Take a Drink: for toys and games
Take a Drink: for stages
Take a Drink: for drunkenness
Take a Drink: for angst and death
Take a Drink: for stern arguments and admonishments
Take a Drink: when childlike imagination brings things to life
Take a Drink: for Oscar’s ghost
Take a Drink: for philandering
Do a Shot: for the fireworks show
Do a Two Shots: for the Imperial Cursing March
By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Ingmar Bergman. When I first saw The Virgin Spring, my mind was blown by the artistry and emotion on display. The Seventh Seal had the artistry, but not the emotion, and then Persona and Scenes from a Marriage left me progressively more cold. When I drew Fanny and Alexander, his longest theatrical effort, I’ll admit I was dreading the prospect. Thankfully, Fanny and Alexander has heart.
Like, Matt Saracen levels of heart
Fanny and Alexander follows the Ekdahls, a rich Swedish family, as they experience a series of joys, tragedies, infidelities, and trials, in particular a mother and her two young children who must cope with the loss of a husband and father.
It’s difficult to boil down the plot, as the Ekdahls, and the film, consist of a sprawling cast of characters with their own unique motivations and arcs. The central one, though, is the nuclear family of Emelie (Ewa Froling), Fanny (Pernilla Allwin), and Alexander (Bertil Guve). The story follows them as they move from the opulent, colorful Ekdahl household to the stark, spare, homestead of Emelie’s second husband, Bishop Edvard Vergerus (Jan Malmsjo). Bergman and DP Sven Nykvist contrasts these two halves of Fanny and Alexander’s tale both thematically and visually, through set design, color, and contrast. In the first part, characters are almost swallowed up by the intricate decoration and warm hues, while in the Bishop’s house the family and the almost comedically stern Nordic women that populate it have nowhere to retreat in its empty whitewashed expanses.
Nope, nothing creepy or symbolic here…
This contrast immerses you into the traditions and lifestyles of a time and place, and the sprawling cast of characters (all excellently acted) brings it to life. This is a movie that has room for raunch (bed-breaking sex) and scatalogical (Ingmar Bergman with the fart jokes!) humor among Bergman’s usual explorations of angst, existential dread, and death. None of these themes overwhelm the narrative, though, which feels truly epic in its examination of the human condition, a universal story that become even more relatable as Bergman works in fantastical touches. Here, people interact with the ghosts of their pasts in very literal ways.
This reaches a crescendo in the mesmerizing, masterful finale, where a series of dramatic events come together seemingly due to, well, magic. I really dig Ebert’s theory- this is a family history filtered through the perception of one young boy, with magic and mysticism connecting the dots where memory and comprehension cannot. It’s a living fable, and a gorgeous one at that.
There’s not much to nitpick in this film, but it is a bit of a butt-number at three hours, and as much as I liked it, I have to admit I have zero interest in the 312 minute long cut Bergman made for Swedish television. Also, for a film titled Fanny and Alexander, Fanny is a virtual non-presence. It probably should’ve just been titled Alexander…
Fanny and Alexander was supposed to have been Ingmar Bergman’s last film, and while I’m glad it wasn’t, it would’ve been a fitting finale, a magnum opus. However, it is an epically human masterpiece of family drama.