They lock the brothers in the building, and when Töre sees Ingeri, she confesses that she saw the whole rape and murder, and did nothing. Töre plots his revenge, and goes through a long psyching-up process of taking a steam bath and uprooting a sapling. He then enters the building, stabs the mute brother to death in the neck, strangles and tosses the lead brother into the fire, and then takes the scared young boy, over his wife’s objections, and tosses him across the room, violently, thus breaking the child’s neck. In his rage, Töre fears that he has descended to the animalistic level of the two older brothers, and become as bad as they were by killing the young boy, who we have seen is a victim of his two older brothers’ malignance.
The next morning, Töre, and all those dependent upon him, set off to find Karin’s body. Ingeri leads them there, and Töre, upon seeing it, goes off to the river to question God. This could have been a great scene and moment, for Bergman wisely dos not let us see Töre’s face, only his back, thus allowing us to interpolate our own ideas of anguish into the scene, not something he has spoonfed us. Yet, then Töre, inexplicably, claims he will build a chapel on the spot where his daughter was murdered, and an underground spring bursts forth from where Karin’s head lay. It is a miracle (as well as needlessly preachy), and the film ends in solemnity, yet hope.
The acting is all over the place, starting with Von Sydow. At times, his Töre is emotionally convincing, as when he anguishes over killing the boy, or whips himself into a frenzy just beforehand. Yet, at other times he is an almost comically absurd figure, almost out of a Prince Valiant comic strip. The rest of the acting is in simple emotional blacks and whites, save for the superlative performance by Ove Porath, as the young boy. His has to be the finest film portrayal by a child in the post-silent film era, if not by any actor of any age.
The lighting and black and white cinematography by Sven Nykvist, in his first full time collaboration with Bergman, is outstanding. The influence of Akira Kurosawa’s tracking through the woods in Rashomon, as well as the use of branches and thatch to show the entrapment of Karin, directly echo the same devices used by Kurosawa when the bandit in his film kills the defenseless samurai. Many have claimed that Nykvist did not really break with the style of prior Bergman cinematographer Gunnar Fischer until the next film he made with Bergman, Through A Glass, Darkly, but they obviously have missed the scenes just described, the likes of which had never before appeared in the Bergman oeuvre.