Fanny and Alexander (Ingmar Bergman, 1982)
When Bergman announced this film he also said to whoever wanted to hear that it was gonna be his final directing job. History told us that he made some movies after this 1982 picture. However, Fanny and Alexander seems like the perfect testament from one of the greatest, if not the greatest filmmaker of all time. The rich colours, the wonderful mise en scène and the panoramic framing of every scene is just perfect. Plus, it begins with a warm celebration of christmas in Sweden of the early 20th Century.
A family that looks like a lot like Bergman's description of his, an actor father that dies too young. His mother getting married with a strict pastor who hates children, and the use of every trick in the bag of Bergman. Well, this is Bergman's autobiographical picture where Alexander portrays the little Ingmar in his childhood when he discovered the theater and the first cinema-lanterns. One of the most famous stills from this film is the Alexander picture watching his little theater in the night of Christmas.
The plot is an amalgam of Bergman's childhood memories but also his influences in films with subtle references to Hamlet, which is the play his family rehearse and one time his mother calls him Hamlet when he can't stand his stepfather. The many spectral apparitions and the construction of the story reminds the great plays of Strindberg, one of Bergman's favourite playwriter. The film has this classic approach to drama and narrative while being a fresh Bergman film, original and unique.
However, the most interesting aspect of this film is the warmth of the images and the atmosphere of joy and reverence from the entire cast. When you look at the Making Of from the wonderful Criterion set, there is a sense of happiness, joy from the shooting of the film and Bergman seems relieved to shot this film and tie the bow with this magnificent opus. He looks content at what he has done and the final film seems to make him proud of what he did not only as a director but as an artist.
As a Bergman enthusiast and a true lover of Christmas and the Holidays I think that the whole sequence depicting the night of Christmas, the meal, the music, the dancing, and the family fun that it represents reminded me of the memories of what this celebration used to be in my childhood. Like the celebration of Christmas depicted in the Claude Jutra film Mon oncle Antoine that represents how we celebrate Noël in my part of the world. Fanny and Alexander has been since the first time I saw it one of my Holiday favorite. A must see and a masterpiece.