Ingmar Bergman won his first Oscar and the international Critics Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1960 for The Virgin Spring, a brooding medieval tale based on an old Swedish ballad, closely comparable to The Seventh Seal, which examines the conflict between Christianity and the paganism rife throughout the Middle Ages.
Set in beautiful 14th century Sweden, the film tells a sombre, powerful fable of peasant parents (Max Von Sydow - The Exorcist - And Birgitta Valberg) whose daughter, a young virgin (Birgitta Pettersson), is brutally raped and murdered by swineherds after her half sister (Gunnel Lindblom) has invoked a pagan curse. By a bizarre twist of fate, the murderers ask for food and shelter from the dead girl's parents, who upon discovering the truth about their erstwhile lodgers, exact a chilling revenge.
This cruel and sensational medieval allegory, made all the more powerful for the luminous, haunting black and white photography and Bergman's meticulous direction, was later to be re-made by horror director Wes Craven (Scream) as Last House on the Left.
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