Fanny and Alexander
(Fanny och Alexander)
Gunn Wållgren, Allan Edwall, Ewa Fröhling, Bertil Guwe,
Bergman’s dreamlike family chronicle is set in turn-of-the-century Sweden, where the members of an upper-middle-class theatrical clan are sheltered by their own theatrics from the deepening chaos of the outside world. Bergman has the grace in this most graceful film not to view their histrionics and eccentricities as neuroses. One tumultuous year in the life of the Ekdahl family is viewed through the eyes of ten-year-old Alexander, whose imagination fuels the magical goings-on leading up to and following the death of his father. His mother’s remarriage to a stern prelate banishes Alexander and his sister Fanny from all known joys, and thrusts them and the movie into a kind of gothic horror. The bishop is a typical Bergman figure whose severity has gone awry—he has become sinister—and the film’s round rejection of him in favor of “kindness, affection, and goodness” may be Bergman’s fondest farewell to cinema, in what was announced at the time as his last film.
This is the theatrical version of the film; the full-length television version, which runs more than five hours, screens on December 27.