Fanny and Alexander

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Fanny and Alexander
Fanny&Alexander.jpg
Original Swedish release poster
Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Produced by Jörn Donner
Written by Ingmar Bergman
Starring Pernilla Allwin
Bertil Guve
Börje Ahlstedt
Anna Bergman
Gunn Wållgren
Kristina Adolphson
Erland Josephson
Mats Bergman
Jarl Kulle
Music by Daniel Bell
Cinematography Sven Nykvist
Edited by Sylvia Ingemarsson
Production
company
Distributed by Sandrew Film & Teater (Sweden)
Gaumont (France)
Release dates
  • 17 December 1982 (1982-12-17) (Sweden)
  • 9 March 1983 (1983-03-09) (France)
  • 8 October 1983 (1983-10-08) (West Germany)
Running time
  • 312 minutes
    (TV miniseries)
  • 188 minutes
    (film)
Country Sweden
France
West Germany
Language Swedish, German
Box office US$6,783,304[1]

Fanny and Alexander (Swedish: Fanny och Alexander) is a 1982 Swedish drama film written and directed by Ingmar Bergman. The plot focuses on two siblings and their large family in Uppsala, Sweden in 1910. It was originally conceived as a four-part TV movie and cut in that version, spanning 312 minutes; a 188-minute cut version was created later for cinematic release, although this version was in fact the one to be released first. The TV version has since been released as a one-part film, and both versions have been shown in theaters throughout the world. The 312-minute cut of the film ranks it among one of the longest cinematic films in history.

Plot[edit]

The story is set during 1907–09 (with an epilogue in 1910), in the Swedish town of Uppsala where Alexander (Bertil Guve), his sister Fanny (Pernilla Allwin) and their well-to-do family, the Ekdahls, live. The siblings' parents are both involved in theater and are happily married until their father, Oscar (Allan Edwall), suddenly dies from a stroke. Shortly thereafter, their mother, Emilie (Ewa Fröling), marries Edvard Vergérus (Jan Malmsjö), the local bishop and a widower, and moves into his ascetic home where he lives with his mother, sister, aunt and maids.

Emilie initially expects that she will be able to carry over the lavish, joyful qualities of her previous home into the marriage, but realizes that Edvard's harsh authoritarian policies are unshakable. The relationship between the bishop and Alexander is especially cold, as Alexander invents stories, for which Edvard punishes him severely. Edvard immediately confines the children to their bedroom. As a result, Emilie asks for a divorce, which Edvard will not consent to; though she may desert the marriage, doing so would place the children in his custody, including the infant from her recent pregnancy. Meanwhile, the rest of the Ekdahl family has begun to worry about their condition. When Emilie secretly visits her former mother-in-law, Helena (Gunn Wållgren), to explain what happened, their friend Isak Jacobi (Erland Josephson), helps smuggle the children from the house. They live temporarily with Isak and his nephews in their store.

Emilie, now in the later stages of her pregnancy, refuses to restore the children to the home. Edvard insist she do so, and that her remaining in the home is not enough. Emilie gives Edvard a large dosage of her sleeping pills. She explains to him, as he shows signs that the medication is working, that she intends to flee the home as he sleeps. He claims that he will follow her family from city to city and ruin their lives, then blacks out. After Emilie gets away, Edvard's dying aunt knocks over a gas lamp, which sets her bedroom and nightgown on fire. She runs through the house in flames to Edvard's room and falls on him. Despite the sedative, he is able to get her off him, but dies shortly thereafter.

Alexander had fantasized about his stepfather's death while living with Isak. Isak's mysterious nephew, Ismael Retzinsky (Stina Ekblad), explains that fantasy can become true as he dreams it.

The story ends on a happy, life-affirming note, with the christening celebration of Emilie's and the late bishop's daughter as well as the extra-marital daughter of Alexander's uncle and the family maid, Gustav Adolf Ekdahl (Jarl Kulle) and Maj (Pernilla August). During the festivities, however, Alexander encounters the ghost of the bishop who knocks him to the floor, and tells him that he will never be free.

Cast[edit]

The Ekdahl house
The Bishop's house
Jacobi's house
The Theatre

Production[edit]

Bergman intended the film to be his last feature, although he wrote several screenplays afterward and directed a number of TV specials. This most personal of his feature films was to some extent based on his and his sister Margareta's unhappy childhood under their extremely strict father, a Lutheran priest.[2][3]

The film simultaneously documents many of Bergman's earlier star actors and a wide array of prominent Swedish film and stage actors of its era. Liv Ullmann and Max von Sydow who, as leading Bergman actors, are conspicuously absent in this respect, had been his original intended stars as Emilie and Bishop Vergerus, but Ullmann was eventually unable to join due to other work obligations, while von Sydow didn't receive notification in time, apparently through mismanagement by his American agent. Bergman instead recruited newcomer Ewa Fröling and Jan Malmsjö, who is more widely known in Sweden as a highly gifted song and dance man, but who has also done many serious character parts on stage and on the screen. Bertil Guve, who gave a widely acclaimed performance as the boy Alexander, did not choose to pursue acting, but instead became a doctor of economics. However Pernilla Wallgren (later known as Pernilla August), who played the attractive nanny Maj, went on to star in other films, including The Best Intentions which Bergman wrote (but did not direct), and Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace as Shmi Skywalker.

