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Fanny and Alexander(1982)
Fanny and Alexander are the children in the exuberant and colorful Ekdahl household in a Swedish town early in the twentieth century. Their parents, Oscar and Emilie, are the director and the leading lady of the local theatre company. Oscar's mother and brother are its chief patrons. After Oscar's early death, his widow has to marry the bishop and moves with her children to his austere and forbidding chancery. The children become immediately miserable.
For more about Fanny and Alexander and the Fanny and Alexander Blu-ray release, see Fanny and Alexander Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on November 14, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 5.0 out of 5.
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Writer: Ingmar Bergman
Starring: Kristina Adolphson, Börje Ahlstedt, Pernilla Allwin, Kristian Almgren, Carl Billquist, Axel Düberg
» See full cast & crew
Fanny and Alexander Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, November 14, 2011
Winner of four Oscar Awards, including Best Film and Best Cinematography, Ingmar Bergman's "Fanny and Alexander" (1982) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features included in this 3-disc set include original trailer; audio commentary with film scholar Peter Cowie; Ingmar Bergman's "The Making of "Fanny and Alexander"; the documentary "A Bergman Tapestry"; filmed conversation between Ingmar Bergman and Swedish film critic Nils Petter Sundgren; stills gallery; costume gallery; and more. The 3-disc set also arrives with a 34-page illustrated booklet featuring essays by Stig Bjorkman, Rick Moody, and Paul Arthur. In Swedish, with optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
The film begins with a big Christmas celebration. The members of the wealthy Ekdahl family and their closest friends have gathered to eat, drink, exchange gifts, and remind each other how blessed they are to live their lives the way they do. They all appear full of energy and enormously happy.
But at the end of the celebration their happy masks begin to fall. Grandmother Helena (Gunn Wallgren), the oldest and most authoritative amongst the Ekdahls, is lonely and jaded. She often cries when no one could see her because she misses her husband and because at her age life seems like a repetitive cycle of disappointments, some more painful than others. Her three sons are also jaded. Carl (Börje Ahlstedt) has racked up serious debts and some of his lenders have started asking for their money. He has also realized that marrying a poor German beauty who never learned to speak proper Swedish may not have been such a good idea. Gustav (Jarl Kulle) has recently noticed that when making love he can no longer perform as well as he used to, which is a shame because his much younger mistress, the nanny Maj (Pernilla August), will never find out what a great lover he once was. But he is still planning to buy her a café in Stockholm, and keep her for himself. Oscar (Allan Edwall) has been in charge with the family's theater business for years and done well, but times are changing and business is clearly not as good as it once was. Neither is his heart, which has been acting strangely as of late and forced him to take a few unexpected breaks from work. His wife Emilie (Ewa Fröling) hasn't noticed, but she has been too busy looking after their two beautiful children, Fanny (Pernilla Allwin) and Alexander (Bertil Guve).
While rehearsing Hamlet Oscar collapses, and within a day dies. Before he is buried, the town's bishop (Jan Malmsjo) appears and informs everyone that God has taken Oscar to a better place. He also assures Helena and Emilie that he will always be around if they need him. A few months later, the needy Emilie marries him and moves to his house with Fanny and Alexander.
The man of the cloth, however, becomes a monster. First he begins abusing Fanny and Alexander, then he attempts to destroy Emilie. The children do not understand why they are hated but feel that what is happening around them isn't right. Eventually, the ghosts Alexander has been seeing reveal to him an important secret.
Ingmar Bergman's Fanny and Alexander is largely an autobiographical film that chronicles a unique transition, the one where children slowly leave behind the magical world their imagination creates while they grow up and enter the cruel and often unjust world of the adults.
For Fanny and Alexander it is a long process of understanding what is real, what is right and wrong, how life begins and ends. They are taught simple lessons that gradually shape their personalities, their ambitions and goals.
