Fanny and Alexander Swedish : Fanny och Alexander is a historical drama film written and directed by Ingmar Bergman. The plot focuses on two siblings and their large family in Uppsala , [a] Sweden during the first decade of the twentieth century. Bergman intended Fanny and Alexander to be his final picture before retiring, and his script is semi-autobiographical. The characters Alexander, Fanny and stepfather Edvard are based on himself, his sister Margareta and his father Erik Bergman , respectively.
Many of the scenes were filmed on location in Uppsala. The documentary film The Making of Fanny and Alexander was made simultaneously with the feature and chronicles its production. The production was originally conceived as a television miniseries and cut in that version, spanning minutes; a minute cut version was created later for cinematic release, although this version was in fact the one to be released first. The television version has since been released as a complete film, and both versions have been shown in theaters throughout the world.
The minute cut is one of the longest cinematic films in history. The theatrical version was released to positive reviews. Fanny and Alexander was followed by stage adaptations and further semi-autobiographical screenplays by Bergman, released as films in The Best Intentions , directed by Bille August , and Sunday's Children , directed by Daniel Bergman.
In , the young boy Alexander, his sister Fanny and their well-to-do family, the Ekdahls, live in a Swedish town and run a moderately profitable theatre. At Christmastime , the Ekdahls hold a Nativity play and later a large Christmas party. The siblings' parents, Emilie and Oscar, are happily married until Oscar suddenly dies from a stroke. Emilie initially expects that she will be able to carry over the free, joyful qualities of her previous home into the marriage, but realises that Edvard's harsh authoritarian policies are unshakable.
The relationship between the bishop and Alexander is especially cold, as Alexander invents stories, for which Edvard punishes him severely.
As a result, Emilie asks for a divorce, which Edvard will not consent to; though she may leave the marriage, this would be legally considered desertion, placing the children in his custody. Meanwhile, the rest of the Ekdahl family has begun to worry about their condition, and Emilie secretly visits her former mother-in-law, Helena, revealing she is pregnant. During Emilie's absence, Edvard confines the children to their bedroom, ostensibly for their safety. The maid Justina reports the story to Edvard, who responds with corporal punishment.
After Emilie returns, the Ekdahl family friend Isak Jacobi helps smuggle the children from the house. They live temporarily with Isak and his nephews in their store. Emilie, now in the later stages of her pregnancy, refuses to restore the children to Edvard's home.
Emilie allows Edvard to drink a large dosage of her bromide sedative. She explains to him, as the medication takes effect, that she intends to flee the home as he sleeps. He threatens to follow her family and ruin their lives, but blacks out. After Emilie gets away, Edvard's dying Aunt Elsa knocks over a gas lamp, setting her bedclothes, nightgown and hair on fire. She runs through the house in flames to seek Edvard's help, igniting him. Despite the sedative, he is able to get her off him, but dies shortly thereafter.
Alexander had fantasised about his stepfather's death while living with Isak and his nephews Aron and Ismael Retzinsky. The mysterious Ismael explains that fantasy can become true as he dreams it. The Ekdahl family reunites for the christening celebration of Emilie's and the late bishop's daughter as well as the extra-marital daughter of Alexander's uncle, Gustav Adolf, and the family maid, Maj. Alexander encounters the ghost of the bishop who knocks him to the floor, and tells him that he will never be free.
Emilie, having inherited the theatre, hands Helena a copy of August Strindberg 's play A Dream Play to read, and tells her that they should perform it together onstage. Initially scoffing at the idea and declaring Strindberg a "misogynist," Helena takes to the idea and begins reading it to a sleeping Alexander.
The cast consists of: . He told the press he decided to retire, because, "I don't have the strength any more, neither psychologically nor physically". It was difficult to differentiate between what was fantasy and what was considered real. If I made an effort, I was perhaps able to make reality stay real.
But, for instance, there were ghosts and specters. What should I do with them? And the sagas, were they real? Bergman also recalled receiving his own magic lantern at age 10, from his aunt;  in his autobiography, he described it as personally significant, and previously depicted a magic lantern in his Cries and Whispers. However, the Ekdahls do not entirely match the Bergmans. Margareta and Ingmar's father was the strict Erik Bergman , a Lutheran pastor. But this is not quite true. Fanny and Alexander is a story, the chronicle of a middle-class, perhaps upper-middle-class family sticking closely together There's a lot of me in the Bishop, rather than in Alexander.
He is haunted by his own devils". Bergman initially doubted that Sweden alone had the manpower, but eventually caved, Donner said. Bertil Guve was 10 when cast as Alexander. Bergman ultimately cast Guve, without sharing the story of Fanny and Alexander with him, recognising his imagination when he told a story about killing his own grandfather during the audition.
He said it was because I acted with my eyes". Pernilla Wallgren later August was cast, out of a state school where she was studying the stage, for what became her breakthrough role. Art director Anna Asp was given six months before production to prepare, and started by building miniature models and drawing sets. She had one apartment in the residence, whereas the other apartment belonged to Erik Bergman and his family. Costume designer Marik Vos was tasked to oversee a project requiring costumes for the principal actors, along with over 1, costumes for the extras.
