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Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Fanny Och Alexander (1982) d. Ingmar Bergman

Movie Review
Fanny Och Alexander (Three Hour Theatrical Version)
 (1982) d. Ingmar Bergman
Criterion Collection #263

  Fanny and Alexander exists both in a three hour theatrical version and a five hour "television miniseries" version.  I watched the three hour version because that is what they had on Hulu Plus.  I would probably watch the five hour version if I could get it for free.  This film is the capstone to Bergman's career, and is supposedly the most (and only) autobiographical film among his works.  At the same time it is the most avowedly populist of all his works- made for television, for Pete's sake.  And while the "populist" element of Fanny och Alexander is best summarized as resembling Shakespeare, Dickens and Tolstoy, it is present.

  I think contemporary viewers often assume that Bergman has been universally lauded as a genius for his entire career, but in fact his work has always drawn a split reaction- from the beginning.  Both inside and outside Sweden, many people "didn't like" Bergman from the start. I think it is fair to say that since he has stopped making new movies the "Nay" faction has disappeared or simply moved on to more contemporary targets, but personally, I love Bergman movies.  That's a question of taste, with no "right" or "wrong" answer, but I am on the side of light.

  So I can understand both how someone could not like Bergman and not like Fanny and Alexander, and I can understand how someone who likes Bergman WOULDN'T like Fanny and Alexander (too commercial, so to speak.) but I like Bergman and this movie, for a variety of reasons.

 First, there is the way that Bergman crafts what is essentially the flimic adaption of a non-existent early 20th century Swedish epic novel- an analog to the Galsworthy Saga or The Old Wives Tale.  The length of Fanny & Alexander isn't a reflection of some complicated plot, merely it the insistence by Bergman that he take the time to properly tell this multi-generational family saga.  Second, there is the timing of the period- 1907-1909- a fascinating period where Swedes had the telephone but not automobiles, phonographs but not radios. 

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