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
At the end of the film when Emily introduces the idea to Helena that she wants to stage August Strindberg's brand new play "A Dream Play" and that she wishes for Helena to act with her in it, Helena is pretty pessimistic and reluctant about the whole idea and on the mention of Strindberg exclaims: "Oh no... that dreadful woman-hater!". This is somewhat of an in-joke from Bergman towards actress Gunn Wållgren (who portrays grandmother Helena): Gunn Wållgren is first of all well-known as one of Sweden's foremost Strindberg-interpretors ever and secondly; her most successful and praised part on stage was actually the part of Indra's Daughter in "A Dream Play" (a play and a part the actress also loved very much). Gunn Wållgren later in the final scene also recites the first lines of the play's prologue to Alexander. See more »
Among the Christmas decorations in the Ekdahl house, there is a garland of miniature flags of Scandinavian countries, including the Finnish flag. The Finnish flag was in fact only designed and adopted after Finnish independence in 1917, a decade after the events of the film. See more »
Ekdahlska huset - Oscar Ekdahl:
My dear friends, for 22 years, in the capacity of theater manager, I've stood here and made a speech without really having any talent for that sort of thing. Especially if you think of my father who was brilliant at speeches. My only talent, if you can call it that in my case, is that I love this little world inside the thick walls of this playhouse, and I'm fond of the people who work in this little world. Outside is the big world, and sometimes the little world succeeds in reflecting the big ...
See more »
The problem with any great artist is that it becomes easy to rest on one's laurels, become self-indulgent, or settle for mediocrity. After all, the fans will always stick by you.
Fanny and Alexander, Bergman's farewell to the cinema (in more ways than one since it was made for television) is a problematic film - it is a well crafted work, but undistinguished, not nearly as great as some of his past achievements. Can one blame him? Not really - nobody hits a home run every time at bat.
Fanny and Alexander is a long (over 3 hours) Dickensian period piece that lacks much of the trademark Bergman touches. It's well made, but not significantly different from many historical melodramas and made-for-TV mini-series' that were the hallmark of U.S. broadcast television in the 1980s. The story primarily deals with two young siblings and their trials and tribulations following the death of their father. Really it's mostly about the boy, Alexander, as his sister, Fanny is pretty much an ominpresent non-entity in the proceedings. There are also a lot of dead-end subplots featuring the children's aunts, uncles, and other relatives. And, save for a few detours into the metaphysical (mostly in the last 10 minutes), there is little to distinguish it from a run-of-the-mill Victorian soap opera.
The cast - all of them - turn in fine performances, and while I can't really recommend this film whole-heartedly, I really can't knock it either. Perhaps a good time-passer if you are bedridden and need a 3 hour diversion.
26 of 41 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?