She allowed the testing of the vast majority of fabric samples to determine how they appeared in photography, with Bergman demanding to see as many of the test shots as he could. Principal photography began in Uppsala , Sweden,  lasting from 7 September to 22 March Scenes were shot outside of Uppsala Cathedral , with the crew conflicting with the dean over whether an antenna could be removed.
With Bergman suffering from influenza , his colleagues substituted for him in shooting Oscar's funeral scene with extras and a brass band. Other crew were injured in workplace accidents.
Critic Michiko Kakutani identified Fanny and Alexander as sharing marriage-drama and domestic themes as his Thirst , Scenes from a Marriage and From the Life of the Marionettes. The glow that warmed audiences radiates from only an outer layer; its core is as chilling as any of Bergman's fictions". Zavarzadeh further noted, "He is involved in the construction of a more genuine and stable reality than the one that surrounds him".
As indicated by Gustav Adolf's final speech, most of the Ekdahls do not spend much time grappling with the meaning of life. On Alexander's visions and their reality, critic Roger Ebert argued:. Fanny and Alexander is above all the story of what Alexander understands is really happening. If magic is real, if ghosts can walk, so be it. Bergman has often allowed the supernatural into his films.
In another sense, the events in Fanny and Alexander may be seen through the prism of the children's memories, so that half-understood and half-forgotten events have been reconstructed into a new fable that explains their lives. Time and space do not exist. On an insignificant foundation of reality, imagination spins out and weaves new patterns". Film Quarterly essayist Jarrod Hayes concluded the conflict between Alexander and Edvard is a "clash of two Titans", as Edvard summons "the power of an image, God, Alexander has the power of the Image".
Cohen-Shalev argued Edvard disguises his emotional shortcomings with his bourgeois veneer and "glib, affected piety". The story makes multiple references to William Shakespeare 's play Hamlet ;  According to Scott-Douglas, Alexander observes Oscar playing Hamlet' s Ghost before he dies, and afterwards appears as a ghost, while Alexander acquires a new abusive stepfather. This made "theatre and reality seem indistinguishable". I'm not Queen Gertrude, your kind stepfather is no king of Denmark, and this is not Elsinore Castle , even if it does look gloomy".
Weinstein wrote. Cohen-Shalev described cyclical patterns in the story: the family endures seasons of distinct "symbols, myths, and moods", including death in winter and resurrections in the spring; or, a journey in which the protagonist experiences a test in the "Valley of Tears" before achieving "blissful family unification".
The story opens with exploring celebrations of the Swedish Christmas , which is expressed through "colors, sounds, movements, music" that Cineaste critic Royal Brown called "life-affirming, pagan Christianity". This is starkly contrasted with Edvard's Christianity, which is dictated by asceticism , authoritarianism and concern with death, with Alexander finding his new home a bare, cold prison.
After this point, true miracles in Bergman's universe have to come from a different source, Perridon wrote. The depiction of Jews in Sweden revolves around Isak, which academic Rochelle Wright argues is "far more nuanced" than in Bergman's previous The Touch Isak is not completely assimilated, but his presence in Sweden is presented as positive, as he stands for imagination, "magic and mystery", Wright wrote.
The light that engulfs Isak when he screams after being beaten by Edvard calls on the light of the Kabbalah to vanquish evil, Hayes hypothesised. Ismael speaks the Finno-Swedish language , and is androgynous , being a male character played by a woman, Stina Ekblad. Ismael also says to Alexander, "Perhaps we are the same person".
While cinematic film stock was used in production, Bergman conceived of the presentation as a television miniseries ,  and there are different versions, presented as a miniseries and film. He remarked, "This was extremely troublesome, as I had to cut into the nerves and lifeblood of the film".
The complete version runs minutes. They ran 92, 40, 37, 60 and 90 minutes, beginning 25 December Audiences in Swedish theatres were large at showings of Fanny and Alexander , including at the five-hour cut,  proving it to be the most popular box-office film Bergman had in his native country. Vincent Canby's contemporary review in The New York Times described it a "big, dark, beautiful, generous family chronicle"; Canby also praised the cast as "uniformly excellent". Ebert added it to his Great Movies list in , hailing it as "astonishingly beautiful", crediting Sven Nykvist for "color and warmth".
Macfadyen added that as a RADA student, the film was shown as "an example to follow — an example of people acting with each other". Pauline Kael wrote a more mixed review, enjoying the merry atmosphere but writing the "conventionality" is "rather shocking", suggesting Bergman had moved to Victorian times to escape his usual eccentric viewpoints.
Cox had not seen the longer version, but considered it might be better. In , Fanny and Alexander was named the best film of the s by Los Angeles Times by Sheila Benson ,  who called it "generous, ribald, reflective and radiantly life-affirming",  and Michael Wilmington,  and the third best by Newsweek critic David Ansen.