A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that while this subtitled Swedish film is about two children, ages 10 and 8, its themes and events are weighty and sophisticated, appropriate only for adults and mature teens. The movie contains several disturbing, intense sequences in which the young brother and sister are front and center in the aftermath of their father's death, or being treated cruelly by a villainous step-father. Both children are threatened and Alexander is emotionally tormented by the man, then beaten with a cane until his backside is bloody. In addition, there are fantasy sequences in which one or both children see ghosts, imagine the deaths of their step-father's first wife and his two daughters, and get lost in an exotic, maze-like household in which puppets and other inanimate objects come to life. During fits of anger, Alexander uses harsh profanity, including "f--k," "c--k," "piss," and more. Milder swearing occurs intermittently, and there are some anti-Semitic slurs. Characters drink alcohol frequently, become drunk, and smoke cigars and pipes.
What's the story?
It's 1907, Sweden. Following the unexpected death of their beloved father, FANNY AND ALEXANDER, ages 8 and 10, are taken from their richly artistic, boisterous, and loving family to live with their new step-father, a terrifying perfectionist whose values and expectations differ markedly from what the children know and understand. Alexander, protective of both his naive mother and defenseless sister, wages a war against the powerful man, a war it seems he cannot win. Fantasy and reality merge as Alexander and other family members use all the resources at hand in an attempt to save the children and their mother, who has also become the villain's unwilling victim.
Is it any good?
The final work from the iconic Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman is a heart-wrenching, in-depth portrait of childhood. Exploring the inner life and struggles of one 10-year-old boy and, peripherally, his 8-year-old sister, this multiple award-winning film pays homage to complex relationships and characters as flawed or bizarre as they are grand. His subject is nothing less than the connections, loyalties, and betrayals of Family (with a capital "F") and the essence of humanity that a family represents.
Outstanding performances, stunning visuals, and a dark, but universal story of loss and love combine to make this movie made in 1982 a timeless experience. It is highly recommended, however, because of the adult nature of the thematic material and some frightening and intense scenes, it's for grownups and very mature teens.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Alexander's imagination and day dreams help him cope with his real life. How does the movie distinguish between the real and the fantasy? Are there ever occasions in which you or someone you know uses a fantasy life in this way?
Talk about how kids are portrayed in this film. Are there any role models in this movie? How are the kids in this movie portrayed differently than in some more current movies?
Bergman shows two distinct types of family life. How do the places in which they live reflect the people who live there? Whose job is it to choose the design and arrangement of the sets in movies? What do these designers have to keep in mind when doing their work?
What makes this movie so special? Why has it stood the test of time? Teens: Do you find it difficult to watch movies with subtitles? Why or why not?
For kids who love drama
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.