I am a die hard fan of Ingmar Bergman's Films. I have just read a review on The Virgin Spring, quite charming and was simply pleased and delighted to read it.

I have a question on a particular scene in the movie, quoting from the review:

The whole household then marches off sorrowfully to retrieve the body of Karin. The father calls out to God in lamentation, declaring that he cannot understand how God can allow such things to happen, but pledging to build a church on this spot to atone for his role in the tragic events. The grieving mother lifts her daughter's corpse, and spring water bubbles out from the ground where it lay, as all look on in wonder.

What is the significance of water flow and Karin's dead body or death? In a short I want to know the philosophical significance (if there is any) why Bergman shows water flowing when her mother lifted the dead body.

  • "I have just read your review on The Virgin Spring" - Whose review?
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented May 31, 2013 at 11:43
  • @ChristianRau I have added the link
    – Myshkin
    Commented May 31, 2013 at 11:53
  • So you meant a review instead of your review, because that review is not from us (whoever that would have been).
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented May 31, 2013 at 12:12
  • @MaryJoFinch I explicitly removed the movie name from the title, since it is rather discouraged to put tag names into titles.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Jun 1, 2013 at 17:25
  • @ChristianRau So sorry - I am not sure I understand the reasoning behind that. The question only applies to this movie and the question seemed a bit vague without it.
    – MJ6
    Commented Jun 1, 2013 at 18:43

2 Answers 2


From Ingmar Bergman, Cinematic Philosopher by Irving Singer (p 55-56):

The miracle of the gushing water in the Virgin Spring alerts us to the fact that everything we have seen is a reflection strictly controlled by the aesthetic parameters of a religious legend. From the very first shots of the movie…each scene and every event in the narrative has beguiled us with its surface realism…Only later, when the couple finds the body of the dead daughter and the father eventually repents his violence, does the tone transcend the neorealism that has been dominant until this point. Bergman establishes through the miraculous spring the reflective import of the realistic images we have been watching. We recognize then that they were more than merely realistic…

When he had finished murdering [the brothers and the boy], the father looked at his two hands with dazed astonishment at what he had done. After the miracle, he holds up his hand as the offending member that performed the deed, and that he will now use to build the chapel. This alerts us to the fact that we have perceived the unfolding of a fable that is partly realistic but also designed to provide an explanation of how our body, and specifically that much of it with which we identify ourselves, can play its roles in a universal search for moral and spiritual redemption.

So the spring is our cue to look deeper at the story. It also marks the point where redemption is possible and suggests that in our own lives, we should look beyond the events for the spiritual lesson.

Singer is a philosophy professor at MIT who has studied and written on the works of Bergman, Alfred Hitchcock, Jean Renoir, and Orson Welles. The Virgin Spring won the best foreign film Oscar for 1960.


In the religious context of the story, water symbolizes purification and salvation. That is why they immediately cleanse (baptize) their dead daughter and themselves with the water that has miraculously sprung forth. For devout Christians, this is a no-brainer.

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