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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • English Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • Swedish PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Audio commentary by Ingmar Bergman scholar Birgitta Steene
  • Introduction by filmmaker Ang Lee
  • An audio recording of a 1975 American Film Institute seminar by Ingmar Bergman
  • A booklet featuring essays by film scholar Peter Cowie and screenwriter Ulla Isaksson, the medieval ballad on which the film is based, and a letter from Ingmar Bergman on the filmís controversial rape scene
  • New video interviews from 2005 with actors Gunnel Lindblom and Birgitta Pettersson

The Virgin Spring

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Ingmar Bergman
1960 | 89 Minutes | Licensor: Svensk Filmindustri

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #321
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: June 26, 2018
Review Date: June 19, 2018

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SYNOPSIS

Winner of the Academy Award for best foreign-language film, Ingmar Bergmanís The Virgin Spring is a harrowing tale of faith, revenge, and savagery in medieval Sweden. With austere simplicity, the director tells the story of the rape and murder of the virgin Karin, and her father TŲreís ruthless pursuit of vengeance, set in motion after the killers visit the familyís farmhouse. Starring frequent Bergman collaborator and screen icon Max von Sydow, the film is both beautiful and cruel in its depiction of a world teetering between paganism and Christianity.


PICTURE

The Criterion Collection upgrades their edition of Ingmar Bergmanís The Virgin Spring to Blu-ray, presenting the film on this dual-layer disc with a 1080p/24hz high-definition encode in the aspect ratio of 1.37:1. Criterion doesnít simply reuse the high-definition master found on their previous DVD edition Iím happy to say, instead making use of a new 2K restoration sourced from the 35mm original camera negative.

The original DVD doesnít hold up as well as some of Criterionís other standard-definition presentations from the time (compression looks a bit messier now) so Iím thankful Criterion is using a new master. Itís a marvelous upgrade, improving upon the DVD in pretty much every area, right down to the restoration aspect. The DVD wasnít terrible in the restoration realm, but far more work has gone into this one. There are a handful of specs that show up throughout the film, along with some mild flickering and a subtle but notable shifting in the frame after a key moment, but the image does look just about perfect otherwise and 95% of the film looks clean.

Also aiding the presentation is the superb digital encode, which resolves the compression issues found on the DVD and delivers a far sharpwe and more natural image. The stitching, patterns, stains, and other textures found on the costumes look far more natural here thanks to the excellent rendering of the finer details, which also aids those wide exterior shots. Grain isnít overly prominent but itís there and is rendered cleanly, while black levels and contrast look superb, supporting the filmís shadowy photography and giving the image splendid depth. Itís a beautiful image in the end and for those that already own the DVD Iíd say itís probably worth the upgrade for this aspect alone.

9/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

Criterion offers two audio tracks: the original Swedish track, newly restored and presented in lossless 1.0 PCM mono, along with the English dub, which is only presented in Dolby Digital 1.0 mono.

The Swedish track does sound noticeably better in comparison to the DVDís track. It manages to not sound like a track for an almost 60-year old film, offering superb fidelity and range with voices even offering incredible depth and clarity. Though quieter moments make a slight background hiss more audible there is no other sign of damage and it does sound cleaner than the original DVDís Swedish track.

The English audio sounds exactly the same as the DVDís: music and sound effects donít sound too bad, but voices are about as flat as can be, lacking all of the intensity and depth found in the Swedish track. The background hiss is also more audible and there are a few pops.

Ultimately it will come down to preference but the Swedish track is the clear winner here from a technical perspective.

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion ports all (well, almost all) of the features found on the DVD edition, starting with an audio commentary featuring Bergman scholar Birgitta Steene. I remember not caring too much about this track when I first listened to it back in the day, but I found myself enjoying it more this time around. Steene talks about the pagan/Christian set up in the film, and also points out beliefs of the time, which again helped improve my understanding of some moments in the film (like the use of the toad early on). Thereís plenty of standard material one would expect, such as the filming techniques, the look of the film, Bergmanís influences (Kurosawa seems to have been an influence for this one) and its place in his filmography. There are some interesting sides thrown in, like how Bergman intended this film to be the first of his trilogy (which would be made up of Through a Glass Darkly, Winter Light and The Silence) but he changed his mind later. She also touches on its reception throughout the world with the U.S., where it won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, receiving it better than most other places surprisingly, including Sweden). Iím not sure what my issue was with it initially. I mean, it doesnít stand out from many other scholarly tracks, but it does offer some fascinating context and background.

Also ported over is Ang Leeís introduction to the film. Lee discusses when he first saw the film and the impact it had on him. It was his first ďart filmĒ and it showed him that movies could be more than just stories, but could also make you ďfeel and thinkĒ and he claims that the film has influenced his style of movie-making today. Itís a decent interview with Lee, but itís not one I would recommend you have to look at (and definitely donít look at it if you havenít seen the film yet as, like the menu warns, it does contain spoilers). I found it to be more about Lee rather than The Virgin Spring.

Running a little over 20-minutes the next feature are interviews with actresses Gunnel Lindblom and Birgitta Petersson, both recorded separately. They talk about the characters they played in the film and touch on the basis of the story. They mention what itís like to work with Bergman in theater and on film, how he likes to work with his actors, and the friendship he usually develops with his actors. Birgitta talks a little bit about the rape sequence and how it was hard to do but feels may have even been harder on her male co-stars during that sequence.

The best feature, though, may be the 40-minutesí worth of audio from an October 31st, 1975 Q&A session with Bergman at the American Film Institute. In this segment (edited down) Bergman talks with who I assume are members of the press about his techniques, including how he works with the actors, his characters, and how if he has nothing to say then there is no point in making the film. Itís in English, and he does occasionally question his English but heís perfectly fine. Itís a very good clip and an excellent interview with Bergman. It has been divided into six chapter stops and is shown over a still image.

Rounding out the release is a booklet that mostly duplicates the original DVD booklet. An essay by Peter Cowie offers an analysis of the film and then from the press book for the American release are notes by Swedish author Ulla Isaksson, who writes about the film and the ballad on which it is based. The ballad itself, ďToreís Daughter at VanzeĒ is also included, sections of which are read by Steene in the commentary. What has been left out, though, are notes about how a key sequence in the was initially censored in the U.S. (and that Criterionís DVD is the first time the full film has ever been released on home video in North America), which also featured a letter by Bergman about that sequence. This whole portion was only a couple of pages so it is a bit puzzling why it would be left out.

At any rate, itís still not a packed special edition but the features are decent, and I seem to have enjoyed them a bit more this round.

7/10

CLOSING

The supplements donít offer anything new, but I did enjoy them a bit more this time around. But the A/V presentation is far superior in comparison to the original DVD edition, and I think it is worth the upgrade for this aspect alone.


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Purchase From:
amazon.com  amazon.ca