Set in Sweden in the 14th century, this Academy Award-winning Ingmar Bergman film – based on a medieval fable and originally titled Jungfrukällan – starts with pregnant servant girl Ingeri (Gunnel Lindblom) secretly praying to Odin to deliver her of her bastard child.
She then accompanies Karin (Birgitta Pettersson) – the beautiful and innocent daughter of wealthy Christian landowner Töre (Max von Sydow) – through the forest to deliver candles to a distant church for the Virgin on Good Friday.
The fine spring day turns to snow when she meets three goat herders (Axel Düberg, Tor Isedal and Ove Porath) in the forest and, deceived by their courtesy, shares food with them, only gradually understanding what they want.
They brutally rape and clumsily kill her in a scene that is appalling in its ferocity and yet profoundly moral at the same time.
By a bizarre twist of fate, the murderers unknowingly come to the home of Karin’s family seeking food and shelter but betray themselves by trying to sell Karin’s clothes to her mother, Märeta (Birgitta Valberg).
The herders are slaughtered ritually, and unshriven as Töre’s rage and revenge spare no imaginable physical horror.
In an agony of self-hatred and despair, Töre then vows to build a church on the spot where his daughter was slain. His prayers are answered by a final miracle when a spring gushes from the exact spot.
It’s a sombre, powerful and beautifully photographed film that was later used as the basis for the Wes Craven shocker Last House On The Left (1972).
Max von Sydow
Thin Goat Herder
Mute Goat Herder
Boy Goat Herder