Criterion Sunday 261: “Fanny and Alexander Box Set”

Bergman intended this 1982 film as his final feature, and after a three-hour cut released to cinemas, he reworked it into the cut which here is called the “Television Version” but actually remains just a longer, more fully-realised feature film.

Chief among the supplementary materials is Bergman’s own Making of Fanny and Alexander (1984), which has its own spine number and therefore I’ll review separately, though in the Blu-ray release it sits on the ‘supplements’ disc.

CRITERION EXTRAS:

  • One of the documentaries commissioned for the Criterion release is Fanny & Alexander: A Bergman Tapestry (2004), a very solid 40 minute featurette which catches up with many of the key participants in the making of the film just over 20 years later, including the boy who plays the title role (Bertil Guve, now fully grown of course), as well as some producers, the art director, and a number of the actors (of whom all but Erland Josephson speak perfect English). They give a richer sense of working with Bergman, as well as the way the film was made, with a few additional insights into the filming and production of some of the scenes that don’t make it into Bergman’s contemporary The Making of Fanny and Alexander.
  • There is also Ingmar Bergman tar farväl av filmen (Ingmar Bergman Bids Farewell to Film, 1984), a straightforward Swedish television interview of Bergman, as he sits on a couch facing the interviewer and talks about the making of Fanny and Alexander. A number of the questions are attempting to elicit some autobiographical motivation, which Bergman fairly strenuously denies, while admitting there are elements of himself in many of the characters. He’s certainly not on board for the reading that the grand Christmas celebrations seen on film reflect something he likes, so he still on the whole comes across as a grump, albeit one with an at times impish smile. The one topic they don’t address is his bidding farewell to film, and given his subsequent output, I guess he didn’t.
  • There are also a number of image galleries, including pictures of Bergman on set with his actors and his DoP Sven Nykvist, probably his closest collaborator. There are also images of the costume sketches, set alongside how they appeared in the final film, plus a short video run through of the various set models (again, with the finished film for comparison).

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