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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 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.
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on February 20, 2012
Looking for a movie which has everything and anything for the whole family? Looking for a substantial cameo of past European culture and human passion? Looking for lives and loves as Nordic as Carlsberg, Løytens akkevit, IKEA or Kalajastatorppa? Drama, comics and antics antique and young and fresh? No need to search further than this miracle of a movie, Fanny and Alexander, by the late great Ingmar Bergman, his last and ultimate work for the screen. This fabulous fable on film describes the history of the Ekdahl family , a reasonably well-to-do group of adults and children in the high bourgeois circles of the years before the horrors of World War One, playing, say, around 1905. Not only is there a kaleidoscopic mix of pastoral idyll, although Bergman's phobia of (Lutheran) pastors weighs in strongly in the latter part of the movie, and high drama, but it all gives an intimate picture of Sweden with its folklore and festivals, but also with the pride and prejudice of life in that country of booze and birches as it was a hundred years ago. All is as perceived by the young siblings, Fanny and Alexander, whose wide-open eyes register the antics of farbror(uncle)Karlchen, the indebted professor with his hysteric German wife, of the meandering, philandering other uncle, Gustav Adolf, the mild but doomed theatre director Oscar, the children's dad, his widow, the ethereal Emilie, and her dreadful bishop, stately old and beautiful grandma Helena with her tender Jewish lover Isak Jacobi. If you know and love the water-colour images from his home by the likewise Swedish artist, Carl Larsson, from that very same epoch, this most literary masterpiece is for you and your family. This is not a one-night stand, you would want to see it over and over. The copy of the present reviewer has discreet English subtitles to the Swedish sounds, so far (2012) there seems to be no French version available. Never mind the language, but here you have a gem for your DVD collection!
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on May 10, 2009
An earlier reviewer compared the film to literature. It is a tempting comparison. Fanny and Alexander is rich and dense, in the best sense of those words; it gathers and resolves itself at a novel's pace; it is crammed with secondary characters and, without being digressive, it gives glimpses of those lives as well.

The Christmas celebration scenes of the first Act are filled with an exuberance and joy which have rarely been better expressed in art--the only real equivalents I can think of are literary (the party scene in "The Dead", or Nikolai Rostov's homecoming in "War and Peace"). This being the universe of serious art, however, dread and death still skulk about and, though they do strike, the film never becomes oppressive but instead transforms gradually into a marvellous fairy tale.

I have seen the Seventh Seal, Hour of the Wolf, Persona, Shame, Scenes from a Marriage, and Cries and Whispers. Fanny and Alexander is the Bergman film I most love.

The Criterion DVD transfer is beautiful. This movie makes me wish I had a large, wide-screen television on which to watch it. The five-disc set includes both the original theatrical release (approximately three hours) and the even longer version which Bergman made for Swedish television. Most people will be content with owning the three hour version, which Criterion has made separately available for about half the price. While the television version feels even more novelistic--secondary characters get more time, certain details get filled in, and certain themes are allowed fuller expression--I cannot say that it is definitively better. Each version has its particular appeal and indeed is a different film. That said, I do have a slight preference for the theatrical version because it is relatively tighter and the fairy tale theme was better executed, but then that means giving up some lovely and funny scenes from the latter...

