Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Fanny and Alexander II & III

Andre Malraux wrote his Anti-Memoirs. Fanny & Alexander II and III, the middle sections of the Bergman masterpiece, recently revived at Film Forum, are Bergman’s anti-liturgy, but the message is clear and strict and unshakeable. In this case the scripture has been replaced by Hamlet. The death of the father, the feckless theatrical manager Oscar (Allan Edwall) in the middle of a production of the tragedy foreshadows the playing out of the iconic story again. Alexander's (Bertil Guve) "cock, fart, piss, shit" during his father's funeral procession is his "To be or not to be"--and the only way to deal with his feelings of betrayal and loss. In the wake of her husband’s death, Alexander's mother, Emilie (Eva Frohling) is won over by the bishop, Vergerus (Jan Malmsjo) who offers her a connection to both God and reality that neither her deceased husband nor her life as an actress ever provided. She tells Alexander, that she’s not Gertrude and he’s not Hamlet, but one of Oscar's last lines “I can play the ghost now” haunts the movie. On his deathbed, Oscar reassures his wife there’s nothing to be afraid saying, “I’ll be closer to you now then when I lived.” However the words eerily foreshadow Emilie’s infatuation with her Tartuffe. Part of the catechism that will unfold has to do with the notion of a lie. Alexander has created two tales, one about his mother selling him to a circus and the other about the drowning of the bishop’s first wife and two children. He will pay a severe price for his imagination, as will the director throughout the tormented life that's documented in this and other films. Yet when his inquisitor asks why he lies, he propagates the notion that liars do so “to get an advantage.” It’s a beautiful and enigmatic expression of the idea expressed by Picasso, “Art is the lie that makes us realize the truth at least the truth that is given us to understand.”

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