262. Fanny and Alexander

I made a mistake with this title. The first time I sat down to watch it, I thought the theatrical release was the unabridged one. Only afterwards did I realize that the televised version is the five-hour-plus original. Now that I’ve watched both, I can confidently say that the television version is superior, worth every additional second. FANNY AND ALEXANDER, one of Ingmar Bergman’s later accomplishments, is mostly the story of Alexander, a quiet, perceptive ten-year-old growing up in an affluent family in turn-of-the-century Sweden. In the span of a few years, he is faced with death, ghosts, captivity, and mysticism. It’s difficult to summarize the film since it spans so many events and touches on so many themes. Yet the story is also deeply personal; despite the omniscient camera, it seems as though everything is being viewed through Alexander’s eyes. Thus the laws of nature tend to wobble, and supernatural threats become real. All of this is offset by the wonderful ensemble cast that portrays the warm and charming Ekdahl family. Just don’t be intimidated by the length: all four episodes are mesmerizing and moving for reasons I can’t quite pinpoint.

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