"Fanny and Alexander" Throwback Review
Ingmar Bergman’s 1983 classic has been heralded by many as one of the greatest films of all time, and definitely the best to come out of Sweden. The sets and overall theatricality of the film are mesmerizing to look at and the direction is second to none. However, Fanny and Alexander is a film that is beautiful to look at, but almost a bore to listen and think about as it trudges its way through so many different stories that it becomes hypnotizing to watch.
While titled Fanny and Alexander, the film mainly centers on the large and wealthy Ekdahl family. The family comprises of the matriarch, Helena, and her three sons, Gustav Adolf, Carl, and Oscar. All three have wives, but Oscar has the most beautiful, Emilie, and two children, Fanny and Alexander. We watch, mostly through the children, as their lives unfold and how they interact with each other as they experience both joy and tragedy.
The film is very slow and meticulous with its 188-minute runtime (312 if you watch the miniseries), drawing out every detail and giving us a look at each individual family members personal life. While this does allow for great character development and chemistry, it hurts the film overall as too many details are covered for you to remember or end up caring about by the end. There is also a wild plot shift by the end of the film where spirits and different realities come into play. Bergman is famous for included mystical elements into what seem normal films, but here he should have abandoned that idea as it confuses the audience about what is really going on.
For what it lacks in writing, Fanny and Alexander redeems itself in directing and production. This is by far one of the best decorated and positioned films ever made. The sets are all grand in scale and everything is put in exactly the right spot. The elegance of the house shines brightly and makes you want to pause multiple times just to look at everything in the frame.
Bergman guides us through his film with such ease that it makes you wonder how a single man could plan and execute all of this. With this being his final feature film, it feels fitting for him to end here by doing what he does best.
The cinematography is astounding as we see the beauty of Sweden during all seasons. The winter landscapes, while cold and dreary, still produce a sense of wonder. The summer months give off the essence of life as the frame is filled with lush trees and the occasional sighting of wildlife.
Complimenting the production is great acting by the adults, especially Gunn Wallgren as Helena. She plays her character with such warmth and caring and is the best part of the film. The interactions she shares with her family will surely make you remember someone in your life just like her.
Another great performance comes from Ewa Fröling as Emilie. She plays one of the most important and well-developed characters in the film. She goes through a rollercoaster of emotions as events play out that change her life as well as her children’s futures. Near the very end of the film, she shares a passionate scene with Wallgren that perfectly caps off her journey as a mother.
The child actors that play the titular leads don’t fare so well when it comes to making their characters interesting. They mostly act dormant in most scenes and make you wonder if they will ever do something worth noticing. For a film titled Fanny and Alexander, the titular characters are the least compelling to watch or care about.
Fanny and Alexander is a film that should be watched by film lovers purely because of its amazing production, cinematography, and directing. But for the casual fan who is looking to see an epic tale, be ready for a long sit for a payoff that never gets close to reaching its potential.