The Criterion Collection has well established its amazing capabilities in film restoration, and continually achieves its vision of releasing important and historical films on DVD.
Its release of Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring this January, was no exception. The quality is magnificent.
Among its various extra features is an introduction by Taiwanese director, Ang Lee, most recently credited with Brokeback Mountain. He recalls first seeing The Virgin Spring in a small theater, and was so moved that he sat through the very next showing. I too remember the first time I saw the movie years ago. Despite being on a bad VHS copy, it was my first Bergman film, and it sparked my long love affair with his work. If you have not seen a film by Ingmar Bergman, this is a fine place to start.
The Virgin Spring is deceptively simple. It was born out of an old folk tale, but infuses lots of symbolic imagery, and contemplates man’s struggle with God in a time when early Christianity had to exist alongside the still-thriving Paganism.
The story is gruesome, but Bergman shows the tranquil, as well as the horrible. He also leaves room for hope and healing in the end, after revenge has been served.
The movie won an Academy Oscar, but ironically, Bergman later regarded this work as being below his own personal standards. The Virgin Spring is a fine film, nevertheless.
As a strange comparison, Wes Craven notoriously adapted this story for his drive-in, hack and slash film, Last House On The Left. It turned out to be an effective decision, as his film gathered a cult following, which it still maintains to this day.
Every once in a while a movie comes along with some great ideas, which renews your faith in filmmaking as an art. Tsukamoto, director of the outlandish industrial-punk/metamorphosis film Tetsuo: Iron Man, delivers in spades with his beautiful, Vital.
This movie muses on the human existence, even beyond our bodily remains. Famous for his probing beyond the surface, Tsukamoto has his characters delving beneath the flesh in meticulous fashion. Showing much restraint, the audience is not subjected to overt detail, but is instead, left with symbolic intent. Bodies, along with their functionality and content, can be scrutinized to the smallest detail, as seen in the Da Vinci-Style drawings of the lead character. In the end, however, we are defined by our conscious perception, subconscious, spirit, and even in the way that we exist in the minds of others. Respectfully made, Vital utilizes science, art and well chosen cinematic devices to create a sentimentally powerful work. The film also features a couple of interpretive dance routines that I am sure would have even made experimental filmmaker Maya Deren proud.
Allow Mr. Tsukamoto to make mention of science fiction to further convey ideas, and the result is yet another effective device to help the film reach its destination. Not just another amnesia story, Vital is an exercise in metaphysics, a medical love story-drama and a witness of a man trying to reconnect to reality and his emotions. I dare say, this movie is dope for the craving cinephile lurking within you.
Until next time, I hope you have a great viewing experience.
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