Christmas Movies II

film 12 of 25

Fanny and Alexander

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jul 6, 2015

Fanny and Alexander is superstar high-modernist Ingmar Bergman’s culminating work, and it’s a masterpiece. (And doesn’t it know it!) Its long middle section revisits some of IB’s deepest preoccupations about faith and doubt and futility. It’s severely clear, admirably cruel, bracingly hopeless. The last section is quite distinct, all mystical and magical, dark and occultish, full of layers and ambiguities. The really long opening section sets the scene for all the dizzying stuff that follows: neuroses, resentments, betrayals—the usual August Strindberg/Ingmar Bergman litany.

More to the point, though, and more powerfully, this first section also provides one of the most vivid Christmas assemblages in all of film history. Upstairs and downstairs, Masters and Men scurry festively all over, surrounded by seasonal food and lights and singing and dancing and everything. It’s all very beautifully designed and staged, very evocative historically, very inspiring in terms of your own seasonal observations. (Though you may not want to try that trick with the matches…)


The TV version is longer, and even better. Also, this is a legitimately, markedly adult movie. Proceed accordingly.

There were never two sensibilities less matched than Ingmar Bergman and Charles Dickens. And yet, an extended Christmas interlude in the middle of Dickens’ early triumph, The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (1837), is strangely and quite touchingly similar to Bergman’s seasonal tribute. All the trappings, more than a hint of contradiction and sorrow, as well as a deep, mysterious, almost mythological joy.

Here’s chapter 28:

See what you think of chapter 29:

You’d better try chapter 30: