Between Stage and Screen: Ingmar Bergman Directs

By Egil Törnqvist | Go to book overview

Fanny and Alexander (1982)

Fanny and Alexander exists in two versions, a shorter one released for cinema transmission and a longer one meant for television. It is the latter, which agrees better with the published script and is regarded as the proper one by Bergman, 1 that will be considered here.

Intended in the first place as a television series, the script of Fanny and Alexander is divided into five "acts," to which are added, in classical theater idiom, a Prologue and an Epilogue.

In the Prologue, which figures only in the script, we are introduced to the town in which the drama unfolds. The town, which boasts a castle, a cathedral, a university, and a theater, is never named; that would diminish its universality. The year is 1907.

Act I describes the Christmas celebrations, first in the theater, then in the Ekdahl home. In Act II, the managing director of the theater, Oscar Ekdahl ( Allan Edwall), suffers a stroke during a rehearsal of Hamlet, is driven home, dies, and is buried. In Act III his young widow Emilie (Ewa Fröhling) is remarried to Bishop Edvard Vergérus ( Jan Malmsjö), breaks with the theater, and moves with her children Alexander (Bertil Guve) and Fanny (Pernilla Allwin) to the Bishop's residence. Act IV charts the "events of the summer" of 1909; scenes from idyllic Eknäs, the Ekdahls" summer place in the archipelago, are intertwined with scenes demonstrating the strict routine in the Bishop's house, where Emilie and her children are 'imprisoned.' Act V begins with a description of how the children are rescued from the Bishop's residence and taken to Isak Jacobi's ( Erland Josephson) mysterious antique shop and apartment, after which these two contrasting environments are intertwined. In the final scene of this act, omitted from the series, Emilie returns to the theater after the Bishop's death.

In the Epilogue we are back among the Ekdahls, now happier than ever. It is May (Sw. 'maj'), the lilacs are in bloom. Emilie and the nanny Maj (Pernilla Wallgren) have each given birth to a daughter, and it is the day of the joint christening. We have some fragmentary impression of what the future holds for Maj, Gustav Adolf's ( Jarl Kulle) daughter, and Emilie. In the closing images, lacking in the script, we see Alexander in the lap of his grandmother Helena (Gunn Wållgren) who reads Strindberg's Explanatory Note to A Dream Play aloud to him.

The title of Fanny and Alexander may appear trivial and slightly confusing, since Fanny's part in the film is rather small compared with Alexander's. Actually, the title is quite meaningful. Referring to the names of two children, brother and sister, it

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Between Stage and Screen: Ingmar Bergman Directs
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Preface 7
  • PROLOGUE 9
  • PART 1 THE STAGE DIRECTOR 21
  • Strindberg, the Dream Play (1970) 23
  • Strindberg, the Ghost Sonata (1973) 30
  • Strindberg, Miss Julie (1985) 46
  • O'Neill, Long Day's Journey into Night (1988) 59
  • Ibsen, a Doll's House (1989) 69
  • Shakespeare, the Winter's Tale (1994) 81
  • PART 2 THE SCREEN DIRECTOR 93
  • The Seventh Seal (1957) 95
  • Wild Strawberries (1957) 112
  • Strindberg, Storm (1960) 128
  • Persona (1966) 137
  • Cries and Whispers (1973) 146
  • Autumn Sonata (1978) 160
  • Fanny and Alexander (1982) 174
  • PART 3 THE RADIO DIRECTOR 189
  • Strindberg, Easter (1952) 191
  • A Matter of the Soul (1990) 195
  • EPILOGUE 199
  • Notes 213
  • Selected Bibliography 226
  • List of Illustrations 231
  • Index 233
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