Hail Mary / Gentle Woman
Enya: Orinoco Flow

Fanny and Alexander

I haven't been watching many movies for a while now. Last night I finally saw the second half of this, having watched the first half last weekend (it's over three hours long). It's not going to be my favorite Bergman, although like almost all Bergman it's worth seeing, and better than most films. 

This is not a review, exactly. I just wanted to note one or two things: it can be seen as having a definite anti-Christian bias, and it's definitely hostile to a certain brand of severe Protestantism. The villain is a Lutheran bishop who is probably modeled on Bergman's father. I haven't read any reviews or criticism of F&A, but remarks made by Bergman in interviews make that conclusion unavoidable, down to specific things said by the bishop when he is punishing--persecuting, really--the boy Alexander, his step-son.

Of course it's terrible when a bad early experience with Christianity produces a lifelong reaction against it. The inhuman quality of the bishop's approach to the faith is present not only in his severity (and in fact cruelty, though that is his own and not particularly justified by his beliefs). Perhaps more important than that, and contributing to it, is the fact that his sort of Christianity has no place for the life of the imagination at all. This, as much as the severity, is what Alexander cannot bear. And I think many, many people experience a sense of suffocation when they contemplate it.

 The estrangement of Christianity from the imagination and from the imaginative arts has been a great tragedy. A good many artists have put a lot of work into trying to reconcile them, with quite a bit of success. I wish Bergman had been one of them. Much as I love his work, I can't help thinking what a tragedy it was that he remained alienated from the faith. A Catholic Bergman--if I may entertain that fantasy for a moment--might have been the greatest artist of the 20th century. But to be merely great, and not the greatest, is still a pretty fair achievement.


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There is so much grace in his movies even as it was.


Yes, at least in some. Or many. It's in this one, although...well, no, I think it would be spoilerish if I went into that.

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