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The Virgin Spring

Based on my experiences I would say the wise thing to do would not be to watch Ingmar Bergman’s "The Virgin Spring" right before going to bed. The film is sure to leave you with dreams of a gloomy, barbarous medieval Sweden, all in black and white with scary religious symbolism. That said the films is brilliant, in large parts because of all that scare and gloom, but it is far from comfortable viewing.

Karin and her half-sister on their way to the church

It tells the story of a young maid called Karin, who rides to church with some candles that are to be dedicated to the Virgin Mary. On her way to the church she is tricked, raped and killed by three bandits. Later the same bandits seek shelter for the night at her parent’s farm, where they unwittingly try to sell Karin’s clothes to her worried mother. As I said – gloomy
It is also very, very good.

Karin's parents

The cinematography is gorgeous, the acting is good – but for me the favourite part was how the movie made me so incredibly uncomfortable. By today’s standards the violence in the film is moderate, but it is also devoid of any form of aesthetification. It seems a bit strange to say this but my favourite part might have been the rape-scene. Don’t get me wrong, it is awful too watch – but that is largely why I liked it.
All through the beginning of the film Karin is depicted as spoilt and rather naïve, and to be honest she is not that likable. When she unwittingly goes with the bandits in the wood to have a picnic I caught myself thinking thoughts along the lines of “too stupid to live”. But after the horrid and graphic rape-scene, Bergman does some thing brilliant. He lets the camera be a point-of-view shot from the robbers, effectively ensuring that the audience sees what the robbers see – and that is Karin’s face filled with fear, anguish and shock. Right before she dies Karin looks up with a mix of bewilderment and accusation, and since she is then looking up at both the robbers and the audience her accusatory glance works at many levels. Suddenly the annoyance felt at Karin’s stupidity feels very hard to swallow, because no matter how naïve she was – she did in no way deserve this.

Il Gattopardo/The Leopard

The film is based on the novel of the same name by Tomaso di Lampedusa, and tells the story of Don Frederico, the Prince of Salina trying to adjust to the changes brought about by the unification movement – the Risorgiomento - in Italy in the 19th Century. Don Frederico is played by Burt Lancaster (which sounds strange, but trust me he does an impressive job), and his personal journey and his relationship with his nephew Tancredi (Alain Delon) is the films main focus. It is a quite film, filled with brilliant shots and great acting and it is one of those films that actually manage to be profound without being obtrusive.

Claudia Cardinal as Angelica, whose presence affects both Don Frederico and Tancredi.

One of the reasons I loved this film might have been that I just finished a great book called The Force of Destiny – the history of Italy since 1796 by Christopher Duggan, which deals with just this period. The book is wonderful and utterly fascinating ([ profile] queenofthorns? Have you read this? It made me think of you, with your love of history and Italy). A central point in Duggan’s book is the conflict between North and South Italy, a conflict still apparent to this day. This conflict is also a central point in Il Gattopardo, but more than that it is the story of changes and the reality of these changes.


List of films watched in 2009.
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