There’s nothing special about New Years day. It’s often considered a fresh start, and clearly I’m no different in seeing it as such as I chose to start this project today, but nothing separates today from yesterday. Well one thing does differentiate today from yesterday: I have today off. And because of that important difference, I’m starting my 2021 film journey with…
Fanny & Alexander (1982, dir. Ingmar Bergman)
I prepared a section of my couch for the 5-hour 20-minute mini-series version of the Ingmar Bergman classic. With my new weighted blanket covering me (and a bonus 10 pounds of cat on top of that). I was prepared to not move for an extended period while I allowed the film to wash over me, and that mentality proved indispensable to my Fanny & Alexander viewing experience.
Through the first part of the film, I was mostly unenthused. The bloated cast size at the Ekdahl Christmas party with scant appearances but the titular children left me cold toward film. I felt a decisive lack of a welcoming presence for me as the viewer. As the movie progressed, it became more focused, and in doing so I understood the purpose of the opening section. Immediately after the emotional high of the Christmas party, Life for Fanny, Alexander, and their mother Emilie are forced into emotional trauma starting with the death of Oscar, Emilie’s husband and Fanny and Alexander’s father, and then being thrust into an abusive household once Emilie re-marries. As the hours of the film continue, the Ekdahls feel ever further away from the joy from the initial act. The films length enhanced the empathy I felt for each character. Despite the deliberate pace, I found myself anxiously holding my cat tighter than he appreciated, desperately hoping the family could just return home.
And that is how my year started. A restful day filled with a movie from my classic cinema blind spots, and one less movie on my shelf torturing me as something I’ve purchased without seeing. I only hope that the next 364 days will remain as calming as today.