Fanny och Alexander
Ingmar Bergman, Sweden, Federal Republic of Germany, France, 1981
This scene takes place during the festive period, when all of the family have come together to have their traditional meal.
One of Fanny and Alexander’s uncles asks the children to follow him to the staircase, where he puts on a special, flatulent performance just for them. The uncle uses the staircase space like a theatre, where the spectators are separated from the stage behind the footlights. The performance pleases both the children and the actor, improvising along to the wind, as this regression to the ‘anal stage of development’ proves rather enjoyable.
It would appear that there are children on either side of footlights.
In the following scene we move seamlessly from the world of base triviality, farts, to the higher levels of refinement, matters religious and spiritual. All of the family sit together in a circle, frozen to the spot, listening to a reading from the bible. We’re almost surprised to see Fanny and Alexander in the shot, sitting in the corner of the frame. Following on from the solemn familial ritual we move to the chaos of the children’s bedroom, where a pillow fight is taking place. Feathers fly through the air, recalling Jean Vigo’s Zéro de conduite, to which Bergman was undoubtedly paying tribute.
The maid, notably an adult presence, is totally part of their game, only made possible by her youth and lower social status.