Sunday, December 25, 2011


On the thirty-first and final Lynchian day of Christmas, we present Ingmar Bergman's semi-autobiographical family drama Fanny and Alexander (1982). We saved the best for last. Christmas films do not get more powerful or Lynchian than Bergman's last feature film and final masterpiece. Choosing to go out on the strongest note he could, Bergman planned his retirement from feature film direction at the height of his cinematic power and ended on what is arguably his best film. Although Bergman would make a number of simple-to-shoot TV movies in his latter years, Fanny and Alexander is Bergman's cinematic swan song.
While David Lynch has attributed most his artistic film influences to people outside the world of film production, most notably the Anglo-Irish painter Francis Bacon, he has listed a few noteworthy filmmakers who have influenced his work. Lynch maintains his approach to making films has always been rooted in his sensibilities as a painter and not as a big film buff. This partly explains why Lynch's films always come across so differently than the majority of movies.
But David Lynch has cited a number of filmmakers who he admires and who made an impact on his film-making sensibilities: Stanley Kubrick, Federico Fellini, Jacques Tati, Billy Wilder, and Ingmar Bergman. Lynch recognized in Bergman a kindred artist whose attempts to portray the deepest recesses of the human soul on screen would be distinctly similar to his own ambitions. And it must have been refreshing for a young David Lynch to see such a prominent, world-renowned, and Academy Award winning filmmaker like Bergman frequently use surrealism in film to more significantly engage the audience's subconscious.
In our previous article Concluding Remarks, we shared the following quotation of Ingmar Bergman's in context of interpreting and summarizing David Lynch's body of work: "No form of art goes beyond ordinary consciousness as film does, straight to our emotions, deep into the twilight room of our soul." In this respect, Bergman and Lynch probably parallel each other's careers and styles more closely than the other filmmakers on Lynch's list of influences. And of all the films Bergman made over his long and distinguished career, Fanny and Alexander is the most personal glimpse available into the twilight room of Bergman's soul.
Inspired in great measure by the events of Bergman's own childhood, Fanny and Alexander takes us into the Swedish home of the Ekdahl family on Christmas Eve near the early twentieth century. Although removed from our own time period by only a century, Sweden's culture at the time was steeped in historic traditions that open the film's canvas to an impressive array of religious values and philosophies values that seem to span across the centuries of human existence. Electricity has not quite yet made its way into widespread use in that country, sometimes making it feel like the same period of time as David Lynch's earlier 19th century period piece The Elephant Man (1980).
Bergman even explores his first brushes with film-making via his cinematic surrogate Alexander Ekdahl, who uses oil lamp projectors to entertain family and friends while narrating the images with stories of his own creation. Bergman takes us into his mind as a child in Fanny and Alexander, and captures the strange magic of childhood. Alexander even acts the part of an angel in his family's large scale Christmas Pageant in the theater owned by his father. But when his father passes away from a debilitating illness and his mother marries a Pastor, Alexander and his younger sister Fanny are soon ripped away from the comfort of their extended family members and placed in the pastor's bleak, depressing, and authoritarian household.
The pastor stepfather in most respects is the Anti-Bergman, a man who despises Alexander's imagination and flights of fancy. And although Alexander is the clear protagonist in their engagements, Bergman paints the boy realistically. And when Alexander acts up against his stepfather's rule, the pastor lashes out on the poor Alexander under the guise spiritual superiority. With each new act of discipline, Alexander's resistance becomes more extreme until this intelligent and creative boy is essentially a prisoner.
A power struggle ensues as the Ekdahl family, under the leadership of Fanny and Alexander's grandmother, struggles to find a way to save the children from their tyrannical stepfather. Unfortunately the nation's strict parental laws favor a man's rights over his stepchildren in the case of divorce, making things incredibly difficult for the good-natured Ekdahls. This terrible crisis brings out the best and worst in everyone involved, and is laced with distinctly supernatural overtones.
Two cuts exist for Fanny and Alexander (1982). We strongly recommend viewing the five-hour director's cut, which Bergman designed as a four-part miniseries of 80 minutes in length each on uncensored Swedish television. This longer version of the film expands on the scope of the story and contains many of the most entertaining moments of character development. And given the pervasively brutal nature of this story, the expanded scenes help balance out the film's tone and make it a richer and more enjoyable experience than the theatrical cut. 

Previous Article
Next Article

Note: Any purchase made via our web store or product links throughout the article contributes a small portion to the running of this site. Thank you for your support.

247086_TV episodes & movies instantly streaming from Netflix. Start your FREE trial!

No comments:

Post a Comment