by Bergman, Ingmar

  • Fanny and Alexander

Genre: Drama

Cast 14 male 10 female

Length Full

Set Flexible

Licence World ex. Sweden


The time is 1907. The place, Uppsala.  Fanny and Alexander are two pre-teen siblings, their parents, Oscar Ekdahl, head of the local resident theatre and Emilie, one of the principal actresses of the company.  They live in one half of a town apartment, Oscar’s mother, Helena, a widow, the other half.  A connecting door, camouflaged by wallpaper, separates the two apartments.

The script consists of a prologue and five scenes: Christmas, Death and Funeral, Breaking Up, The Events of a Summer, The Demons and an epilogue.

The prologue describes the town and its inhabitants, but the film begins with 12-year-old Alexander exploring his grandmother’s apartment, sitting under the dining room table. He surveys the room; it’s ticking clocks, ornaments and a statue that seems to beckon to him.

The Christmas scene opens with a performance in the theatre of “The Play About Christ’s Joyful Birth” followed by Christmas dinner at Helena’s apartment. Servants mingle with the family, the atmosphere joyous and warm. The evening ends for the children with a pillow fight with Maj, a servant girl. In the night Alexander sneaks out of bed to play with his “laterna magica”, a Christmas present. Fanny joins him. Helena and an old friend, Isak Jabbi talk through the night while Gustav Ekdahl, Oscar’s philandering brother, seduces Maj. Another brother, Carl, argues with his wife. In the early morning, the extended Ekdahl family meet for coffee at Helena’s and then travel to church in sleds lit by torches, a re-enactment of a Swedish Christmas custom from the past.

The death and funeral section begins with a rehearsal of Hamlet’s first meeting with his father’s ghost. Oscar, directing, collapses and dies. During the funeral Alexander mutters obscenities in protest at his father’s death. Bishop Vergerus conducts the funeral. A year later he marries Emilie and she moves into his house with the two children. The house they share with the Bishop’s mother, sister and bed-ridden aunt is in stark contrast to the cluttered and boisterous Ekdahl home. The children hate their stepfather, especially Alexander, who is admonished for telling lies at school.

The story moves to Helena’s summerhouse. Maj visits Helena and expresses her concern for Fanny and Alexander. The children are confined to their bare nursery. Alexander tells Justina, one of Vergerus’ servants, that Vergerus is responsible for the death, by drowning, of one of his children from a former marriage. Justina tells the bishop what Alexander has said and Vergerus beats him and locks him in the attic. Oscar’s ghost appears to Helena and talks to her about the family. This vision is interrupted by the arrival of Maj and the pregnant Emilie who tells her the bishop has refused her request for a divorce.

Isak rescues Fanny and Alexander by hiding them in a chest he purchases from Vergerus. At his house he introduces them to Aron who has a puppet theatre and his brother Ishmael who is locked up because he is deranged and violent at times. At night Alexander, lost wandering through the disordered apartment, is scared by Aron, acting as God, and ends up visiting Ishmael.

Meanwhile Emilie has drugged the bishop’s food and flees from the house leaving him in a semi-conscious state. A scene, in which Ishmael articulates Alexander’s wish to kill the bishop, is intercut with shots of Vergerus’ obese aunt catching fire from an overturned lamp. The fire spreads to the bishop’s bedroom. In the morning, Emilie is informed by the police of the death of her husband.

The following winter, Emilie and Maj give birth to daughters. At a family celebration, Gustav pays homage to the world of family and friends.

The film concludes with Helena reading to Emilie from the preface to Strindberg’s “Dreamplay”.

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