Close Up

7 November 2018: Take Two: The Virgin Spring / The Sacrifice


The Virgin Spring
Ingmar Bergman
1960 | 87 min | B/W | Digital
Swedish & German with English subtitles

The Virgin Spring marks a pivotal turning point in Bergman’s career. It was the director’s first significant collaboration with cinematographer Sven Nykvist, who would help usher in an emphasis on location rather than studio shooting, and the film won an Academy Award for Best Foreign-Language Film, which solidified an international reputation for Bergman that had been building steadily throughout the fifties. Arguably inventing the rape-revenge subgenre, the film expands upon a medieval poem to visualize the grim tale of a young virgin’s deadly defiling and her farmhand father’s retribution against her barbaric murderers. While Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left and countless other horror films have taken their cues from Bergman’s stone-cold procedural, few have recaptured its matter-of-fact intensity or chilling vision of casual evil, a quality most evident in the lengthy assault scene, shot largely in detached wide shots, that triggers the plot. Similarly exemplary is the film’s period detail, which extends from its remote forest locations and rugged costuming to its distilled portrait of Christianity’s blossoming in a 13th century Scandinavia still steeped in Paganism.” – Harvard Film Archive

The Sacrifice
Andrei Tarkovsky
1986 | 149 min | Colour & B/W | Digital
Russian with English subtitles

"Tarkovsky’s final film is also one of his most overtly theatrical, a chamber drama drawn in characteristically virtuoso long takes. A philosopher celebrates his birthday by planting a tree with his young son on an otherwise barren landscape. Disgusted with modernity, he finds his calling after reports of an impending nuclear war, the reality of which remains occluded in dream. A yin-yang symbol emblazoned on the philosopher’s robe indicates the many structuring dualities of the film: personal crisis and public catastrophe, Christian atonement and pagan rites, redemption and madness, the hopefulness of a closing tribute to Tarkovsky’s son and the irrevocable vision of a life in flames. The film’s setting (the Baltic island of Gotland), cinematographer (Sven Nykvist), and leading actor (Erland Josephson) were all borrowed from Ingmar Bergman, but the central dwelling is of a piece with the many Russian dachas in Tarkovsky’s work – a final reconstruction pitched on the brink of destruction." – Harvard Film Archive

Part of our season on Ingmar Bergman