How Swede It Is: FANNY AND ALEXANDER (Part 1)

Bergman - poster

This is definitely the most cheerful Ingmar Bergman film I have seen. Fitting, perhaps, because this 1984 release was the last film written and directed by the late great Swedish filmmaker.

Originally made for Swedish television and later released (in an edited version) in theatres,  Fanny and Alexander starts off with a joyous recreation of a Swedish Christmas celebration in 1907. 

Bertil Guve (Alexander)  and Pernilla Allwin (Fanny): No Sibling Rivalry Here
Bertil Guve and Pernilla Allwin in Fanny and Alexander 

Those Who Know say it is the most autobiographical film of Bergman’s long career and for viewers familiar with the facts of his life there are certainly echoes of the filmmaker’s childhood in the punishment meted out to ten year old Alexander (Bertil Guve) by his stern but well-meaning stepfather (Jan Malmsjo) while his younger sister, Fanny (Pernilla Allwin) looks on helplessly.

Jan Malmsjo (Bishop Vergerus) and Bertil Guve in Fanny and Alexander
Jan Malmsjo (Bishop Vergerus) and Bertil Guve in Fanny and Alexander

However, you don’t need to know the filmmaker’s personal history to enjoy this sumptuously upholstered and surprisingly sensual depiction of the life and times of the large, fun-loving Ekdahl family in turn of the (20th century) Sweden. (The film earned Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design and Best Art Direction and Set Design.  Bergman was nominated in Best Director and Best Original Screenplay categories.)

 Jarl Kulle (playing married family man Gustav Ekdahl) shares a tender moment with Pernilla Wallgren (the family nanny) in Fanny and Alexander
Jarl Kulle (playing Gustav Ekdahl) shares a tender moment with Pernilla Wallgren (the family nanny) in Fanny and Alexander
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