Fanny and Alexander (1982) * Top Picks *
Genre: Period Drama Fantasy Mystery Mini-Series (Sweden, France, West Germany)
Starring: Bertil Guve, Pernilla Allwin
Directed By: Ingmar Bergman (The Seventh Seal; Wild Strawberries)
Overview: This 5 hour mini-series shows us the dramatic dark and vivid lives of the Ekdahl family in a small Swedish town in 1907.
Acting: I don't think anything I could say here could do justice to the caliber of the performances in this film. Watching a scene with twenty people sitting at a dinner table and learning the complex dynamics that make up their lives is a difficult thing, but Bergman does it better than Fellini. When we then focus on the bedroom conversation of a married couple, a complete understanding of who they are is unveiled with astounding clarity with the actors showing love, rage and despair so completely in such a short span, that will make you wonder why European drama isn't the most popular film genre ever.
Cinematography: We open with a moment of fantasy, a small diorama stage with cardboard characters. Later Alexander studies the barely moving statue in the house, converses with marionettes and vomitous ghosts. Moments of grandeur, where regal women all dressed in red prepare for Christmas dinner in a palatial hall, or simply watching the children running through the enormous house around antique tables, Renaissance art and servants. The examples go on, from striking and oppressive minimalist scenes to the elaborate extravagance of the life of the bourgeoisie. This film spans the spectrum of themes introduced so perfectly while still being done so simply without special effects besides colour composition and period costumes. Simplicity was never so breathtaking.
Script: The dialogue of this film is more that pleasing, it's poetic. The fact that the scenes taking place are important life event moments to our players is the key. From speeches in theaters and dinner tables to lovers beds and death beds, not to mention those of begging and punishment, we are always graced with words that create and explore character. Completely without filler and fluff, this remains dramatic and relevant in every line spoken.
Plot: Unfortunately, the plot turned in a direction that I was not so fond of. After seeing such detail and dress and wonder in large familial settings, for this to change to a stark and brooding locale, though the most plot-driven scenario of the serial and character-building for everyone involved, I hoped that the film would keep with its theme of learning the lives of the grand and regal Ekdahls, as we were in the first half episodes. If you want an idea of what this is like, think The Royal Tenenbaums, but serious and set 100 years ago.
Mood: When one makes film this character-intense, there tends to be no real 'action', nothing to mix up the styles of scene. The overall themes are tremendously meaningful and light-hearted moments are never taken as simply that. Each laugh means something deep to the lives of this family, or is overshadowed by another mask. When one watches five hours of drama unveiling, as engrossing as it is, it can be a little overwhelming. Fantastic but perhaps a little too heavy a little too often.
Overall Rating: 92% (Knocked Me On My Fanny)
Aftertaste: The best acting I've seen all year, and not a bad first film for the new season. I can't understand why Europeans portray dramatic roles better than anyone else. For someone to think that constantly throwing money at a film will make it better, I invite you to watch this, which does have a grand budget, but could just as well have been done on a cheap little sound stage, a la Dogville. Lives and real moments are explored and the eloquence of a family whose background is theater makes for quite a poetic film. You'll understand why this is considered Bergman's masterpiece.