Sweden in the early Middle Ages. Karin (Birgitta Pettersson), the beloved daughter of the wealthy farmer Töre (Max von Sydow) and his wife Märeta (Birgitta Valberg), rides through the forest, accompanied by her parents’ pregnant adoptive daughter Ingeri (Gunnel Lindblom), to have candles for the Virgin Mary blessed. Ingeri stays behind with a pagan sorcerer, while Karin continues on through the forest, where she encounters three brothers who are herding goats. While preparing to share her food with them, she notices their covetous glances too late and tries to flee. But the older brothers catch her and rape her. They then proceed to kill her with a club and steal her valuable clothing, which will later give them away and set off the father’s remorseless revenge.
No doubt Ingmar Bergman’s most archaic work, JUNGFRUKÄLLAN triggered heated debates in Sweden at the time, not least of all because the State Film Control Board refused to cut out any scenes, in particular from the rape episode. Visually – Sven Nykvist was behind the camera – JUNGFRUKÄLLAN is marked by extremely haunting images. Among them are the pure violence of the rape scene, which is filmed almost in real time, and the overpowering strength of the father, who tears a birch tree out of the earth in order to cleanse his naked body with the twigs before taking revenge on the murderers of his daughter. Alongside numerous other prizes the film won the Academy Award as Best Foreign Language Film of the year 1960.