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Criterion Collection: Fanny & Alexander [Import USA Zone 1]
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Description du produit
The lives of a Swedish theatrical family are dramatically changed when the father collapses and dies during a production of Hamlet. Swedish dialogue.
Sera di Natale del 1907 nella sontuosa dimora della famiglia Ekdhal, in una città di provincia in Svezia. Su figli, nuore e nipoti regna Elena, ex attrice, donna autoritaria ma amabile, contornata dai figli Oscar che fa l'attore, ed è sposato con la bella Emilie, attrice lei stessa, Gustaf Adolf, amministratore del teatro e marito focoso e superficiale di Alma, donna giuliva e tollerante, e Carl, frustrato, lamentoso e perennemente indebitato, sposato con una donna tedesca. Fanny ed Alexander sono i figli di Oscar e di Emilie. La serata è più che lieta, ricca di doni, di canti, di grandi bevute e di danze, cui partecipa gioiosamente anche tutta l'impeccabile e numerosa servitù. Alexander, Fanny e qualche cuginetto, nel cuore della notte, rimangono affascinati, nella loro bella camera, dalla lanterna magica e dalle storie mirabolanti che scaturiscono senza sosta dalla sfrenata fantasia del ragazzo. Intanto lo zio Gustaf, sempre tumultuoso e mezzo brillo, ha uno dei suoi consueti approcci ancillari con la giovane May, claudicante, ma graziosa servetta di casa Ekdhal, alla quale promette l'acquisto di una pasticceria. La famiglia è in seguito sconvolta dalla repentina morte di Oscar, che avviene dopo una recita di Amleto. Tutti sono toccati dall'evento, Emilie ne è profondamente colpita e i due bambini, Alexander soprattutto, percepiranno la morte del loro affettuoso e sensibile padre come un qualcosa che lacera per sempre la loro infanzia. Oscar molto spesso sarà visto in sogno e "rivisitato" da Alex come un bianco fantasma che si aggira tra i velluti e i damaschi della ricca dimora: un fantasma che è un dolce e silente protettore. Ma la vedovanza non dura a lungo: i due ragazzi vengono presentati al vescovo Edward Vergerus, uomo maturo, estremamente rigorista e formale e di costumi spartani. Essi lo detestano, ma sono ovviamente obbligati a seguire la madre che lo ha sposato, lasciando la nonna, la loro bella casa e perfino i giochi, per condurre una esistenza arida e intristita, disciplinata da leggi rigidissime in un gelido vescovado pressoché spoglio, che è dominato dalla spigolosità della madre e della sorella di Vergerus. --Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.
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PS version originale sous-titrée en anglais seulement.
PS2 Bergman revient sur plusieurs de ses films dans les bonus.
Curieux que ce film ne soit pas édité en DVD en France!
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Set in the early years of the twentieth century, the movie tracks the fortunes of an upper-middle-class Swedish family, headed by the widow Helena Ekdahl. We first meet the Ekdahls at the exuberant Christmas feast that opens the film. Her son Gustav is a restraunteur, a lusty, sentimental man who loves his wife and paws the maids. Karl, a professor is the weak son, drunk, chronically in debt, and abusive towards his German wife. The oldest son, Oskar, manages the family theater in which his young wife Emilie is one of the actresses. While rehearsing Hamlet one winter day, Oskar falls ill, and soon dies.
Emilie is left with two young children, ten-year- old Alexander and Fanny, eight. Bereaved Emilie, still in search of her identity outside the theater, falls under the hypnotic influence of Bishop Vergerus, a handsome, charismatic Lutheran minister whose charming exterior masks a cruel fanaticism. He proposes marriage, and, in a casual but chilling aside, requests that Emilie and the children bring nothing from their former lives when they move in with him. Emilie and the children transfer from the gay, affectionate Ekdahl world to the spare, rigid Vergerus household.
The Bishop takes a special dislike to Alexander, who lives for long stretches in worlds of his own making. We learn that the Bishop's first wife and two children drowned in the river that races past the house. Alexander tells a maid that he saw the ghost of the first wife, who told him that the Bishop locked them up and that she and the children drowned while trying to escape him. The maid informs on the boy. Enraged, the Bishop torments Alexander psychologically, applies a carpet beater to his backside, then locks him up for the night in the attic. Although disturbing to watch, the sequence brilliantly brings to life one of the movie's major themes. Alexander may have lied about the facts, but in using his imagination to rearrange the facts he reveals a larger truth. The Bishop does in fact seek to imprison and control the souls of those around him.
The second half of the movie deals with Emilie's struggle to free herself and her children from the Bishop. As part of this struggle, Alexander is led deeper into the realms of magic and the supernatural. Unlike some of Bergman's earlier, bleaker works, Fanny and Alexander allows the life-denying rigidity of Vergerus to be subsumed by the warmth and humanity of the Ekdahls. At a lavish family banquet, Alexander's uncle Gustav makes a speech extolling the virtues of living in the "little world" by which he seems to mean both the theater and the secular world of everyday human interaction. Bergman uses Gustav to state a decided bias toward small, made-made illusions over grand theistic ones.
