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Fanny & Alexander Review

Other Critics provided by Metacritic.com

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 5.0
    100

    out of 100

    Metascore®
    Universal acclaim
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 100

    out of 100

    Variety

    Emerges as a sumptuously produced period piece that is also a rich tapestry of childhood memoirs and moods, fear and fancy, employing all the manners and means of the best of cinematic theatrical from high and low comedy to darkest tragedy with detours into the gothic, the ghostly and the gruesome. (Review of Original Release)

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  • 100

    out of 100

    Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert

    The movie is astonishingly beautiful. The cinematography is by Bergman's longtime collaborator Sven Nykvist.

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  • 100

    out of 100

    Chicago Tribune Michael Wilmington

    If the uncut Fanny and Alexander is Bergman's greatest work, as I think, it's because it's his most inclusive. He shows almost everything: all his moods, conflicts, styles and many of his favorite actors.

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  • 90

    out of 100

    Village Voice Michael Atkinson

    Bergman locates a generosity and élan that make F&A feel like his youngest film.

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  • See all Fanny & Alexander reviews at Metacritic.com

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

Iffy for 16+

Bergman's epic, mature masterpiece about childhood.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that while this subtitled Swedish film is about two children, ages 10 and 8, its themes and events are weighty and sophisticated, appropriate only for adults and mature teens. The movie contains several disturbing, intense sequences in which the young brother and sister are front and center in the aftermath of their father's death, or being treated cruelly by a villainous step-father. Both children are threatened and Alexander is emotionally tormented by the man, then beaten with a cane until his backside is bloody. In addition, there are fantasy sequences in which one or both children see ghosts, imagine the deaths of their step-father's first wife and his two daughters, and get lost in an exotic, maze-like household in which puppets and other inanimate objects come to life. During fits of anger, Alexander uses harsh profanity, including "f--k," "c--k," "piss," and more. Milder swearing occurs intermittently, and there are some anti-Semitic slurs. Characters drink alcohol frequently, become drunk, and smoke cigars and pipes.

  • Families can talk about how Alexander's imagination and day dreams help him cope with his real life. How does the movie distinguish between the real and the fantasy? Are there ever occasions in which you or someone you know uses a fantasy life in this way?
  • Talk about how kids are portrayed in this film. Are there any role models in this movie? How are the kids in this movie portrayed differently than in some more current movies?
  • Bergman shows two distinct types of family life. How do the places in which they live reflect the people who live there? Whose job is it to choose the design and arrangement of the sets in movies? What do these designers have to keep in mind when doing their work?
  • What makes this movie so special? Why has it stood the test of time? Teens: Do you find it difficult to watch movies with subtitles? Why or why not?

The good stuff
  • message true3

    Messages: Family, as well as life itself, is mysterious, complicated, and filled with both joy and sorrow; accepting that will help even the young make their way in the world. Trust is fragile and easily abused.

  • rolemodels true2

    Role models: A multi-faceted look at the many roles adults play in their children's lives from the compassionate, loving, and understanding to the strict, unmercifully rigid, and terrifying. A broad picture of childhood resilience as well as vulnerability.

What to watch for
  • violence false3

    Violence: Numerous frightening and intense scenes. A young boy is severely beaten by his step-father; while the actual blows from the cane are not shown, the bloody aftermath on the child's bare bottom is seen. When Fanny's and Alexander's father dies, the children witness their mother's uncontrollable grief in a lengthy sequence. In dark, suspense-filled fantasy scenes puppets come to life, scary masks and faces fill the screen, the ghosts of dead loved ones appear, and a strange household becomes a mysterious maze. A diseased woman (shown in closeup) catches fire, runs through a house and sets it and another occupant ablaze.

  • sex false4

    Sex: There are several scenes with explicit sexual activity between adults with partial nudity (fondling of bare breasts, undressing). A constantly lecherous man playfully makes love to his wife, and seduces a young servant, carrying on an open affair with her with his wife's knowledge; all live in the same household. Some of the classical artwork displayed in the family home includes nudity. Alexander is seen from behind as he urinates.

  • language false3

    Language: In two scenes the enraged 10-year-old Alexander utters strings of profanities in Swedish (subtitled in English), including: "s--t," "c--k," "f--k," "p---y," "c--t," "crap," "butt," "piss." Other words heard occasionally: "fart," "damn," "hell," "bastard." A raucous family game shows an inebriated uncle playing chase with the assembled children and lighting his own farts.  There is one outpouring of anti-Semitic rhetoric from the movie's darkest villain. 

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not an issue

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false3

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Alcoholic beverages, including wine, cognac, and beer are consumed by adults often at family celebrations, dinners, social get-togethers, and in moments of stress. Inebriated uncles provide comic relief in a number of scenes, including one in which a servant is seduced. Members of the family smoke pipes and cigars.

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