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Fanny and Alexander (The Criterion Collecton Theatrical & Television Version)

4.5 out of 5 stars 133 customer reviews

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Product Description

Through the wide eyes of ten-year-old Alexander (Bertil Guve), we witness the great delights and conflicts of the Ekdahl family—a sprawling, convivial bourgeois clan living in turn-of-the-century Sweden. Intended as Ingmar Bergman’s swan song, Fanny and Alexander (Fanny och Alexander) is the legendary filmmaker’s warmest and most autobiographical film, a triumph that combines his trademark melancholy and emotional rigor with immense joyfulness and sensuality. The Criterion Collection is proud to present not only the theatrical version—winner of the 1984 Academy Award® for Best Foreign Language Film—but also, for the first time on home video in the U.S., the original five-hour television version, together in a single boxed set. Also included is Bergman’s own feature-length documentary The Making of Fanny and Alexander (Dokument Fanny och Alexander), offering a unique glimpse into his creative process and a candid behind-the-scenes look at a monumental film in the making. INCLUDED WITH FANNY AND ALEXANDER, FOR THE FIRST TIME ON DVD: THE MAKING OF FANNY AND ALEXANDER The Making of Fanny and Alexander is a fascinating look at the creation of a masterpiece. Directed by Ingmar Bergman himself, this feature-length documentary chronicles the methods of one of cinema’s true luminaries as he labors to realize his crowning production. Featuring Bergman at work with many of his longtime collaborators—including cinematographer Sven Nykvist and actors Erland Josephson, Gunnar Björnstrand, and Harriet Andersson—The Making of Fanny and Alexander is a witty and revealing portrait of a virtuoso filmmaker.


It was instantly acclaimed the crowning masterwork of Ingmar Bergman's career, and time has not dimmed the Olympian status of Fanny and Alexander. Bergman drew upon memories of his own childhood for this portrait of the Ekdahls, the upper-class Swedish family whose celebrations and tribulations are seen through the eyes of 10-year-old Alexander (Bertil Guve). The world of the theater, of puppet shows and magic lanterns, does battle in this scenario with the cold realities of the palace of the bishop--a man whose influence over Alexander's mother gives the movie the stark outlines of a fairy tale.

As for the Criterion five-disc DVD: This may be the most beautiful DVD release ever devoted to a single film. The original 188-minute international release is here, of course, in all its original glory. (It won four Oscars: foreign language film, costumes, art direction/set decoration, and cinematography--the last to longtime Bergman collaborator Sven Nykvist.) An audio commentary by Peter Cowie gives useful background.

That film was carved out of Bergman's preferred 312-minute version, telecast on Swedish TV and included here. While the shorter cut remains a wonderful movie, and complete unto itself, the five-hour film is a deep, luxurious expansion. There is more of the Christmas Eve party that begins the film, more of the theater, more of Alexander's imagination. Especially meaningful is a long sequence between Fanny and Alexander and their doomed father, as he demonstrates the nature of storytelling with a simple chair.

Also here is The Making of Fanny and Alexander, Bergman's feature-length self-portrait, and a fascinating look at the rapt attention he bestows on actors and camera. DVD extras include a penetrating hourlong TV interview Bergman gave in 1984, and a 40-minute documentary shot in 2004 with reminiscences from cast and crew (including actors Guve, Pernilla August, and Erland Josephson). A handsome booklet includes essays by Rick Moody and Paul Arthur, and one disc is made up of pithy introductions shot by Bergman in 2003, for 11 of his classics, plus a sampling of trailers. Fanny and Alexander was Bergman's final theatrical film, though he has gone right on making TV movies and writing screenplays. This is a fitting treatment of his triumph. --Robert Horton

Special Features

  • New high-definition digital transfers of both the 312- minute television and 181-minute international theatrical versions, with restored image and sound and improved English subtitle translation
  • Ingmar Bergman's feature length documentary The Making of Fanny and Alexander, presented here for the first time on DVD in a new high-definition transfer
  • Ingmar Bergman Bids Farewell to Film, a 60-minute conversation between Bergman and Nils Petter Sundgren made for Swedish television in 1984
  • New video interviews with producer Jorn Donner, production manager Katinka Farago, art director Anna Asp, assistant director Peter Schildt, and actors Bertil Guve, Ewa Froling, Pernilla August, and Erland Josephson
  • Introductions by Bergman to eleven of his films
  • A selection of Bergman theatrical trailers
  • Costume sketches and video footage of the models for the film's sets
  • Stills gallery
  • A booklet featuring new essays by novelist Rick Moody, documentarian and film historian Stig Bjorkman, and film scholar Paul Arthur

Product Details

  • Directors: Ingmar Bergman
  • Format: Box set, Closed-captioned, Color
  • Language: Swedish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Dubbed: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 5
  • Rated:
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: November 16, 2004
  • Run Time: 312 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (133 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000305ZYS
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #18,501 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Fanny and Alexander (The Criterion Collecton Theatrical & Television Version)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By G. Bestick VINE VOICE on November 3, 2006
Format: DVD
Fanny and Alexander is a feast of a film, bursting with characters, ideas and emotions. In it, Bergman celebrates sensation, imagination and the power of illusion, pitting them against his lifelong anxieties about religion and the difficulty of human connection.

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.
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Format: Blu-ray
We were stunned by the beauty of this transfer of the Fanny and Alexander restoration! I have had the DVD box set of this movie for 4 to 5 years, and have watched it every year as Christmas approaches. Having been quite familiar with that most recent version, I can safely say that the blu-ray is quite superior. The colors and clarity of detail are most definitely worth the upgrade. Most of the extras have also been transferred in HD from their original sources. Lastly, this is one of those discs that tells your Blu-ray player exactly where you last were watching the movie, and proceeds to find that place, and ask you if you wish to resume watching from that point. I love that feature, especially with the 5 hour version of the film. If you love this film, you really should not miss out on this Blu-Ray.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I've been meaning to comment on this film for a few days now, but I haven't had the time or the energy (been really busy lately) to do so. Maybe it was Sven Nykvist's recent passing (btw, his Oscar-winning work in this film is one of unparalleled magnificence and beauty) that inspired me to write about it. There are so many things I want to say about this film that I don't even know where to begin. I guess I'll start by saying that this has been the shortest 5 hours I've spent watching a film. At first I had planned to watch it in parts as the film is divided in acts, but I was so instantly taken, engrossed and fascinated, that I just felt like watching the whole thing in one sitting. I know that a 5-hour long film can sound very intimidating and exhausting, but the film is specifically divided in 5 distinguishable acts that make it more digestible, and believe me, it's so absorbing that you will barely notice you spent all that time watching it; it's that good. I've skimmed through the 3-hour theatrical version, and while it is a great film, some of my favorite parts are either shortened or completely cut from the film, which for me, lessens the impact the whole 5-hour extended TV version has. Both versions work, of course, but if you want to get a greater understanding of Bergman's vision, I totally recommend the extended version.

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.
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Having very little basis for comparison (since my only prior exposure to Bergman has been The Seventh Seal), I don't feel qualified to judge this film against a "Bergman standard," but I do, however, doubt that he has directed another movie as perfect as Fanny and Alexander (F&A). It is more than worthy of the 4 Oscars, Golden Globe, Guldbagge and BAFTA awards it has received. Classic movies that are great on the whole may suffer from bad acting, directing, or even whole scenes that briefly go out of focus. That, however, is not the case with this film. It draws one in and keeps one alert and interested throughout. The directing and acting is surprisingly good. Mostly superb.
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.
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