I watched "The Virgin Spring"not only in an attempt to save or restore some brain cells, but because Craven essentially "re-made" the film as "Last House on the Left." I can just see Craven watching this austere, stark, brilliantly crafted and acted film and thinking "I can do this American style with more raping and gore! I am a sick fuck!" Yes you are Wes Craven, and I love you for it.
Set in medieval Sweden, "The Virgin Spring" tells the story of Karin, a young, naive, spoiled girl who is sent on a journey to deliver candles to the Church by her Father, played by the awesome Max von Sydow. On her journey she encounters three goat herders, who could really care less if those candles get delivered. Bad things happen, as they do, and the goat herders end up taking shelter at von Sydow's estate. It does not take long for the family to realize what happened to their little girl and what role the herders played in her demise. The film then becomes a revenge flick, but nothing like the ones we see today. The violence in this film is devastating. Emotion, when it is showed, is intense. There are no winners here. You don't cheer the Father when he has his revenge. In fact, the actual revenge scene is as cold and disturbing as the rape scene.
Having said that, "The Virgin Spring" is a beautiful and quiet film. Much like a recent Swedish horror film, "Let the right one in." The similarities in tone and temperament between the two films are remarkable. Rather than watch "The Virgin Spring" and "Last House" as a double feature, I would recommend "Spring" with "Let the right one in." Have a classy, Swedish horror night. Then watch "Last House" with "The Hills have Eyes" to undo all that learnin and class.
BTW, Max von Sydow is incredible in this film. Can't take your eyes off him. So handsome and tall and Swedish. Hence, the hysteria! He is still making movies! Go von Sydow!