Though he made allusions to his own life in all of his films, Fanny and Alexander was the first overtly autobiographical film by Ingmar Bergman. Taking his time throughout (188 minutes to be exact), Bergman recreates several episodes from his youth, using as conduits the fictional Ekdahl family. Alexander, the director's alter ego, is first seen at age 10 at a joyous and informal Christmas gathering of relatives and servants. Fanny is Alexander's sister; both suffer an emotional shakedown when their recently-widowed mother (Ewa Froling) marries a cold and distant minister. Stripped of their creature comforts and relaxed family atmosphere, Fanny and Alexander suddenly find their childhood unendurable. The kids' grandmother (Gunn Wallgren) "kidnaps" Fanny and Alexander for the purpose of showering them with the first kindness and affection that they've had since their father's death. This "purge" of the darker elements of Fanny and Alexander's existence is accomplished at the unintentional (but applaudable) cost of the hated stepfather's life. Ingmar Bergman insisted that Fanny and Alexander, originally a multipart television series pared down to feature-film length, represented his final theatrical film, though within a year after its release he was busy with several additional Swedish TV projects, and his final work, the 2003 Saraband (also produced for Swedish television), eventually received global theatrical distribution. Oscars went to Fanny and Alexander for Best Foreign Film, Best Cinematography (Sven Nykvist), Best Costume Design and Best Art Direction/Set Decoration.
by Hal Erickson synopsis