begs her Christian teenage master to head back home in fear. Not long after, Karin and Ingeri run into an elderly one-eyed man, who is undoubtedly a stand-in for Odin, living in a dilapidated shack next to a creek. While Karin treads on, Ingeri has some sort of metaphysical attraction to the mystery man and joins him inside his dark home, which is adorned with statues of the one-eyed God. When Ingeri asks the elderly fellow his name, he states “nowadays I have no name” as a God who has been forgotten by his people. The mono-eyed man goes on to say, “I hear what I want to hear and see what I want to see. I hear what men whisper in secret and see what they think no one sees. You can hear it yourself if you wish. Just listen..” and displays some human body parts, including a finger, and also states while touching a particularly odious old statue of Odin, “here is the power.” Of course, the elderly wise man’s offering of power and knowledge completely petrifies dilettante Odinist Ingeri, who runs off in the woods in a state of total terror. Meanwhile, Karin continues her journey and is approached my three herdsmen: a thin man (Axel Düberg) who acts a sort of the leader, a mute herdsman (Tor Isedal) who apparently had his tongue cut out, and a little boy (Ove Porath). Karin offers the trio of herdsmen to join her for lunch and they return the favor by viciously raping her and bludgeoning her to death with a large tree branch, all of which is witnessed by Ingeri, who watches the whole ordeal like a coward (she goes to throw a boulder at them, but hesitates) while hiding from afar. 

 Undoubtedly the three unluckiest men in the world, the herdsmen make the unwitting mistake of seeking shelter at Karin’s home after being offered to stay and eat dinner by the girl’s supremely stoic father Töre (Max von Sydow). After eating dinner, the herdsmen are absolutely terrified when they hear the foreshadowing words of a poetic Beggar also lodging at Töre’s home who states, “A day can start out beautifully yet end in misery. Rarely have I seen a morning so full of promise as this morning. The sun shone in all its fairness and made you forget winter’s rages.” While sleeping, Märeta hears the herdsman boy scream and when she goes to investigate, one of the herdsmen makes the mistake of stupidly attempting to sell to her the clothes, which are soiled with blood, that he stole from Karin’s body to the already suspicious mother, thus incriminating himself and his comrades. After Märeta tells her husband Töre what has happened, he finds Ingeri and asks her what happened, thus causing the guilt-ridden lapsed Odinist to beg to be executed and recount her passiveness while watching Karin’s grizzly death at the hands of true heathens. Wasting no time, Töre cuts down a little birch tree with a sword and self-flagellates himself with the branches (an ancient pagan purification ritual once common in Sweden during the spring) so as to prepare himself for battle as if possessed with the will power of Wotan himself. With his wife by his side, Töre enters the den where the herdsmen are sleeping and coldly and calculatingly examines their belongings before slaying the men with a dagger with pagan iconography carved into the handle. Despite his wife Märeta’s passionate attempt to save the child, Töre even murders the boy herdsman, who he merely picks up and throws against the wall, thus demonstrating that his actions were stirred by pure and unadulterated hatred of the vengeful Odinist sort. Afterwards, Ingeri leads Töre and Märeta to Karin's corpse, where a ‘miracle’ occurs after the dead girl’s body is picked up and a pure and clear stream (hence, “The Virgin Spring) is magically sired where the maiden's head once lay. Töre breaks down and confesses, “You see it, God. You see it. The innocent child's death, and my revenge. You allowed it. I don't understand You. I don't understand You. Yet, I still ask your forgiveness. I know no other way to live. I promise You, God... here on the dead body of my only child, I promise you that, to cleanse my sins, here I shall build a church. On this spot. Of mortar and stone... and with these, my hands,” thus admitting the unnaturalness he feels towards Christianity but using it as a tool to repress his ‘inner Odin’ as another blonde beast who was ultimately tamed. 

In his now-controversial 1936 essay Wotan, pioneering psychoanalyst wrote regarding the Nordic/German people and the influence of their pre-Christian god Odin aka Wotan as a perennial archetype of the race’s collective unconscious, “It was not in Wotan’s nature to linger on and show signs of old age. He simply disappeared when the times turned against him, and remained invisible for more than a thousand years, working anonymously and indirectly. Archetypes are like riverbeds which dry up when the water deserts them, but which it can find again at anytime,” and such is the case in Bergman’s The Virgin Spring. Indeed, it is no coincidence when the one-eyed man in the film states “nowadays I have no name” as his name and identity may not still be acknowledged by his own people, but his legacy lives on through said people’s actions as demonstrated by Töre's ritualistic revenge and even the herdsmen’s rape and murder of Karin. On the other hand, German race researcher and eugenicist Hans F. K. Günther went so far as writing in his work The Religious Attitudes of the Indo-Europeans that, “Thus late on in their period of pagan development the Teutons had accepted much that was contradictory to the Indo-European nature. What non-Indo-European or non-Teutonic characteristics have been imparted to the Teutonic God Odin (Wodan, Wuotan)? Odin, with his strange blend of “loftiness and deception”, is undoubtedly no longer the ideal example of an Indo-European or Teutonic God, and his worship is no longer characteristic of the Indo-European or the original Teutonic religion. Already one perceives in him the voice of an alien, Non-Nordic race.” Günther further added in the same book, “The figure of Odin-Wodan does not belong to Indo-European religious history. He is the special God of the loosely-rooted expanding Viking Folk, and his composite personality stems from the late period of Teutonic paganism,” which as Bergman depicted in The Virgin Spring, Odin had a distinct influence on his own people that never seemed to die, but was during violent and unpredictable atavistic bursts, especially among the resentful (Ingeri) and revengeful (Töre) as a sort of inverse of Christian ‘good.’ While acknowledging the inability of Swedes to totally deracinate themselves from their Viking/Odinist heritage, The Virgin Spring ultimately seems to argue that Christianity has at least enabled the bloodthirsty blond beast to keep his less than flattering tendencies in check and has gone to develop great cities and culture as a result, which is symbolized by Töre's promise to God to build a church to repent for his homicidal sins. 

