Originally conceived as TV mini-series, it is the story of 10-year-old Alexander Ekdahl (Bertil Guve), his younger sister, Fanny (Pernilla Alwin) and and their well-to-do family in Uppsala, Sweden.
In some ways it was a love letter to Bergman’s own childhood with several set pieces paying homage to his youth: a joyous Christmas gathering of relatives and servants; the emotional wrench when their recently-widowed mother (Ewa Froling) marries an austere minister; their warm relationship with a grandmother (Gunn Wallgren) who ‘kidnaps’ Fanny and Alexander in order to show them love and affection; and many others.
It still ranks as one of his finest films (which is no mean feat given his body of work) and one of the best of the 1980s. One of the most striking aspects is the way in which it goes against the grain of his work in the 1970s with its celebration of the joys amidst the hardships of family life.
A marvellous evocation of childhood, it is still an exquisite film to watch and was deservedly rewarded with Oscars for best foreign film, cinematography (by the incomparable Sven Nykvist), costumes and art direction/set decoration.
This is the 3-hour theatrical cut, which has been digitally restored from the original negative and soundtrack.
Fanny and Alexander is out now from Palisades Tartan