Although Ingmar Bergman frequently made ‘behind-the-scenes’ documentaries about his films, for Fanny and Alexander he completed a full feature on the making of one of his most ambitious works. Directed by Bergman himself, and containing his commentary, Document: Fanny and Alexander is a fascinating account of the creative process at work.
In his book Images, Bergman wrote about the making of Fanny and Alexander:
‘From the very beginning one can see that with Fanny and Alexander I have landed in the world of my childhood. Here is the university town and Grandmother’s house with the old cook; here is the Jew who lived out back; and here is the school. I am already in the place and beginning to roam around in the familiar environment. My childhood has of course always been my main supplier, without my ever having bothered to find out where the deliveries were coming from. [
‘I conceived Fanny and Alexander during the fall of 1978, a time when everything around me left me in darkest despair. But I wrote the screenplay during the spring of 1979, and by that time things had eased up. Autumn Sonata had a successful premiere, and the whole tax business had dissolved into thin air. I found myself liberated suddenly. I think that Fanny and Alexander benefited from my relief. [
‘The manuscript was finished on July 8, not quite three months after I began it. There followed a year of preparation for filming, a long and surprisingly pleasant time. Then, I suddenly stood there and had to materialise my film.
‘On September 9, 1980, before going out, I wrote: ‘Not an especially good night. At least my worry and tension have left me. And that feels good. Hot and hazy weather. Everyone is bursting with a pulsating eagerness.’
‘This is how it always is when you are making films. All it takes is a couple of days for me to get the feeling that I am in the midst of something that has always existed. It becomes like a way of breathing. I described it this way when I summed up the first week: ‘The first week of filming went better in every way than anyone had expected. Besides, it was much more fun to work than I had remembered. I think it also has to do with working in my own language. It’s been a long time since I have done so. The children are also very good, at ease and funny. Of course, adversity lurks around every corner. Sometimes, a terrible anxiety cuts right through me.’ [
‘Every day was a great strain to get through, in spite of my circumstances being inordinately agreeable: I had returned to my own language. I was working with hand-picked actors and a good crew in complete harmony, a perfect organisation. And yet, a strong fear haunted me daily. Would I manage to get through another day? Would I find the strength for two hundred and fifty days of filming? Then I began to catch a glimpse of what I needed to do. A few weeks after we finished shooting the film, the time came to sift through the enormous amounts of footage, more than twenty-five hours of film.’
Sweden, 1986. Written and directed by Ingmar Bergman.
English subtitles. Colour.16mm.110 minutes.