Movie: Fanny and Alexander
- Written and directed by Ingmar Bergman
- Cinematography by Sven Nykvist
- Edited by Sylvia Ingemarsson
- Starring Bertil Guve, Ewa Fröling, Jan Malmsjö and Allan Edwall
- Sweden, 1982/3
This film marked the end of his career as a director of theatrical motion pictures. It is one of the best movies of 1983. In this tale about two youngsters growing up in a Swedish university town at the turn of the century, Bergman re-explores old territory with heightened powers. The cinematography by Sven Nykvist is exquisite as usual — another stirring testament to the voluptuousness of looking.
For over 40 years, Ingmar Bergman has been playing the blue guitar of his imagination. On occasion, the tunes have been beyond us; most of the time, they have compelled us to listen to the complicated melodies within our confused lives. Bergman’s treatments of love, religion, sex, family, marriage, and art have set before us almost every aspect of our existence. They are magic mirrors of things both seen and unseen.
Despite frequent, direct references to the body of his work, Fanny and Alexander is very unlike the films Bergman, then 64, had become known for, particularly the increasingly ascetic exercises that characterized his films in the 1970s. Undoubtedly the first act, which takes places at a rather vulgar overnight Christmas party at the Ekdahl family residence, is somewhat adult in terms of content. Grandmothers grow old and mourn the passing of their youth, wives forgive the blatant infidelities of their cheery husbands, and ruminations take place on the relationship between the real world outside and the sheltered little world of the theater that belongs to the family, and to which the family belongs. But the narrative is deliberately and delicately filtered through the eyes of the titular children, who watch it all happen. Their experiences are shaped by what they see going on, even if they’re not fully aware of the ramifications of the actions and attitudes on display.
There’s much for them to see. So impressed have I always been by the theatrical version of the film, which runs a mere 188 minutes, that I was doubly excited to get my hands on the entire five-hour version that was shown on Swedish television. (It’s now available in a typically excellent Criterion DVD package.) I can say that the feature-length version of Fanny and Alexander is a fine film in its own right; the five-hour version is both more spread-out and more nonjudgmental, but it never feels padded or windy. The differences between the two versions are subtle, but some of them are critical. More than ever, it’s a film for viewers who love Bergman.
The film is named after two children, but it’s mainly about the young boy. The dark-haired Alexander is good-looking but slight of build and pondering kid; the blonde Fanny is treated almost as a strut by comparison. Alexander always reminds me a bit of that skinny kid at the beginning of Identity, the one who reaches out toward the translucent screen on which a projection of a character’s face is beginning to take vague focus, and who may thus epitomize that initial desire toward narrative.
This film is all about the enduring human process of cinematic storytelling, that’s more of a conceptual persona & the metaphor visuals and craft of his direction, leaves the audience the imperative cold and silence as the kid Alexander’s own mind, where it’s embellished with the presence of magic, wonder and even ghosts.
In a season when trivial entertainments of all types were filled the movie screens, Fanny and Alexander was a green film that is, in the words of its creator, “a declaration of love for life.” In addition, Bergman has noted: “It is not so much a chronicle as a Goblin tapestry from which you can pick the images and the incidents and the characters that fascinate you.”
This movie also shows Bergman’s good humour returned in abundance. As to the structure of the film, Bergman explained that certain parts are seen from Alexander’s point of view, others more objectively. ‘I’ve changed my viewpoint whenever it has suited me. There’s no real objectivity in the pattern. Nor any given style. I bring together various styles, I’m not interested in that kind of thing. I’m telling a story.’
Also looking at the financial risk, this movie was considerable and was a risk in 1980’s,as the funding was made by Swedish Film Institute being the main producer. The costs and risks were the principal reason why the film was released in two versions, the 5-hour TV series originally planned, and the shorter cinema version biografversionen (197 minutes) which was primarily intended for sale on the international market.
Indeed a great movie and an Oscar awarded for the best foreign film of 1983…..