Bergman: The Virgin Spring (1960)

So it has been long since I’ve written anything. I’ve been crawling through the same books as I have for ages, and sometimes it’s one, sometimes another, they come and go into my hands as they please, disappear again, but never long enough to be completed. Well, I misplace the blame as well. But I have been busy living as a musician for the first time in my life, which is an endless swath of sofa cushions and turnpikes, and when there is money I live richly, and when there is not I live poorly, and I’m never quite sure what the next day will look like, not its weather,  nor how it might appear on a calendar. Returning to anything resembling culture is rather difficult; one becomes lazy and unassuming after a time, and simple syrup is enough nourishment.

Well, so I tell myself that perhaps a nice starting point would be Bergman, whose Smiles of a Summer Night is one of my favorites, though little more than a romantic comedy. I begin with the Seventh Seal, and then Wild Strawberries. The first does not speak a word to me, the second I find one of the most profoundly beautiful films I’ve ever seen. But I don’t have anything to say about them, or rather, not yet, I’m mulling over them.

But now, nearly five minutes into The Virgin Spring, I don’t have a point to make, but I find the first sequence remarkable in its loaded simplicity. The film opens with a dirty woman staring directly at you. That’s what they’d tell you to notice in a film class, I imagine. And then she blows at you. And a fire erupts. They would remind you that it was the breath of God that brought forth life. And fire seems to be alive, yet it thrives only through destruction. And because she was blowing at you, are you the fire also? And because the fire emerged from between you two, are you guilty in the creation of something terrible? And though it is so terrible, we yet cling to it. She walks across the room and turns to the side, and we see she is pregnant–and we see no father, and we still wonder if we are the fire-child, or the father of the fire-child. The rooster crows, we know it is a morning to which nothing gave rise, we wonder if this is the book of Revelations, and then she does the least likely thing that could be expected of her in a scene like this: she prays to Odin.

And then we are in the next scene, perhaps a monastery, and it is Friday, the day of Jesus’ suffering, as opposed to Wednesday, that is the day of Odin,  and the woman, who is perhaps a nun, pours molten wax on her wrist to commemorate his suffering.

A woman empties an apron filled with baby chicks, saying ‘so help me God, I nearly stepped on them out there in the dark.’

And this is how the film begins. Needless suffering going unnoticed by the gods, first as anguish, then willingly, and then blind to it altogether.

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