Fanny & Alexander – Review


Ingmar Bergman is fully at grasp with what he had been meaning to address the whole time, how all the themes which he had been handling through all his career had affected him so personally by placing it inside of what appears to be an image of growing up through childhood. Childhood is one thing that Ingmar Bergman’s masterful Fanny & Alexander is about, for soon what we have is a picture of Sweden, family dynamics, abuse, and the peacefulness within the state of mind. The five-and-a-half hour running time may be daunting, but within due time, it earns every minute for this truly is one of the best films about experiences to have ever been made, and at that, one of the greatest of all cinematic achievements.

Pernilla Allwin and Bertil Guve as the two titular children in Fanny & Alexander.

Within the episodic structuring of Fanny & Alexander (noting the fact that it had originally been conceived as a four-part television film), we get a picture of the Ekdahl family encountering a different type of comedy or tragedy. Fanny & Alexander is a film that explores all the dynamics that form a family, from the many happy moments and all the sad memories within every episode as we go from one significant moment to another, reflecting the passages of life. Even with the separations coming in from each episode, Fanny & Alexander still maintains a very cinematic feel all throughout especially when all watched within a single seating. For every episode explores as much as it possibly can within a different stage of childhood, and not only showing the outer layer of growing up but also a personal atmosphere creating a very touching autobiographical feeling.

A specific beauty arises from how Ingmar Bergman is fleshing out the very autobiographical feel to Fanny & Alexander, for it made the simplest actions between characters all the more touching. We can look at a moment in which we see Alexander and his loving father, are sharing what they love most, storytelling. As Ingmar Bergman allows for these autobiographical elements to come in, these moments for as simple as they may appear to be, expose a certain cultural background. It is clear there that Fanny & Alexander is not merely a film about the experiences of growing up within such a big Swedish family, but Ingmar Bergman is instead showing his viewers the Swedish lifestyle from the many big and small moments that come along.

More of the beauty to Fanny & Alexander comes out of the elements that are in a sense, very supernatural and fantastical. These moments are critical elements to Fanny & Alexander‘s mastery for what they detail so beautifully is the process of a child’s mind within the moments in which we recognize that they are truly at peace. Adding more to the masterful use of fantasy comes in from Ingmar Bergman’s use of a peculiar image, the candle. The candle is a symbol that represents life, especially as the candle is living and shining so brightly. When the candle goes out, it symbolizes death. As Alexander grows to discover more from life through what confronts him with his fantasies, one of the most sophisticated and beautiful pictures about growing up is what we are left with. Sven Nykvist’s beautiful cinematography also helps in giving clear focus to the small details, for out of nowhere, they come back and turn into much bigger events we would never suspect.

Fanny & Alexander may have more focus on Alexander than it does Fanny, but even with her lack of presence in the spotlight there’s a reasoning behind such, for she is there to support Alexander. Within darker moments in Alexander’s life, Fanny is always there by his side, and as we watch their progressing through all of these significant events, something more extraordinary comes out. Bertil Guve, who gives one of the greatest of all child performances as Alexander, is none other than a reflection of Ingmar Bergman through his own childhood. Yet for how phenomenal these child performances are, it is how Ingmar Bergman is rounding out every family member on the screen, from the facts which include how they choose to live their life and their relationships with one another – every exchange of dialogue between one another is important in a sense that we get to know one member apart from the other. A picture of family has never come in the same manner that Fanny & Alexander has.

This is Ingmar Bergman’s theatrical swan song, and in all of its complete glory, it is not only a high note for the famed director but it is also one of the most intimate family portraits to have ever graced the screen. Never has there ever been a picture that was so willing to explore how the small moments define the most important moments within the family’s life, and at the same time present so much visual beauty from all the costumes to the production design and the cinematography. It certainly feels all so personal for Ingmar Bergman when we note how it pictures how everything which he had been tackling in his most famous films had affected him so deeply, for it certainly can be felt how lovingly this tale had been crafted from beginning to end. Fanny & Alexander isn’t only the comedies and tragedies just of childhood, but of life in general and much more at that.

Watch the trailer right here.

All images via Janus Films.

Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Screenplay by Ingmar Bergman
Produced by Jörn Donner
Starring Pernilla Allwin, Bertil Guve
Release Year: 1982
Running Time: 312 minutes


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