Fanny & Alexander ★★★½

'Life used to be better' is one of those idioms that the characters from Fanny och Alexander would use probably. "The happy, splendid life is other", moans Helen at the beginning, essentially foreshadowing the future that awaits Alexander and his family after his father's passing.

"Everything's getting worse", equally laments Helen's boyfriend Isaak. "Worse people, worse machines, worse wars and worse weather." Life used to be easier for Carl, too. Despite being one of Helen's three sons from a wealthy family he himself is struggling financially. It is a shame that Bergman drops the character after the – terrific – Christmas storyline (maybe he resurfaces in the 5-hour-cut for TV), especially considering that the movie does find time to follow up on Gustav's affair with Maj and their bastard offspring.

I enjoyed the Hamlet connections with Oscar's ghost haunting Alexander who takes the role of Hamlet essentially upon himself with the upcoming plot of his widowed mother remarrying. Maybe Bergman could've even dived deeper into this interpretation or analogy instead of picking it up rather randomly throughout the movie.

One of the virtues of Fanny och Alexander is that even though it runs over three hours it never feels tiresome. Which is kind of a feat since not that much is happening. Still, the film could have been shorter or at least used the time better to develop some of the other characters. Like Emilie, who first claims she's in love with Edvard, only to announce her hatred of him about a handful of scenes later. For neither emotion the movie gives the audience much evidence. What made her fall in love with him, outside of the fact he seemed capable to look after her? Where does the hatred come from? Is it the abuse of Alexander? Again, maybe the extended version draws a better picture but it was a bit irksome.

I also wonder why the title is what it is. Fanny doesn't really play into the story at all and at the core of the story there isn't a relationship with Alexander either. Maybe the movie should've focused more on the Ekdahls in their entirety, dropping in and out of all the family members like Helen, Carl, Gustav or even Eva, Gustav's daughter who clearly has a troubled relationship with her philandering father.

Bottom line: a good movie with minor issues but for me nowhere near the masterpiece status some may award it.