Tore and his wife, Mareta, live in a simple homestead with their daughter, Karin, a pregnant servant girl, Ingeri, whom they've fostered, and three or four retainers who work the small farm. Karin is charming and innocent but spoilt by her doting parents. But they are strict Christians and it's Karin's job to take Our Lady's candles to matins some distant away. Karin is happy to go once she is allowed to wear her best clothes. She persuades the jealous and unkempt Ingeri to go with her for company, and they set off on their horses, taking freshly baked bread for their journey. They come across a shack in the woods where an old man lives. Ingeri decides to stop there for a while and persuades Karin to ride on alone through the forest knowing the dangers. Further along the track Karin encounters two rough-looking men and a boy lounging beside the track while their goats feed. They follow her and when they catch up pretend to be friendly, but lead her horse to a clearing where they all sit down and take out the bread from her saddle bag. Ingeri sits watching, out of sight, having caught up. She sees one of the men tear a piece off one of the loaves and jump in the air with fright. He has found the toad she put there that morning. A traditional story set in Sweden in the Middle Ages, where Christianity has taken root, and is practiced by the devout family. But Paganism still played an important part in the lives of many of the poor. The nasty trick played by Ingeri was part of her worship of the pagan god, Odin, the chief god of Norse mythology, whom she had invoked earlier that morning to bring down a curse on Karin. A powerful drama exploring the big themes of religion and superstition, innocence and guilt.
Dark and powerful. I could tell it hadn't been written by Bergman, dialogue wasn't as subtle and a few plot turns seemed convenient for the story rather than events that would likely happen. These flaws were made up for with beautiful imagery and an emotional sting that comes from actors creating characters I cared about. An extraordinary scene involves the father of the victim destroying a tree after being told the awful news.
The crime scenes are chilling without ever showing much. Very interesting film, depicting pre-industrial rural life in inaccessible areas in Europe.