Director: Ingmar Bergman
DoP: Sven Nykvist
Music by: Daniel Bell
Prolific Swedish director Ingmar Bergman was a visual master, an auteur who worked closely with his faithful cinematographer Sven Nykvist in crafting, if not elaborate colour schemes then dancing shadows of black and white, investing heavily in elaborate production design to achieve his visions. His works range from savage medieval fables and nostalgic road trips to indulgent depictions of identity crises, dying days and the angst of betrayal. His filmography may vary widely in content and story but all of his features explore common concepts of religious faith, sexuality, death, insanity and family. An ever-present yet subtle fantasy element often teases intrigue from the audience, the dialogue is consistently unusual and intuitive and like most excellent films, Bergman's bare a lasting legacy, its retrospective charm particularly strong.
Fanny and Alexander, sitting at almost 5 hours in length, is Bergman's magnum opus: a sprawling summation of the director most consequential ideas. Fanny and Alexander follows the lives of its two young title characters, who are wrapped up tightly in a curtain of familial comfort. A lively Christmas showcases the large and loving Ekdahl family, each link of the family tree affords a rich array of subplots. The once secure fate of Fanny and Alexander takes a sharp turn when after the sudden death of their father, the children's mother makes an impassioned choice of independence by remarrying into a family of the church. Digital manipulation of imagery and sound is conservative and elementary, Bergman choosing instead to organically create sights for the benefit of the audience, constructing generous and indulgent sets of parties, plays, wakes and weddings. But Bergman's films were the result of not his exclusive love for visuals but of the marriage between music and imagery. Many of his films showcase an indulgence and infatuation with classical music, from Bach to Chopin, Schumann to Beethoven - the filmmaker evidently favoured romantic and baroque era pieces. For the accompanying music I have selected the opening piece by German composer Robert Schumaan, the second movement to his celebrated, quintessential Piano Quintet in E-flat major, Op. 44.