Wanting, Not Knowing: Suffering and Resignation in "The Virgin Spring"

In this context, Bergman's damning self-criticism—"a totally unanalyzed idea of God"—is not without merit. God's inscrutably distant presence in The Virgin Spring is made manifest primarily by contrasting it with the palpable malevolence of the Norse gods. And when the Divine finally appears, His sudden manifestation is accompanied by such a dramatic tonal and thematic shift that the film's final moments are bewildering, despite their simplicity. Unanalyzed? Not really. Over-simplistic? Perhaps. And yet, it matters little, for the film's genius lies not in its idea of the Divine, but in its understanding of humanity; it is great not for what it says about God, but for what it says about us.

The film may present an unsophisticated, even unjust image of God, but one cannot fault its insights into the grave need all humans have to accept those things that they cannot possibly understand. Töre's gradual recognition that he may never truly comprehend the reasons behind Karin's death is an important reminder that knowing exactly how and why God is at work in us is often far less important than realizing that He is at work, and that we must occasionally surrender our endless desire for knowledge in order to embrace the deft touch of Divine Providence.

Suffering is difficult when we cannot see the reason for it, and accepting something we may never understand this side of the grave is a constant struggle. But resignation to God's Will in our lives is often the first (and most important) step toward peace.

6/9/2011 4:00:00 AM
  • Catholic
  • Through a Lens Darkly
  • Film
  • Ingmar Bergman
  • Movies
  • Resignation
  • Suffering
  • Christianity
  • Roman Catholicism
  • Joseph Susanka
    About Joseph Susanka
    Joseph Susanka has been doing development work for institutions of Catholic higher education since his graduation from Thomas Aquinas College in 1999. He blogs at Crisis Magazine, where he also contributes feature articles on a variety of topics.
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