Two estranged sisters, Ester and Anna, and Anna's 10-year-old son travel to the Central European country on the verge of war. Ester becomes seriously ill and the three of them move into a hotel in a small town called Timoka.
In the midst of a civil war, former violinists Jan and Eva Rosenberg, who have a tempestuous marriage, run a farm on a rural island. In spite of their best efforts to escape their homeland, the war impinges on every aspect of their lives.
It's the early twentieth century Sweden. Adolescent siblings Alexander and Fanny Ekdahl lead a relatively joyous and exuberant life with their well-off extended paternal family, led by the family matriarch, their grandmother, Helena Ekdahl. The openness of the family culture is exemplified by Helena's now deceased husband ending up becoming best friends with one of her lovers, a Jewish puppet maker named Isak Jacobi, and their Uncle Gustav Adolf's open liaison with one of the family maids, Maj, who everyone in the family adores, even Gustav Adolf's wife, Alma. Between the siblings, Alexander in particular has inherited the family's love of storytelling, his parents and his grandmother who are actors and who manage their own theater. Things change for Alexander and Fanny when their father, Oscar, dies shortly after Christmas 1907. Although she truly does believe she loves him, the children's mother, Emilie, decides to marry Bishop Edvard Vergérus, who she first met as the officiate at ... Written by
Most of the ideas revealed through mystery by Bergman in Fanny och Alexander have already been addressed by others. The first time I saw this film was in 1984, on tv and with a much shorter version than the one released in England in 2002, which is the full 300-plus minute original.
That day I was scared -really scared- watching the scene where Alexander is been helped to let out his most evil thoughts by Ishmael, a completely mysterious character with supernatural insight. And then, a blackout. You can imagine: if I was truly scared this left me breathless.
Then, almost twenty years passed until I found this remarkable jewel, in its full version, perfectly digitised and audio-enhanced in dvd. I bought a dlp projector and used a previewing room to show it to my students. I didn't know what was going to happen. But that doubt was worth the waiting.
I think it's very difficult to say any other thing than breathtaking to underline what this film accomplishes. It's the reflected work of years of understanding and hard work between Bergman and Nyvqvist. One of the most powerful, beautiful, fearful and perfect films of all times. An exaggeration, like. Yes, but I think that there are no words to explain how plainly perfect this work is. The way it was written. The way it was directed. The way it was lighted. The way it was designed. The way each and every character plays his or her role. The details -not a Bergman's new- to which they paid the most dedicated attention to. The luxurious use of available light. The setting of the story. The amazing locations. Everything in this film was perfectly studied, down to the colour shifts that would take place in every shot!, forget about whole scenes!
The troubling minds of all those characters whose lives are at crossroads. The powerful and eventful lives of just one familiy. The small and big affairs that affect them. Gratitude and hate. Honour and shame. Guilt and love. Fear and joy. Selfishness and generosity. Every long scene exudes with tension, pure fun or pleasure; with increasing uneasiness and abrupt changes of demeanor. With a richness that could only be found where a very skillful eye -trained to see what most disregard as common- finds beauty and harmony. And a sound that is as exhilarating as the narrative depiction.
When the maxim of making "every frame a Rembrandt" comes to my mind, this film makes me think Bergman pushed the envelope a little further: he gives (or I'd rather say, Nyvqyst) the tratment of Van Der Meer or Bosch or Cezanne or Michelangelo to some scenes. (Think the kids playing at the nursery, the housemaidens sewing socks, the meadow and the boat, the transfixing scene of Alexander in the attic with his mother).
And a story told from the eyes of two kids worth a ton of gold. Alexander's (Bertil Guve, when he was twelve-thirteen) enormously powerful and convincing role can certainly be compared to any big-theatre-role actor.
Superb. Don't think you've seen the whole thing until you get the 5 hour full-story.
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