The Ingmar Bergman movie of the day is, Fanny and Alexander.
A picture of Ingmar Bergman
There are two versions of Fanny and Alexander: a shorter 3-hour (188 minutes) version, and a long 5-hour (312 minutes) version.
The shorter version was released first, and the longer version was not released until a year later, even though it had been completed first. The long version was used for a four-part miniseries for television.
The shorter version had its theatrical premiere in Sweden on December 17, 1982.
The American premiere for the shorter version was on June 17, 1983. The long version had its theatrical premiere in Sweden on December 17, 1983. The four-part miniseries of the long version later aired on Swedish television.
The story is set during 1907–09 (with an epilogue in 1910), in the Swedish town of Uppsala where Alexander (Bertil Guve), his sister Fanny (Pernilla Allwin) and their well-to-do family, the Ekdahls, live. The siblings’ parents are both involved in theater and are happily married until their father, Oscar (Allan Edwall), suddenly dies from a stroke.
Shortly thereafter, their mother, Emilie (Ewa Fröling), marries Edvard Vergérus (Jan Malmsjö), the local bishop and a widower, and moves into his ascetic home where he lives with his mother, sister, aunt and maids.
Emilie initially expects that she will be able to carry over the lavish, joyful qualities of her previous home into the marriage, but realizes that Edvard’s harsh authoritarian policies are unshakable. The relationship between the bishop and Alexander is especially cold, as Alexander invents stories, which Edvard punishes severely.
Eventually, Edvard confines the children to their bedroom. As a result, Emilie asks for a divorce, which Edvard will not consent to; though she may desert the marriage, doing so would place the children in his custody, including the infant from her recent pregnancy.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Ekdahl family has begun to worry about their condition. When Emilie secretly visits her former mother-in-law, Helena (Gunn Wållgren), to explain what had transpired, their friend Isak Jacobi (Erland Josephson), helps smuggle the children from the house. They live temporarily with Isak and his brother in their store.
Emilie, now in the later stages of her pregnancy, refuses to restore the children to the home. Edvard insist she do so, and that her remaining in the home is not enough. Emilie gives Edvard a large dosage of her sleeping pills.
She explains to him, as he shows signs that the medication is working, that she intends to flee the home as he sleeps. He claims that he will follow her family from city to city and ruin their lives until he blacks out.
After Emilie gets away, Edvard’s dying aunt knocks over a gas lamp, which lights her bedroom and nightgown on fire. She runs through the house in flames to Edvard’s room and falls on him. Despite the sedative, he is able to get her off of him, but dies shortly after.
Alexander had fantasized about his stepfather’s death while living with Isak. Isak’s mysterious nephew, Ismael Retzinsky (Stina Ekblad), explains that fantasy can become true as he dreams it.
The story ends on a happy, life-affirming note, with the christening celebration of Emilie’s and the late bishop’s daughter as well as the illegitimate daughter of Alexander’s uncle and the family maid, Gustav Adolf Ekdahl (Jarl Kulle) and Maj (Pernilla August).
During the festivities, however, Alexander encounters the ghost of the bishop who knocks him to the floor, and tells him that he will never be free.
These are some stills from “Fanny and Alexander”
Some interesting trivia about this fantastic film, “Fanny and Alexander”:
The script was written in three months. Pre-production however took a year.
In his autobiography, Bergman cited Charles Dickens as an influence on his screenplay.
Ingmar Bergman had Ingrid Bergman in mind when he wrote the role of Helena Ekdahl, grandmother of Fanny and Alexander. The role eventually went to Gunn Wållgren.
All three of the Ekdahl sons are named after Swedish kings. In fact, if we assume that the characters are the same age as the actors who played them, then Oscar Ekdahl would have been born during the reign of Oscar I (reigned 1844- 1859), and Carl during the reign of Karl XV (reigned 1859 – 1872). Gustav Adolf would also have been born three years after Oscar, and thus during the reign of Oscar I as well, so he was presumably named after Gustav II Adolph (reigned 1611 – 1632), who made Sweden an international power during the Thirty Years’ War, and who is possibly more famous to movie fans as the father of Queen Christina.
Ingmar Bergman stated in an interview that the Ekdahl family was named after the Ekdal family in Ibsen’s play “The Wild Duck”.
Although she is an eponymous character, Fanny isn’t mentioned in the theatrical version of the film until nearly an hour into its running time. Conversely, in the television version, her name is the first word spoken.
Ingmar Bergman professed to actually preferring the five-hour version of the film.
“Fanny and Alexander” was shot in chronological order.
