Bergman portrays the theme of vengeance and forgiveness using a simple medieval farm-town setting and very violent depictions of rape and murder to showcase the theme clearly. The theme is shown through two characters: Ingeri and Karin’s father, Tore.
From the first few scenes we see that Ingeri is a troubled child. We can say this by using proof from the attitudes of others toward her and her reactions to their attitudes in the opening of the film. After a few scenes, we see that Ingeri is pregnant. This automatically changes the representation that was previously formed. Now we can say that she could be troubled or acting out because of treatment from being pregnant. In such a religious film, that deems her a symbol of impurity and causes disgrace from others with high religious beliefs. On the other hand, Karin is introduced to us as very pure and innocent. Ingeri & Karin have a conversation about what Karin would do if she were about to be raped. Karin, not in an intentional disrespectful way, says she would merely fight them off; she implies that fighting them off would be simple, so she could never be the victim of rape. Through this scene, we learn that Ingeri has been raped and although her repercussions were not death, she was impregnated. This scene also gives proof that Ingeri is jealous of Karin because she is so highly praised for being innocent while she is left discredited for something that was out of her control (being raped). Out of vengeance, Ingeri both prays that Karin is raped and watches as two herdsmen strip her of her innocence and kill her. She asks for forgiveness to Karin’s father just after he learns of the herdsmen being responsible for his daughter not returning home. Ingeri feels that she is to blame because of praying for it to happen and not doing anything to stop it.
We witness yet another act of vengeance and asking of forgiveness with Karin’s father, Tore. Karin’s father is upset after Ingeri tells him exactly what the herdsmen have done to Karin. He lashes out and kills both the herdsmen and the small boy that witnesses the rape and murder of his only daughter. Ingeri leads the village people to Karin’s body in the forest. Here, Karin’s father asks for forgiveness of the violent acts that he has committed and says he will build a church on that very ground to make peace.
The importance of his asking for forgiveness is that he also says to his God that he does not understand why a God that he worships would put him in such a situation. Although he is questionable of his God, he still asks for forgiveness. Tore then picks up his daughter from the dirt that she lays and a spring arises.
This spring possibly symbolizes Tore and Ingeri being granted forgiveness. Ingeri washes her face with the water from the spring and it seems as though she is being purified as the water cleanses her face.