Fanny and Alexander

Ingmar Bergman, Sweden, 1982, 189 minutes

If Bergman through his prolific cinematic career presented different versions of his moral universe with films as diverse as The Seventh Seal, Smiles of a Summer Night or The Rite, then with this being his penultimate but magisterial feature, one gets more than a glimpse of the rich repertoire of ideas, technical and psychological tricks which earned Bergman his world-wide reputation. In fact, the synthesis in Fanny and Alexander is so wealthy in insights and new techniques which exist alongside the old magic, that one may as well claim that Bergman has transcended with this attempt the world he had already set through several exemplary films.

A huge canvas of autobiographical details set against a richly textured locale and enhanced by the detailed depiction of the historical period - in terms of settings and costumes - Fanny and Alexander brings us into key aspects of the life of an aristocratic family in Upssala around the beginning of the century. Bergman adumbrates meticulously the spirit within which all family rites occur. One observes a wonderful portrayal of the traditional celebration of Christmas and within this mood Bergman utilizes his potential to mobilise emotions, a process which results in unexpected epiphanies: the fall of God from the spiritual realm to the material symbolized through a marionette or the oneiric moment of the children's apocalyptic enccounter with a hermaphrodite!

Bergman assembles here several of his long-lasting collaborators: Erland Josephson, Harriet Andersson and Gunnar Bjornstrand carry with their acting the typical Bergmanesque flair, while Sven Nykvist's lustrous photography creates an admirable aesthetic context for the narration of the story. A stunning film throughout, both for the scope of its ambition, as well as for the breadth of its vision.

Review by Spiros Gangas
Taken from EUFS Programme 1993-94