Fanny and Alexander (film)


This was a film that was made at the end of Bergman's life and there is a feeling throughout the film of reflection tinged with nostalgia, and dotted throughout with autobiographical material.

Set around the beginning of the 20th century, this is a fairytale like story of the Ekdahl family told through the eyes of its youngest Fanny and Alexander. The film opens on the eve of Christmas where the grand Ekdahl household is bustling with preparations for festivities. There is something comforting about watching all the Christmas decor, food, and traditions that were being observed. It reminds me of what Ang Lee said about his work in Eat Drink Man Woman: time and time again he would present an amazing spread of food that goes uneaten inducing a feeling of yearning or dissatisfaction. Bergman seems to play on this idea but produces the opposite effect (I'm not suggesting that Bergman was inspired by Ang Lee and it wouldn't be possible as EDMW came out in 1994). The early part of the film is filled with drinking, eating, dancing, joking, and fornicating to excess as if to demonstrate the energy of youth and strength. It's as if Bergman was reminiscing his early energetic years as he makes this film near the end of his career.

But it's not all fun and games for the Ekdahls, particularly for Fanny and Alexander. Illness, death, as well as birth and marriage come and go as tides, changing people, their physique, attitude, strengths and weaknesses, and their hopes and dreams. Towards the end of the film, I came to realise that Fanny and Alexander as children merely float away like buoys in the waves of an environment created and amended by the adults around them and their happiness is a litmus test to the wellbeing of the entire family. 

The future Bergman envisioned at the time of the film, and quite correctly, was a world where women were more in control as the final scenes allude. We also encounter the message that institutions and those representing them, either religious, political or educational, often have the opposite effects and intentions to those they preach, and that joy and kindness is found in unexpected places. It is a beautiful film filled with lush magical scenery which is what I look forward to seeing from Christmas films, and expresses a kind and hopeful sentiment I hope you enjoy. 

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