Sunday, 28 November 2010

Fanny & Alexander (1982) [* * * * * *]

This is a fabulous movie about 2 children and their mother after the husband dies. The children are born to a theatrical family and he led a free and creative existence with little or no discipline, having fun in a huge family full of love and joy and freedom.

After her husband's death, the actress catches the bishop's eye and he begins to woo her in the form of episcopal emotional support. Alexander is growing out of childhood and into a psychically sensitive teen who sees ghosts as easily as he sees hidden motives.

He takes an instant dislike to the bishop, but his mother falls in love. The bishop takes them home to a life of hardship and punishments for the smallest offenses. Alexander is repeatedly subject to humiliation and required to apologize to his tormentor. His one wish is to see the bishop dead.

The mother is unable to protect her children as the bishop threatens to use the marriage laws of Sweden to take away the children. Finally her former husband's family is forced to intervene to rescue the children.

During this act, we're made aware of how much of a rascal the Bishop really is, for all his hypocritical talk. The penury of the house is due to his financial excesses and his womanizing. The theatrical family turn to a Jewish merchant to abduct the children from the prison of their new home so that the mother is free to act. She puts bromides in her nightly broth to help her sleep and the suspicious bishop asks to drink it and is helpless to stop her from leaving him. The jewish merchant has a psychically talented son who sees the rage in the boy and channels it to set the bishop's house on fire, in which the Bishop dies.

Finally we see the theatrical family reunited and happy again. But Alexander is pushed down by the ghost of the Bishop who tells him that now he'll never escape him again.

I have never seen a catholic filmmaker's that I haven't identified with. Having been in catholic schools and colleges, I am deeply aware of their hypocrisy, the special humiliations and torment they reserve for children and the gilded cage they weave with words - whether the movie is about sexually abusive priests or punitive relationships between natives and missionaries, I identify with the rage and pain that goes into the telling of those stories.

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