Fanny and Alexander

Critics poll
84 th
Directors poll
16 th

Fanny and Alexander

Year: 1984 Country: France / Sweden
Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Featuring Kristina Adolphson / Börje Ahlstedt / Pernilla Allwin

Introduction

The grand summation of Ingmar Bergman’s career, this epic family drama drew on the director’s own childhood experiences in early 20th century Sweden.

“Fanny and Alexander is, without a doubt, Bergman’s most richly orchestrated work. In this, his valediction to the cinema, the director invites us to a banquet of seldom-seen richness and splendor.”
Stig Björkman, The Criterion Collection

He’s famed for his intense, philosophically bleak chamber dramas, but Bergman’s expansive autobiographical film Fanny and Alexander found him in warmer, more celebratory mode.

The story of a brother and sister growing up in an upper-middle-class family in Uppsala in the 1900s, Bergman’s film – which exists both as a five-hour television version and a three-hour edit for cinemas – contains trademark scenes of marital infighting, desperate grief, and searching existential enquiry, with young Alexander inquisitively probing at the boundaries of God’s power while resenting the authoritarian hand of his priest stepfather. However, although Bergman is as attuned as ever to the anguish of life, there is also much that is fondly recalled, from toy theatres and magic lantern shows to family Christmases and favoured relatives.

For years this was expected to be Bergman’s final work, but after two decades he returned with the astringent psychological drama Saraband (2004).