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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.
We can never know for sure.The story that Alexander tells Justina is a lie. This is proven in the 5-hour television version during a scene where the ghosts of the Bishop's previous family come to Alexander, furious about how he lied about their deaths. However, there is still a possibility that the Bishop locked up his family the same way he locks up Fanny and Alexander. Since the bars are already on the windows, it is possible that the Bishop used the room in the past to lock people up. However, like much of the film, the true answer is open to interpretation.
Uncle Isak goes to the Bishop's House for the sole purpose of rescuing Fanny and Alexander. In Ingmar Bergman's world, Uncle Isak can perform divine miracles. When Fanny and Alexander get into the chest he wants to "buy" from the Bishop, he casts a spell on it to make the two children invisible. However, when the Bishop catches on to the plan and runs upstairs to their room, Uncle Isak calls to God to create a false image of the two children in their room. This is why Emilie screams to him not to touch them. In short, Uncle Isak uses divine magic to save the children from the Bishop. It makes sense in the context of the film. Bergman is telling us that the only way that the children could escape is magic, or more precisely: a miracle.
Since Uncle Isak can perform magic, so can the rest of his family. Their house and the objects inside are enchanted. When Alexander goes exploring, he runs into Isak's nephew, Aron, who shows Alexander all the things in their house, including a breathing mummy. The mummy seems to have some divine connection to the Bishop's bedridden aunt, shown by how she moves her head when the mummy does. Finally, Aron takes Alexander to his brother Ismael, who is kept locked in a room for everyone's protection, and seems to have the strongest magical power in the whole family. He connects to Alexander's mind and learns all about the Bishop and his family. Ismael uses his powers to cause the aunt to knock over the lamp on her bedside table, starting the fire that kills the Bishop. In short, Ismael feels sympathy for Alexander and takes revenge on the Bishop's family to enact vengeance that Alexander is incapable of doing.
And the simple answer is, it wasn't shown on television beforehand.There are two versions of the film, the short 3 hour (188 minutes) version, and the long 5 hour (312 minutes) version. The long version was actually completed first, though the short version was first to have its theatrical release. The long version was later recut into a four part mini-series for television. As the short version was shown on cinemas first, it was thus eligible for the Academy Award. It is as simple as that.The short version had its theatrical premiere in Sweden on December 17, 1982. The American premiere for the short version was on June 17, 1983. The long version had its theatrical premiere in Sweden on December 17, 1983. The four part mini-series was thus only later shown on Swedish television.
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