 With the exception of the British neo-pagan horror masterpiece The Wicker Man (1973) and Danish auteur Nicolas Winding Refn’s ambient Viking arthouse flick Valhalla Rising (2009), The Virgin Spring is the only Odin/Euro-Pagan-themed film I have seen that has proven to not be worthless, as it neither features a deluded romantic glorification of the Norse war god nor a totally tainted Christianized depiction of the one-eyed god and his esoteric essence.  As someone who recently attended a modern day Odinist event featuring everyone from obese Hitlerites to jaded Dungeon & Dragons fans to discernibly nonwhite individuals chanting “Hail Odin” while in various stages of degenerate drunkenness, I cannot say I respect contemporary individuals who proclaim to be living as Odinists, but I am sure, as C.G. Jung recognized, that the one-eyed God lives on and can be seen in the spirit of certain National Socialists, outlaw biker gangs, and Anders Behring Breivik just as there is a bit of Huitzilopochtli in Cholo gang bangers.  Undoubtedly, what the Christians call the devil can be seen as one in the same as Odin and Huitzilopochtli, as the universalist religion of Christianity has always sought to kill the old of the indigenous people, thus making The Virgin Spring all the more an important work as it names and depicts an archetype that is arguably lurking inside all Nordic peoples, but especially those of Viking heritage.  In a formerly Viking nation now thoroughly infected with the mind virus of cultural marxism, whose most famous author is cultural cuckold Stieg Larsson—an exceedingly emasculated feminist Trotskyite who seems to get off to the idea of a woman vengefully raping a man with a dildo as depicted in famous novel The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2005) aka Män som hatar kvinnor (which literally translates to “Men who hate women”)—one can only hope that Odin, who seems to have totally disappeared, will soon make a much needed appearance. Undoubtedly, Sweden needs less Stieg Larssons and more Töres, at least if the nation and especially its people expect to survive another century in the pre-Ragnarök age of nation-destroying multiculturalism, fecund-free feminism, steadily declining birthrates of the indigenous Swedish population, and the cultural and racial homogenization of globalization.

-Ty E


Andrea Ostrov Letania said...

Comparable themes and much greater work. Marketa Lazarova.

Andrea Ostrov Letania said...

"the only Odin/Euro-Pagan-themed film I have seen that has proven to not be worthless"

13th Warrior? Excalibur? Nibelungen saga by Fritz Lang? Alexander Nevsky with Rus pagans vs the Teutonic Knights? Zardoz, futuro-Euro-paganist movie? The original Pathfinder(the remake is horrible)? Macbeth by Welles? And of course Marketa Lazarova, maybe the greatest of them all.

Vikings with Douglas is pretty fun too.

This looks promising:

Bergman didn't like Virgin Spring and said in an interview that he was inspired by the samurai films of Kurosawa. It is rather willfully elemental and simplistic for a Bergman film, but I think it's very good.

teddy crescendo said...

Astonishing, this reveiw should recieve an award for its brilliance, there was only one hic-cup, "The Wicker Girl" (1972) is NOT repeat NOT a masterpiece, it is a ludicrously over-rated piece of laughably pathetic and totally unwatchable British made dog-shit (the Nicolas Cage remake was infinitely better and ludicrously under-rated), but other than that, as i said, this reveiw is itself a masterpiece, quite incredible writing.

teddy crescendo said...

Perhaps because of the subject matter of the film itself and the sheer genius of the film-making on display its difficult to believe that its still only 53 years since this movie was first shown in cinemas, if someone who didn`t know anything about the history of film (when it was invented, etc) was told that the "The Virgin Spring" was made three or four hundred years ago they`d probably believe it ! ! !.

Anonymous said...

The Swedes, the ultimate Aryan master race, even superior to Hitlers Third Reich ! ! !.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I bet all of the famous Swedish actresses from the last 100 years looked like Heather O`Rourke when they were 10 years old, all the more reason why i think you should have a picture of Heather as the main icon for this site.

Soiled Sinema said...

AOL: While I agree with Lang's Nibelungen, I would not include many of the films you mentioned, especially the fantasy-driven ones like Excalibur. Also, I am not familiar enough with Slavic pagan religions, only Odinist stuff, so I will have to wait on watching some of those films.