Drew Recommends: Fanny and Alexander

No film captures the essence of home, festivities, and loss altogether quite like that of the 1982 film “Fanny and Alexander”. This Swedish film is directed by the famous Ingmar Bergman and gives voice to the unsung perspective of a small child, Alexander Ekdahl, who, through his curiosity, witnesses the struggles and the drama of his rich family in the wake of his father’s death. Bergman was hired to make this film for the television, turning it into a five-and-a-half hour mini-series, later releasing a three-and-a-half hour director’s cut. 


Having won four Academy Awards out of the six it was nominated for, Fanny and Alexander has continued on to be a landmark in cinema history, and its praise is undoubtedly deserved. Not only is this film one of the most imagistic, warm, festive films, it is also contrasted with a dark, yet moral string of events that allows for you to truly feel for the characters, whether they are good or bad. Although Bergman staunchly supports and sides with his specific argument through the eyes of Alexander, he as well gives leeway to the possibility that he may be wrong. We feel sorry for the antagonists of the film as well in a heartbreaking climax of emotional toll and torment. 


The dialogue in the film is poetic, the delivery is amazing and the acting is memorable from start to finish. In this film are the characters who Bergman uses to expressed the importance of family in the wake of turmoil, the private lives of in-laws and their ultimate dependence upon each other when communal problems arise— in short, the character depth was outstanding and allows for a very meaningful experience. By the end, you feel as though you know these people as Alexander does, as though they are representative of your family, and all of the characters fit as puzzle pieces— perfectly together with wit, wants and differences.


With a runtime of over five hours, you are truly able to dive deep into the family, their living conditions and their behavior towards each other. With a grandmother who cannot stand her own depression, yet gives joy to everyone around her, with a father so strict that the mother feels trapped, a mischievous housemaid and an uncle so bitter to his sympathetic wife who wants nothing but good for him, it is as though you are watching events unfolds the eye above all, knowing what the other characters don’t know, awaiting their ultimate responses. 


The musical element to this film adds to the homely, calming, yet whimsical perspective of childhood, as Bergman decides to use Schumann and Schubert for the film’s score. With such aspects as score, sound, cinematography and the wonderful production design, you the viewer are more easily able to become integrated into the lives of these children, Fanny and Alexander, and feel for yourself the same homely environments. With this, the problems that arise become more dear to your heart as does the Edkdahl family as well.


With a series of events dramatically unfolding, you wish not to end the film, but to continue on forever to learn more about the family, to live with them. You are grateful that the film was long as it is, that all that Bergman had to say was presented unto you, but you wish for more; you are ultimately fed, for the thoughts and questions this film leaves you asking are everlasting.