This is the edited down film version and not the TV mini-series version, just so ya know!
Written By: Ingmar Bergman
Directed By: Ingmar Bergman
Ingmar Bergman is the very definition of an art house filmmaker, he is the role model for existential filmmakers the world over. But, later in his career Bergman toned his style down and began making films more long the lines of Fanny Och Alexander where a straighter narrative was used to tackle existential issues, as opposed to the massively surreal Det Sjunde Inseglet. The existential elements are still present in Fanny Och Alexander and it is still very much an art house film, but it is a much more traditional film than his earlier works. This means that Fanny Och Alexander is one of the more, if not the most, accessible films of Bergman’s career. There are deep meditations, but at the same time there are direct to the point moments. Fanny Och Alexander manages to have an element for everyone, except maybe the modern movie goer, because I don’t see them ever accepting Bergman’s style in any form.
A family portrait is given in Fanny Och Alexander, for the most part through the eyes of young Alexander. There are moments of complete and absolute fear, but there are also moments of overriding joy and elation. We experience these diverse emotions as Alexander experiences them, therefore we can’t help but feel the joys that he does and shrink back in fear when he has been frightened by his step-father. Through Alexander we get to see the trials and tribulations of a family that is both loving and fractured. They are a true family because they do love each other and care for each other, but they also have their differences, quarrel with one another and are very flawed. Story wise it is this connection with Alexander and his family that allows us to fully embrace the narrative, even in its more surreal moments.
Like all Bergman works, Fanny Och Alexander does go into the realm of the bizarre in its desire to explore religion, faith, god and our existence. I’m not going to go into too much depth on this matter, because it is a standard of any Bergman film and he handles the tackling of said themes with just as much aplomb in Fanny Och Alexander as he ever did in any of his other films. The acting was also quite choice across the board, but Jan Malmsjö stood out and was hate inspiring as the Bishop. However, what I enjoyed the most about Fanny Och Alexander was the look and feel of the film. The costumes and set design were fabulous and incredibly evocative of the time. Bergman was his usual eclectic and interesting self with the camera, helped as usual by his brilliant cinematographer, Sven Nykvist. The first half of the film is vibrant and full of life, while the second half is drab and dark, clearly reflecting the tone of the film. A beautiful picture through and through.
The only negative I have to say about Fanny Och Alexander is that it is clearly missing some of the story and there are some rough cuts in the film. For those unaware, the film version of Fanny Och Alexander is actually an edited down version of a massive TV mini-series in Sweden. There are story bits that don’t mesh together completely, some cuts that appear harsh, and a clear sense that we are missing some of the story. As great as the film version is, it also comes across as only part of a greater whole.
Fanny Och Alexander is considered by some to be the greatest work in the great career of Ingmar Bergman. I believe it is up there, but I can’t really put any one of his best works above the rest because his best are all such wonderful films. As I said earlier, I doubt very much that the modern movie goer will have much time for a film like Fanny Och Alexander, it just isn’t the type of film that appeals to the modern audience. That’s sad because the modern film goers who do avoid films such as Fanny Och Alexander are missing out on quite the experience and the final theatrical movie from a film legend. If you do consider yourself more of a causal movie goer then all I can ask is that you give Fanny Och Alexander a chance and view it with an open mind, who knows, maybe you will discover a great piece of art and go on to view the rest of Bergman, a man can certainly dream, can’t he?