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Fanny & Alexander (DVD)

A new release for Bergman's classic

Disc Specs

Starring Pernills AllwinPertil GuveBorge AhlstedtAllan EdwallGunn Wallgren Disc Cover
Directed By Ingmar Bergman Certificate 15
Audio Dolby Digital 2.0
Visuals 16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Running Time 180 mins
UK Release Date November 16, 2009
Genre Drama
Our Rating
User Rating

The opening scenes of the great Ingmar Bergman’s last theatrically-released film will certainly get you in the mood for Christmas. It’s the festive season at the house of the Ekdahl family, who own the local theatre, and never has film captured the food, drinks, decorations, costumes and roaring log fires so impressively. It looks simply sumptuous, thanks to the great cinematographer Sven Nykvist, who went on to work with Woody Allen. But if it fools you into thinking this will be a warm, pleasant three hours, think again.

Fanny and Alexander are the happy young children of Emilie, but when their father dies during a performance of Hamlet – only the Swedes would put on Hamlet at Christmas – she makes a disastrous decision. She hastily marries the apparently decent Bishop Edvard Vergerus (Jan Malmsjö), and moves her suspicious children in with him and his awful family. The children quickly realise he is a complete control freak and sadist, and Alexander in particular comes in for some brutal treatment at his hands. The children do have the power of imagination though, and their belief in magic leads to an unlikely saviour in the form of a Jewish magician (Erland Josephson), who rescues them.

The film poses many questions about belief, a child’s imagination and the purpose of suffering, but does so with a slow, steady, rhythmical drama that slowly but surely pulls you into its world. The children see the world differently to the adults, and it’s one of its great strengths that it completely captures the joy – and also horror – of being a child, and learning what to be scared of.

Appropriately it ends with the theatre company suggesting a production of Strindberg’s Dream Play – much of the film seems to be a dream – and there’s a neat joke with Aunt Helena (Gunn Wållgren) dismissing Strindberg as “that dreadful misogynist”. Wallgren was one of the most famous interpreters of Strindberg in Sweden, most famous for the daughter in Dream Play. The closing lines of the film are the first lines of the play.

The film is released by Palisades Tartan, the reborn version of Tartan Video who specialised in stunning world cinema releases before going under. This is a welcome return, the only complaint being a lack of extras – Bergman himself made a documentary on his own film that was longer than the film itself. There must be some interviews knocking around somewhere.

Special Features:

Reviewer: Mike Martin

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