Two versions[edit]

There are two versions of Fanny and Alexander: a shorter 3-hour (188 minutes) version, and a long 5-hour (312 minutes) version. The shorter version was released first, and the longer version was not released until a year later, even though it had been completed first. The long version was used for a four-part miniseries for television.

The shorter version had its theatrical premiere in Sweden on December 17, 1982. The American premiere for the shorter version was on June 17, 1983. The long version had its theatrical premiere in Sweden on December 17, 1983. The four-part miniseries of the long version later aired on Swedish television.

Critical reception[edit]

Upon its release, the film was widely acclaimed, and regarded as a late masterpiece by Bergman. The film won four Academy awards in 1984 and was nominated in six categories including Best Director (Ingmar Bergman) and Best foreign language film (won).

Its reputation is widely discussed by film critics, inspiring strong admiration and strong criticism.

Rick Moody commented retrospectively that the film[4]

Upon its release in the U.S. in 1983, the theatrical version of Ingmar Bergman's Fanny and Alexander generated a wealth of controversy. Bergman has always seemed to breed conflict among cineastes (Phillip Lopate, for example, has written recently about the polarized reactions to Bergman in the sixties), but Fanny and Alexander, which the director announced as his final theatrical release, seemed to bring the critics out in even greater force, as though there were just the one remaining chance to be quoted on the subject. You either loved the film or hated it, and strong voices from the reviewing community lined up on either side. John Simon, in the National Review: “Few things are sadder than the attempt of a great artist, hitherto fully appreciated only by a minority, to reach the masses.[4]

The Observer quoted actor Matthew Macfadyen as saying "it featured just the most extraordinary acting I'd ever seen". As a student, the film "was screened to us as an example to follow – an example of people acting with each other. They all knew each other well in real life, the cast, and they rehearsed for a long time and shot it very quickly. The result is extraordinary."[5]

Xan Brooks, in The Guardian's Film Season, chose the film as his "No 8 best arthouse film of all time". He described it as Bergman's "self-styled farewell to cinema", "an opulent family saga, by turns bawdy, stark and strange". Few films, Brooks observes, "boast as many indelible supporting characters". He concludes that "by the time this film pitches towards that astonishing climax (bedsheets burning; magic working) one might even make a case for Fanny and Alexander as Bergman's most mature, clear-sighted and fully realised work".[6]

Vincent Canby in The New York Times begins by noting that the film "it has that quality of enchantment that usually attaches only to the best movies in retrospect, long after you've seen them, when they've been absorbed into the memory to seem sweeter, wiser, more magical than anything ever does in its own time. This immediate resonance is the distinguishing feature of this superb film, which is both quintessential Bergman and unlike anything else he has ever done before." Canby finds it a "big, dark, beautiful, generous family chronicle"; the cast "are uniformly excellent". All of the film "has the quality of something recalled from a distance [,] events remembered either as they were experienced or as they are imagined to have happened. In this fashion Mr. Bergman succeeds in blending fact and fantasy in ways that never deny what we in the audience take to be truth." And, Canby emphasizes, Bergman repeatedly refers "to this little world, which in the film refers to the Ekdahls' theater, a place of melodrama, comedy, dreams, magic, and moral order, in contrast to the increasing chaos of life outside".[7]

Awards[edit]

The film was released in the United States in 1983 and won four Academy Awards:[8][9]

Bergman was nominated for both Directing and Writing Original Screenplay but was not awarded. The film also received the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Film.

At the 19th Guldbagge Awards the film won the awards for Best Film, Best Director (Bergman) and Best Actor (Jarl Kulle).[10]

Home media[edit]

The uncut TV version of the film is available in DVD editions released by Artificial Eye (in Region 2) and The Criterion Collection (in Region 1). The Criterion Collection has released two DVD editions of the film: a five-disc set that includes the theatrical version, the television version, and a behind-the-scenes film, The Making of Fanny and Alexander as well as other supplements; and a two-disc set that includes only the 188-minute theatrical version and fewer supplements. The Criterion release marked the first time the television version of Fanny and Alexander had been available in North America.[11]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Fanny and Alexander at Box Office Mojo
  2. ^ Ingmar Bergman Overview Retrieved 24 November 2011
  3. ^ Baxter, Brian. Obituary: Ingmar Bergman. The Guardian. [1] 30 July 2007. Retrieved 24 November 2011.
  4. ^ a b Moody, Rick (15 November 2004). "Current". Fanny and Alexander: Bergman’s Bildungsroman. Criterion.com. Retrieved February 26, 2012. 
  5. ^ Lamont, Tom (21 August 2011). "The Observer". The film that changed my life: Matthew Macfadyen. Retrieved February 26, 2012. 
  6. ^ Brooks, Xan (20 October 2010). "Fanny and Alexander: No 8 best arthouse film of all time". The Guardian (London). Retrieved February 26, 2012. 
  7. ^ Canby, Vincent (17 June 1983). "Movie Review: Fanny and Alexander (1982)". The New York Times. Retrieved February 26, 2012. 
  8. ^ "The 56th Academy Awards (1984) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  9. ^ "NY Times: Fanny and Alexander". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 January 2009. 
  10. ^ "Fanny och Alexander (1982)". Swedish Film Institute. 9 March 2014. 
  11. ^ Criterion Collection Website – Fanny and Alexander Theatrical Edition

External links[edit]