Fanny and Alexander (Bergman, 1982) is a holiday film that fits every season. It captures so much about the highs and lows, and the beginnings and endings that we will all experience in our lives. Like the flowing water that is pictured at the start of each of the five episodes, life must take its course, Bergman tells us. This course may be fraught with peril, and the water may etch away even at the banks that hug it while it flows ever on.
Even so, that mighty water inevitably brings life and renewal again. Through Alexander’s eyes, and much like the toy theatre he plays with, we watch how the Ekdahl family endures, falters, and triumphs through each act of life. Watching this film in its full length of 312 minutes is a deeply satisfying experience. In what was intended to be his feature film swan song, we can explore with Bergman the everlasting themes of mothers and fathers, family, God and metaphysics, and life and death. He managed, in this semi-autobiographical work, to make something universal and beautiful.
What you’ll find in this episode: whether you should watch the shorter theatrical version, my curated guide to when you should watch each episode, and how theatre exists for more than just pleasure.
Links and Recommendations:
Check out Fanny and Alexander on IMDB.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of Smiles of a Summer Night.
Cole’s further viewing pick of Amarcord.
A guide to the Swedish alphabet.
An exhibition of photos, drawings, and costumes which shape the “Bergman female”.