The Anniversary Classics Series and Laemmle Theatres present 40th anniversary screenings of Ingmar Bergman’s semi-autobiographical masterpiece FANNY AND ALEXANDER (1983) on Wednesday, December 13 at 7:00 PM at four Laemmle locations: the Royal, Newhall, Glendale, and Claremont. The Academy Award-winning film is the last entry of the year of the popular Anniversary Classics Abroad series, and a timely program for the holiday season.
Bergman, one of the greatest and most influential film directors of all time, was a towering figure in international cinema who came to prominence in the mid-twentieth century “golden age of the arthouse” era, with such meditative classics exploring the psyche and soul as ‘The Seventh Seal,’ ‘The Virgin Spring,’ ‘Through a Glass Darkly’ (the latter two winning consecutive Foreign Film Oscars in 1960-61), ‘Persona,’ and expanding into the 1970s with ‘Cries and Whispers,’ a best picture Oscar nominee in 1973, and ‘Scenes from a Marriage’ among others. In the 1980s the Swedish auteur originally planned his memory piece FANNY AND ALEXANDER as his cinematic swan song, with a six-part version for television along with a shortened theatrical release, which premiered internationally first. The theatrical version went onto global acclaim and is widely considered one of Bergman’s finest films.
Set in the first decade of the twentieth century, the film opens with the Ekdahl family’s Christmas celebration, with extended family members and servants gathering for a merry holiday in the town of Uppsala (Bergman’s birthplace). The film unfolds principally through the eyes of ten-year-old Alexander Ekdahl (Bertil Guve) and his younger sister Fanny (Pernilla Allwin) who are soon separated from this warm family after the death of their actor-manager father, and the subsequent marriage of their mother (Ewa Froeling) to a strict, cold bishop (Jan Malmsjo). Familiar themes of religious zealotry, which Bergman explored throughout his career, are reexamined with a ghostly supernatural touch in Bergman’s haunted memories of his own clergyman father.
Plaudits for the film ranged from Variety’s “a sumptuously produced period piece (with) elegance and simplicity,” to Vincent Canby in The New York Times, “a big, dark, beautiful, generous family chronicle,” as a prelude to both the New York Film Critics and L.A. Film Critics naming it the best foreign film of the year. Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Examiner described it as “an epic family film that revisits Bergman’s favorite subjects—marriage, passion, infidelity, death, God—and yet in ways more generous and less austere than in his other films.” Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian praised “the glorious acting ensemble, an amazing collection of pure performing intelligence,” and summarized the film as “a brilliant—in fact maybe unique—fusion of Shakespeare and Dickens.”
The film went on to garner a record six Academy Award nominations, with directing and writing nods for Bergman, along with four wins: Foreign Language Film (Bergman’s third), Cinematography (Sven Nykvist, his consummate collaborator over two decades and his second win, both with Bergman), Art Direction (Anna Asp), and Costume Design (Marik Vos-Lundh). The four Oscars were the most for an international film in the twentieth century, and a fitting tribute to the legacy of a master filmmaker. Experience FANNY AND ALEXANDER back on the big screen this holiday season for one showing only on December 13.