Honored writer and director Ingmar Bergman's final masterpiece, Fanny & Alexander, gets a long-awaited deluxe DVD treatment thanks to this magnificent five-disc release from The Criterion Collection. Every inch of this release, from the DVD menu design to the box set packaging, is a perfect example of the classic Criterion style. Things get off to a roaring start with the full-length (312-minute) version of the film broadcast on Swedish television in 1984. This version, which is Bergman's preferred cut of the film, has never been available on home video in the U.S. The film's 1.66:1 aspect ratio looks stunning, and the film, which is split up on two discs, features remarkably sharp picture quality and audio done in an all-new high-definition digital transfer. The second disc features one of the set's first hidden gems -- a new documentary titled "A Bergman Tapestry." This nearly 40-minute retrospective features new interviews with many of the surviving cast and crew members from Fanny & Alexander. Next up is the more familiar 188-minute theatrical cut of the film. While the picture and audio mix appears the same, this disc features an insightful commentary from film scholar Peter Cowie and the film's original theatrical trailer. Between the television and theatrical versions, fans with time to spare can finally compare and contrast the two very different versions of the same story.
The set's final two discs consist of a treasure trove of rare items sure to thrill Bergman enthusiasts. First, there is the long-awaited Bergman-directed feature-length documentary The Making of Fanny & Alexander. In the documentary, the viewer has the rare opportunity to get a glimpse into Bergman's on-set behavior, his attention to detail, and his relationship with actors. Next up is a Swedish television special titled Ingmar Bergman Bids Farewell to Film in which we see a very relaxed Bergman lounging on a couch as he discusses his childhood, his career, and why he quit making films. A stills gallery, sketches of the film's Oscar-winning costume design, and video footage of Anna Asp's set designs round off this fourth disc. The fifth and final disc features a fascinating special made once again for Swedish television, only this time in 2003, when we see the 85-year-old director looking back on 11 of his films and offering thoughts on what those films meant to him when he made them and what they mean to him today. For several of the films, the original U.S. theatrical trailers are included. As if all this were not enough, Criterion has included a beautifully made booklet containing choice photos from the film and essays from film critics and writers from around the world. An outstanding DVD package for an outstanding film, Criterion's five-disc Fanny & Alexander will be a prized possession for any serious cinemagoer. ~ Jason Gibner, All Movie Guide