To encourage a more natural performance from his young lead actor, Ingmar Bergman specifically didn’t tell Bertil Guve what the film was about and what was going to happen in it.
Actor Matthew Macfadyen said about “Fanny and Alexander”, “it featured just the most extraordinary acting I’d ever seen.” As a student, the film “was screened to us as an example to follow – an example of people acting with each other. They all knew each other well in real life, the cast, and they rehearsed for a long time and shot it very quickly. The result is extraordinary.”
Xan Brooks, in The Guardian’s Film Season, chose the film as his “No 8 best arthouse film of all time”. He described it as Bergman’s “self-styled farewell to cinema”, “an opulent family saga, by turns bawdy, stark and strange.” Few films, Brooks observes, “boast as many indelible supporting characters”. He concludes that “by the time this film pitches towards that astonishing climax (bedsheets burning; magic working) one might even make a case for Fanny and Alexander as Bergman’s most mature, clear-sighted and fully realised work.”
Vincent Canby in the New York Times begins by noting that the film “it has that quality of enchantment that usually attaches only to the best movies in retrospect, long after you’ve seen them, when they’ve been absorbed into the memory to seem sweeter, wiser, more magical than anything ever does in its own time. This immediate resonance is the distinguishing feature of this superb film, which is both quintessential Bergman and unlike anything else he has ever done before.” Canby finds it a “big, dark, beautiful, generous family chronicle”; the cast “are uniformly excellent”. All of the film “has the quality of something recalled from a distance [,] events remembered either as they were experienced or as they are imagined to have happened. In this fashion Mr. Bergman succeeds in blending fact and fantasy in ways that never deny what we in the audience take to be truth.” And, Canby emphasises, Bergman repeatedly refers “to this little world, which in the film refers to the Ekdahls’ theater, a place of melodrama, comedy, dreams, magic, and moral order, in contrast to the increasing chaos of life outside.”
Liv Ullmann was originally offered the role of Emilie Ekdahl (played by Ewa Fröling) but turned it down. Ingmar Bergman was very upset and told Ullmann that she’d “lost her birthright”.
The funeral scenes outside the church were shot by the crew since the director was sick with the flu.
Famous Swedish song-and-dance man Jan Malmsjö, who is playing the evil bishop Vergerus, thought it was strange that director Ingmar Bergman approached him for a role very much different from anything he had done. He asked Bergman about it, who replied: “Well, I sense some hidden dark and evil streaks inside you, Jan. You have it, I have it, all of us have.”
The part of Bishop Edvard Vergérus was written by Ingmar Bergman with Max von Sydow in mind. When the screenplay was completed, von Sydow was contacted about playing the role, which would have been his first in a Bergman film since The Touch. Von Sydow was willing and, in fact, very excited about playing the role. However, Bergman was not aware of this, since von Sydow was in Los Angeles at the time, and could only be reached through his agent who, acting in what he perceived as von Sydow’s interest, told Bergman and his producers that von Sydow would only play the role if he could have a percentage of the film’s profits, in addition to his salary. The producers, already stretched to their financial limits, of course balked, and told the agent that, sadly, there could be no such compromise, and began looking for other actors to play the pivotal part. By the time von Sydow had learned why his beloved role had been taken from him, Jan Malmsjö had already been cast as the Bishop, and von Sydow lost his chance to star in what would later be known to be Bergman’s “last film” (although he would play key roles in The Best Intentions and Private Confessions, both written by Bergman). Von Sydow was furious about the incident, and, by certain accounts, still harbours a bitter grudge about it to this day.
Ingmar Bergman intended for this to be his last feature, although he subsequently wrote several more screenplays, directed for television and indeed helmed one last cinema release, “Saraband”.
At the time, the largest film ever made in Sweden (with 60 speaking parts and over 1200 extras) and the most expensive, with a budget of $6 million.
This is Ingmar Bergman’s first film in his native Sweden after spending four years as a tax exile in Germany.
Not the first time Ingmar Bergman made a TV mini-series and released a truncated theatrical version to cinemas. He did the same with “Scenes from a Marriage”.
Ingmar Bergman’s first draft of the script, completed in 1979, consisted of about 1,000 handwritten pages.
Last theatrical movie directed by Ingmar Bergman.
Awards and honors:
“Fanny and Alexander” won 4 Academy Awards (Oscars).
Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film (Director Ingmar Bergman)
Best Cinematography (Sven Nykvist)
Best Art Direction (Anna Asp, Susanne Lingheim)
Costume Design (Marik Vos-Lundh)
Bergman was nominated for both Directing and Writing Original Screenplay but was not awarded. The film also received the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Film.
Celebrating Ingmar Bergman’s films!