This bare bones summary of the three hour theatrical release (a five hour version aired on Swedish televison) cannot do justice to the movie's teeming richness. Everything Bergman learned in forty years of film and theater directing is brought to a triumphant apotheosis. The sets, particularly Helena Ekdahl's apartment and summer house, are lavish; the period costumes are colorful and elaborate; Sven Nyquist's camera moves fluidly from sweeping long shots to lingering close ups. The enormous cast is superb. Gunn Walgren's mobile features summon up the soul of Helena Ekdahl, and Bergman veteran Erland Josephson imbues family friend Isak Jacobi with mystery and warmth. The movie's most mesmerizing performance is Jan Malmsjo as Vergerus; his abrupt shifts from charm to cruelty will make your skin crawl.
References to Shakespeare's Hamlet are peppered throughout the movie. In its balance, richness, humanity and dazzling theatrical skill, Fanny and Alexander reaches the Bard's exalted level.
Now onto the film itself. What can I say? It's magnificent. A grand, rich and glorious tapestry of life, family, love, hate, imagination, art, fantasy, reality, religion, magic, death, faith, spirituality, God, despair, redemption, youth, innocence, maturity, old age and the supernatural. Fanny and Alexander is all of these things and even more. I don't want to go into much plot detail, but point out what I liked so much about the film by mentioning some of my favorite scenes and commenting on them. And in this film there are plenty. Rarely I've felt the sense of familial warmth and love in a film or elsewhere as I have with Fanny and Alexander. The first act shows us a Christmas dinner family celebration, and it is instantly intoxicating and beguiling, and you're instantly drawn to these flawed-yet-loving and caring characters that constitute this large, happy family and Bergman's direction is so vivid that you totally feel the joy in sharing and the affection and love. One of my favorite scenes in this part is Oscar's (the family patriarch and owner of the family theater)heartfelt and candid speech about the importance of the theater, this "little world" as it is referred to, and how art can reflect the "big world" and help us have a greater endurance during bad times. This theme is more thoroughly explored in an enchanting and beautiful scene in which Oscar explains to Fanny and Alexander through the simple story of a chair how art is connected to life, how important and essential art is in enriching our lives, helping us have a deeper awareness and appreciation of the world at large, and how there is more to what meets the eye, an inner life lying underneath the surface of things. Bergman was raised within a very strict and opressive family, and I'm pretty sure that the Ekdahls is the kind of family (Loving, supportive, encouraging, freethinkers) he would've liked to be raised in. I echo his (likely) sentiment. Likewise, if I got a profound sense of love and family in the first act, when tragedy strikes in the second act, I got a great sense of suffering and despair. One of the most strikingly moving scenes in the film involves Oscar's wife, Emilie, giving these primal, animal cries of grief over her dead husband; the scene is simply heartwrenching. Similarly engrossing, is the open and penetrating conversation between Emilie and the bishop about her faith and her spiritual confusion and longing. But in the third and fourth acts is when the characters' resilience are really put to the test. None of the pain, humiliation and the frailty of the human heart throughout the film is better illustrated in a scene of tremendous impact in which Alexander is severely punished by the bishop and Fanny has no other option but to stand and watch as her brother is being physically abused, only moments later to see her defiantly turn down the bishop's affections. Another favorite scene during this act is Helena's - the family matriarch - beautiful and eloquent soliloquy to her son Oscar about the joys and pains in life, the futility of fighting against its forces and just living it as it comes. It is what it is. Another standout is Isak Jacobi's (a family friend and magician) metaphorical story that encapsulates the importance and at the same time the futility of searching for meaning in life. Some of the film's most intriguing, revealing and fantastical moments are in this act. In what's probably the greatest moment in a film full of great moments, is Alexander's encounter with a mysterious character named Ismael. I think this scene is the climax of the film as it brings closure to Alexander's arch. There's also a deep sense of the supernatural as it is suggested that everything, fantasy and reality, the logical and unexplainable, the material and the etheral, the good and even the bad, is a manifestation of God. I feel that with those statements, Bergman is telling us that he probably managed to finally exorcise the demons that had been haunting him throughout his life, or at least come to terms with them, as his onscreen alterego Alexander has as well. All of this told, detailed and presented with the skill of a master storyteller.
I was fully enraptured by this film. I love the way it beautifully conveyed the relevance of art and imagination and how they're actually essential for humanity. I loved how it showed life in all its joyful, fantastical, realistic, tragic, resigned and ultimately hopeful glory. I loved its sense of completeness yet also leaving the viewer with an air of mystery that implies the endless possibilities of life. A masterpiece and easily one of my favorite films ever.
The story revolves around a wealthy Swedish family who run the local theater in Uppsala, and the severe upbringing of siblings F&A in the early 1900's (the story begins on Christmas, 1907).
Bergman seems to have a unique talent of combining drama with horror, fantasy, and comedy--this I also found to be the case with The Seventh Seal, but in F&A, this talent is more strongly presented; one minute you can find yourself laughing at humorous --sometimes obscene-- acts and remarks, and the next you may find yourself feeling choked up or horrified. The film is very strong, very real, and strongly recommended to anyone who wants to experience looking at film on a whole new level.
I cannot complete this review without giving affectionate appreciation to my friend Karen for recommending The Seventh Seal, thus inspiring me to watch this film--thank you.