More on Fanny and Alexander
What my husband has against Fanny and Alexander, other than it’s three-and-a-half hours long without a single machine gun going off once: fantasy. He has nothing against Bergman’s Hour of the Wolf, the vampire movie, because he says it’s clear all the fantasy is happening in the character’s head. I'll have to take his word about Hour of the Wolf. We started it after dark, and Bergman toward bedtime puts me to sleep as surely as the violins in Ken Burns' The Civil War.
But here (spoiler ahead)…Fanny and Alexander are rescued by a magical Jew who lives in a magical house. The wicked stepfather is killed in a housefire. The children and the mother are reunited with their loving family. Alexander is walking down the hall, and the stepfather comes up behind him and strikes him down. “You’ll never escape me,” the man says before disappearing into a side room.
Oh, Ingmar, we are always haunted by the past.
It has been said Ingmar made this movie of the loving family because someone told him he never made happy movies.
My husband says Alexander never left the bishop’s austere house, that the happy scenes were in the boy’s head; that instead of being a slap-happy ghost, the bishop was the reality. Once my writer’s group talked about a short story, The Sorrowful Woman. On my way home that night, I wondered what would happen if I ever had a completely happy day (I tend to be rather intense). I would have to kill myself, I thought, because I would then know what happiness was and I would know it would never happen again. So I wrote The Joyful Woman, a story about a woman who realized what happiness was. At the end of the story she was driving up the mountain, and it was like she was driving into the face of the moon. (I wanted to put Elvis in there, but I couldn’t work it out.) Only I knew she was actually launching herself off the side of that mountain, though later a member of the group wrangled it out of me. “I’ll never ask you how you think of your ideas again,” she said, horrified between the disparity of the feeling of love the story conveyed, and what actually went on in my head. Oh, Ingmar, challenged to give us a happy movie, is my husband right, did you pull a Joyful Woman on us all?
So, I ask my husband (not Ingmar)…can not Ingmar be conveying that we have these factual incidents that happen, and then we use them to create the fantasy life we are living?
Don’t give me that psychological mumbledy-jumble, he told me.
No. Give him Die Hard. It’s got lots of machine guns.