Perhaps the only recommendation if you're trying to decide between the two Criterion versions is to get this movie from the local video store. Only if you find your shorter tour of this last of Bergman's cinematic worlds hospitable should you go on for the longer stay. In either case it's worth it.
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on October 12, 2000
I have to admit that I understand why other people would find this film pointless or dull at times. It doesn't seem to be conveying a clear message. On the other hand I don't think it is a movie about delivering a message. It seems to be a movie that explores themes that lie at polar ends from one another like reality and fantasy, and good and evil. The movie seems to be an exercise in those paradoxes and contrasts. The movie also seems to end somewhere in the middle without being able to make a conclusion about those contrasts but life goes on anyway. The biggest part of the contrast is the difference between the household of a loving, albeit eccentric, family of actors and the household that contains the stern clergymen (now stepfather) and his sterile and oppressive family. Then there is the Jewish uncle whose home seems to carry elements of the mystical. The joy of the movie is not so much is what it says but how it is saying it. Allow yourself to get lost among the beautiful images and colorful characters. Its like a Swedish "Hannah and Her Sisters" with a gothic twist. Watching this movie made me remember what it was like to belong to a family clan full of pride and ruled by a loving and, like the rest of this indulgent family, less than perfect matriarch. If I had to say it was about anything I would say it is about the love among a family clan and the confusion between good and evil, and truth and lies for a young boy. Remember this movie is much more than Fanny and Alexander, it is also about an entire cast of characters which are a joy to see (e.g. the adulterous uncle, the favorite maid, the emotionally lost and trapped mother, the favorite son, the alcoholic uncle and his miserable wife etc etc). I recommend you find a way to rent a PAL VCR so you can enjoy the full length British version which contains an extra 2 hours or thereabouts.
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on December 19, 2011
It is delightful to have the television version in blu-ray. It is fuller, rounder and with much additional detail. A highlight for a life-time Bergman lover is the performance of Gunnar Bjornstrand in what was to be his last performance. The sequence with him as the Clown from Twelfth Night is to be savoured.
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on March 6, 1999
Fanny and Alexander will transport you through time to the stark contrasts of early twentieth century Sweden. The story of a young boy and his sister living amongst a wealthy, extended theatrical family. Only Bergman could delight us with his clever wit and dialogue mixed with tragedy and triumph. The film explores the never ending moral battle of good versus evil with rich alagorical touches. The sheer complexity and detail this film exudes make all other movies seem like poorly produced toothpaste commercials. Only the great master and his magic lantern can spin a story that can't help but involve even the most cynical filmgoers. Great photography, world class actors and a script worthy of the ages make this film a must see. Don't miss the last full glimpse of Ingmar Bergman's dark and magnificent genius.
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on May 3, 1999
Bergman wrote in The Magic Lantern that this was his dispensation--he allowed himself one movie to express all the optimism that he had suppressed in his earlier works. The result, from the very first frames of the movie, is a richly-textured, lavishly-colored, extraordinarily long (it was 8+ hours in the original) story of suffering and salvation. In all of his movies, women have been the source of hope and redemption, but they are especially so in this one. As in the rest of the Bergman oeuvre, there is no God to save the characters, but here, he is replaced by the bonds of familial affection. The uncle's toast at the end of the movie is a beautiful and optimistic summary of Bergman's philosophy. He put everything into this movie.
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on May 3, 2000
As is clear from the reviews, this movie isn't for everyone. Much more like reading a novel or seeing a play, the pleasure of the thing is in the dedication of the viewer to the story. That it is on video (vs. a theater screen) probably doesn't help and I think I too might have fallen asleep on the couch if my first viewing had been on a 19" window. However, if you are patient and are willing to listen to the story, it may just be the best movie telling of a story ever. If you are reader of great novels you will love this, if you enjoy the lushness and humanity of Shakespeare, you will love this. If you find pleasure in the desolation of most Northern and Eastern European'll love this. I'll stop.
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on May 6, 2000
When I saw this film for the first time I had an almost visceral reaction to it. Its haunting imagery has stayed with me ever since. I was quite young at the time (weren't we all) and new to foreign films. I was dazzled and excited by what an evening "at the movies" could offer me. I am almost reluctant to see this film again as I am afraid it will not have the same impact now as it did then. Kind of like your first love...never to be repeated with the same intensity...
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on September 26, 2000
I wish someone could inform me: What's the original aspect ratio of this film? Is it 2.35:1 or 1.33:1?
Is the VHS in the original aspect ratio of the film? If it's not, I rather wait for the DVD to see it in its full widescreen glory. Otherwise, I will purchase the VHS right away.
Would someone please let me know? Thanks.
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