The Virgin Spring is one of Ingmar Bergman's bleakest and disturbing films, a tragic story set in medieval Sweden about a young, pure daughter of a strong Christian family who is brutally raped and murdered by three ruthless herdsmen on her way to church to deliver candles for the Virgin Mary. The herdsmen eventually seek shelter at the victims family's home and when the parents finds out about the beggars evil and horrendous acts, the father takes the law into his own hands and unmercifully murders his aggressors; including one who is just a small child. This was the first film that won Bergman the first of many Oscars for Best Foreign Language film and the story has been remade several times. And yet unlike the many remakes, The Virgin Spring tells a story that is much more layered and poetic which contains such themes as Christianity, Paganism, vengeance, rape, questioning of religious faith, sexual innocence, justice, the absence of God and the nature of evil.
The Virgin Spring poses many moral and unanswered questions that primarily concern the revenge acted upon by the parents, and whether or not it was justified, or savage murder. When The Virgin Spring hit the United States in 1960, the rape sequence incited censorship across the country specifically Fort Worth, Texas, who banned showings of the film because of the scene, and yet Bergman stood behind it and believed the scene was necessary for the story he was telling. The grieving confession and prayer the father gives at the end of the film is one of the most emotionally shattering scenes in cinematic history, where anyone who has lost someone close to them to senseless violence could relate to. "God, you saw it...you saw it. The death of an innocent child and my vengeance. You allowed it to happen. I don't understand you...I don't understand you..."