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A brilliant blu-ray set of a brilliant work of art
on May 27, 2012
As many already know, this magnificent Criterion blu-ray contains the film in two forms; the original,
longer TV mini-series, and a version trimmed down for theatrical release.
But this is a masterpiece however you cut it. Somehow, in one film, Bergman has managed to combine
tragedy, broad and subtle humor, melodrama, philosophy, mystery, magical realism, kitchen sink reality,
controlled performances and big bombastic performances, etc. and weave it all into an organic whole with
a wonderfully (and shockingly for Bergman) positive message about the joy of life, the importance of
savoring family, friends, passions, and the moment itself while we can.
Populated by an unforgettable gallery of characters based on Bergman's own familial history, this is an
intimate epic that takes us inside the lives of an upper-class, artistic Swedish family soon after the start
of the 20th century and the misfortunes and triumphs that befall them. Not quite like any other film I've
ever seen - either by Bergman or anyone else. This is a child's eye view of the world, mixed with the
wisdom of an aging man looking back, with a kind eye, on life itself.
It's strange to say, perhaps blasphemy, but I actually liked the cut down feature a touch more than
the 4 part TV version it was cut from. For me, there is something a little more focused and impactful
about it. Perhaps that's just because I saw it first, but much like Altman's 'Vincent & Theo' (which also
was first shown as a European mini-series) I found the extra material pulled my attention a few too
many places, and sometimes answered mysteries I liked remaining as mysteries. But I will freely admit
I'm in the minority, and to be clear I LOVE both versions.
While Criterion's DVD set of the same was excellent, this was a case where I was happy to 'double dip'.
The beautiful Criterion blu-ray set is a strong step up in image quality, with greater depth, clarity,
better color rendering, etc. It keeps all the important extras of the original set, and upgrades them
to HD, (A thoughtful touch sometimes overlooked). If you are a "Fanny & Alexander" fan, a Bergman
fan, a film fan, or a human being fan, I'd urge you to treat yourself to this.