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Ingmar Bergman's Cinema, 15: The Virgin Spring
SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.37:1 Standard
  • 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
  • New video interviews from 2005 with actors Gunnel Lindblom and Birgitta Pettersson

Ingmar Bergman's Cinema, 15: The Virgin Spring

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

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

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $299.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: November 20, 2018
Review Date: October 24, 2019

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SYNOPSIS

In honor of Ingmar Bergmanís one hundredth birthday, the Criterion Collection is proud to present the most comprehensive collection of his films ever released on home video. One of the most revelatory voices to emerge from the postwar explosion of international art-house cinema, Bergman was a master storyteller who startled the world with his stark intensity and naked pursuit of the most profound metaphysical and spiritual questions. The struggles of faith and morality, the nature of dreams, and the agonies and ecstasies of human relationshipsóBergman explored these subjects in films ranging from comedies whose lightness and complexity belie their brooding hearts to groundbreaking formal experiments and excruciatingly intimate explorations of family life.

Arranged as a film festival with opening and closing nights bookending double features and centerpieces, this selection spans six decades and thirty-nine filmsóincluding such celebrated classics as The Seventh Seal, Persona, and Fanny and Alexander alongside previously unavailable works like Dreams, The Rite, and Brink of Life. Accompanied by a 248-page book with essays on each program, as well as by more than thirty hours of supplemental features, Ingmar Bergmanís Cinema traces themes and images across Bergmanís career, blazing trails through the masterís unequaled body of work for longtime fans and newcomers alike.


PICTURE

Continuing on through Criterionís box set Ingmar Bergmanís Cinema, the 15th dual-layer disc presents the filmmakerís The Virgin Spring, delivered here in 1080p/24hz high-definition from a 2K restoration. The restoration was sourced from the 35mm original camera negative.

Like a number of discs in this set this disc looks to be the same as the one found in the individual edition released earlier in 2018, except for the menu image, which matches the design of the rest of the set. Comparing that disc and this disc I couldnít find a discernable difference between the two. I will simply quote from the review for that edition:

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 [sharper] 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.

It really is a gorgeous presentation, and still looks great coming to it again more than a year later.

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

Again, just copying from the review for the individual edition:

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 on-disc content over from the previous Blu-ray edition. Things start off again 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 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, which all appear in this set just before this film) 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, who received it better than most other places, including Sweden). Iím not sure what my initial issue with the track was since I enjoyed it more when I came back to it again for the old Blu-ray (while only sampling it here). I mean, it doesnít stand out from many other scholarly tracks, but it does offer some excellent 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, also making 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. I found it to be more about Lee rather than The Virgin Spring.

Running a little over 20-minutes the next feature features 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.

The setís included 247-page hardbound book features the same essay on the film by scholar Peter Cowie. The book seems to be missing the excerpt from the original press book written by Swedish author Ulla Isaksson, who covered the ballad on which the film is based. The book is also missing the section around the filmís central rape sequence, which was found in Criterionís booklet for the original DVD edition. This was inexplicably excised from the individual Blu-ray editionís booklet as well.

Despite the lack of that content (the ballad is, at the very least, covered in the commentary) itís still a solid set of features adding further value to this gigantic box set.

7/10

CLOSING

Still a strong special edition with a gorgeous looking presentation.




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