The focus of attention, however, is primarily on Alexander, whose personal triumphs and disappointments are actually Bergman's. The magical world in which God, Death, and various mischievous ghosts coexist in peace where Alexander retreats also mirrors the one which the legendary Swedish director often visited during his childhood years.
Sven Nykvist's cinematography is exquisite. When the camera follows the Ekdahls in Helena's massive home, the film overflows with warm and lush colors. The bishop's home, however, looks incredibly cold and sterile.
Note: Criterion's 3-disc set contains the film's shorter theatrical version, running at approximately 189 minutes, and the original television version, running at approximately 322 minutes. The theatrical version of the film misses many of the spectacular fantasy sequences.
Fanny and Alexander Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.69:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Ingmar Bergman's Fanny and Alexander arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this 3-disc set:
"The digital transfer of the television version was created in 2K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the original 35mm camera negative and a 35mm interpositive to produce the complete film. The digital transfer of the theatrical version was created in 2K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the original 35mm camera negative. The color grading was supervised by the original film timer, Nils Melander. With both versions, restoration and color grading was done using the following software systems: Image System's Phoenix and Nucoda, Quantel's iQ, Foundry's NUKE, and Autodesk's Flame. Further restoration involved the manual removal of thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker using MTI's DRS system and Pixel Farm's PFClean system, while Image System's DVNR system was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction.
Telecine supervisors: Peter Bengtsson, Nils Melander.
Telecine colorist: Mats Holmberg/Chimney Pot, Stockholm.
Image restoration supervisor: Mats Forsberg/Marsmotel, Stockholm.
Audio restoration supervisor: Leif Westerlund/Cinepost Studios, Stockholm."
The new high-definition transfer for the television version of Fanny and Alexander conveys sizable improvements in every single area of importance we address in our reviews. Detail is substantially better, particularly during the darker sequences, while contrast levels have been effectively stabilized. The most impressive improvements, however, are in the area of color reproduction. The entire color-scheme has been elevated and stabilized, giving the film a fresh and enormously vibrant new look. Indeed, these are not minor spot corrections, but massive improvements in color grading and color balance. Unsurprisingly, if one compares the Blu-ray release to the old R1 DVD release Criterion produced some time ago, it literally feels as if some sort of a giant filter has been removed from the film. Furthermore, some careful noise corrections have been applied, but the film's grain structure is intact. During close-ups, in particular, it is very easy to see that the grain is well resolved and unmanipulated. Compression is also handled well. The only time I noticed a few minor artifacts popping up was during the prologue. Lastly, the new high-definition transfer is free of the edge flicker which is present on the R1 DVD release of the film (compare the opening of Episode Three). There are no problematic scratches, debris, warps, or large cuts to report in this review either.
(Note: Screencaptures 1-19 are from the television version of the film, while screencaptures 20-29 are from the theatrical version of the film. Additionally, the three discs in this boxset are Region-A "locked". Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access their content).
Fanny and Alexander Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The television version of Fanny and Alexander arrives with a Swedish DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 track. The theatrical version of the film arrives with a Swedish LPCM 1.0 track and an English Dolby Digital 1.0 dub. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English subtitles for the two versions.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this 3BD set:
"The soundtracks for both versions of the film were remastered at 24-bit from the original 35mm magnetic tracks. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube's integrated audio workstation."
The Swedish DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 track boasts a strong range of nuanced dynamics that enhance the fantasy sequences very well. Generally, the dialog and the spooky noises also sound a lot cleaner and crisper than they do on the DVD release. The Swedish LPCM 1.0 track shares similar characteristics. Both loseless tracks are also free of problematic pops, clicks, audio dropouts, or distortions. The English translation is excellent.
Fanny and Alexander Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Theatrical version Blu-ray
Fanny and Alexander Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Warm, colorful, witty and incredibly moving, Ingmar Bergman's Fanny and Alexander is undoubtedly one of the great films of our time. Criterion's 3-disc set contains the theatrical release and the original five-hour television version of the film. Both look wonderful on Blu-ray, the best they ever have. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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