Bitter Swede Moments

Last Saturday night was rather chilly and damp. Everybody went out and I stayed home. It was an opportune time to do the kind of whim I intentionally don’t tell my friends; I planned to watch a three hour Swedish film while eating Chinese food off the carton. Ninety minutes later, it turns out I’m not that cultured. My philistine self grew impatient and gave up on the film. Ah, I thought, there is something normal in me after all.

Perhaps, I dived into the movie cold. I didn’t even bother to read the brief synopsis. One name made me pop in the disc into the DVD player: Ingmar Bergman. The critical movie-dom worships him. That should’ve been enough. I was prepared to take a journey, but one hour into the movie, I was lost amidst the refined Eckdahl family in the course of a Christmas celebration. Scene after scene, I was introduced to relatives and maids. I wondered if I should have been taking notes. Heck, I almost forgot who Fanny and Alexander were since they were getting little screen time.

The biggest problem with “Fanny and Alexander” is that it takes too long for the story to kick in. When I continued the movie on another night, I finally saw its brilliance when a tragic death leads the film into Dickensian territory and siblings Fanny and Alexander significantly materialize. The film molds into a child’s fantastical nightmare where a ghost is an observer and the villain is a man of God. Bergman throws in some inexplicable magic too. It’s a distracting element to the plot, but I was too absorbed into the story to notice. And for some reason, in the last hour, I was petrified with a stolid facial expression. The effect is like being hypnotized into watching a daydream.

This isn’t much of a movie review; it’s more of my movie experience. I failed to relate with the movie (or more like, the movie failed to relate with me). Had I been a rich white kid with servants, maybe my reaction would have been different. Maybe if I dabbled in arts, I could share my own artistic interpretation. The movie seems geared towards a particular crowd but I’m still glad I saw it. The movie could’ve been more focused if it was shortened to two hours. It might dispose of its trivial characters, but the inclusion of impatient viewers might prove to be time well spent.

Grade: B

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