Being completely unschooled in the art of film (hence the blog) I'm not going to elaborate too much on why The Virgin Spring is or is not the masterpiece that it's touted to be. I'll leave that to the ding dongs that are paid to do this sort of thing.
I'll say this though - for a film from 1960, it's remarkably unnerving. It goes without saying that this film would never have come out of Hollywood circa 1960. Set aside the idea of a 13 year old girl being raped and killed, actually putting this on film is gnarly even today.
What I found so effective about The Virgin Spring is that it's very straight forward in it's narrative. You're not force fed any sort of background story and you're not subjective to pointless character development. It's basically this: It's the 13th century and a pretty pre-teen virgin is on her way to church to deliver candles. Along the way she is raped and murdered by two young men and a young boy (the actual rape and murder is undertaken by the adults). The three guys wind up at the home of the girl they murdered and ask to have shelter for the night. As an offering of thanks they give the woman of the house some fancy clothing that they claim belonged to their dead sister. Of course, the clothing belongs to the dead child and the woman is her mother. She informs the father (played by a creepy looking and YOUNG Max Von Sydow) who locks himself in a room with a knife and the three guys and then kills them one by one.
Obviously this was the inspiration for Last House on the Left and even, to an extent, I Spit on Your Grave. But the straight forward, instinctive nature of how the people behave in this movie is much more frightening than in either of those films. The rape is undertaken coldly and with nearly no emotion at all. And when Sydow kills the three guys (including the child whom he lifts over his head and violently throws against the stone wall) it's done with little to no thought at all - it's simply what one does when they find out that their daughter has been murdered by someone. In a way, despite the questions raised about the nature of God and the importance/futility of religion, the main thing I took away from this was that regardless of how civilized we like to think we are, at our core , we're all animals and should retain some level of fear of each other.
No problem there.