I re-watched Fanny and Alexander last night, considered one of Bergman’s best, I think, and I was disappointed. I first watched it some years ago, maybe five or six years ago now, and I was absolutely blown away by it. I expected to be blown away again, or at least to be very moved; sadly, I felt almost let down.
Originally, it made such a tremendous impact on me; I was pulled into the story, enamoured of the sumptuousness of the Edwardian, upper-middle class world (the glorious enfilade, the large domestic staff, the rich interiors – all very Henry James) and I felt very guided and supported by the profound insights into the human condition. I even went back and took copious notes of certain scenes. However, this time round… meh.
This time, I found it all a lot less impressive. Of course, it hadn’t changed; I had. And as I reflected on this disappointment, I remembered that a similar thing had happened to me with Iris Murdoch novels. I used to be almost obsessed with them; almost every other novel I read was one of hers. I found them so powerful, deep and enchanting. Now, I still enjoy them; but I often find them utterly ridiculous.
We change as people, don’t we? We know this, but we tend to forget. And then, once in a while, something like this happens and it’s a sharp reminder. We typically think of great art as being timeless, deep, essential; but what pleases us, stimulates us, guides us at one age won’t necessarily do so at every age.
I’m almost a bit heartbroken about this film. I honestly feel like I’ve lost something; but, Fanny and Alexander, it’s not you, it’s me!