Curious to hear from those who have seen both versions (theatrical and television) as to which they prefer and why. Without spoilers, please, as you’ll be helping me decide which to watch.
I was going to say the TV version, as in the case of something so great, I always like to get as much of it as I can, but come to think of it, I don’t know if I have actually watched the theatrical version. There is a lull in the TV version, to me, that takes place somewhere around part 3 or 4, but I don’t know if the theatrical does anything to edit that down, or if it edits more from the other parts…
Its been a while.
I would recommend getting the whole set from Criterion, as it comes with the making of dvd as well.
I have access to the theatrical version on Blu-ray (via SF International’s region-free release as discussed here on DVDBeaver). This is partially why I’m tempted to see the theatrical version.
The reviewer comments:
The Blu-ray gives a higher level of emotional attachment to the film in my opinion. It has far more depth and, is thus, becomes more impacting. It produced the absolute best viewing experience of Fanny and Alexander that I have ever had (a total of four in my lifetime.)
That being said, if I get enough passionate appeals for the television cut, I may wait for an Blu-ray release.
I also recommend getting the box set with both versions. I bought my boxset for $25 with the TV and movie and everyone’s waiting for the upcoming Criterion 50% off sale which is rumored next month but some people think it will be in June or July, so that should make it cheap as well.
Personally, I prefer longer cuts of things I watch and thus the build up of the TV series was good but then again, there are a lot of scenes that deal with characters that had no need for focus in the film version.
But the fact with the Criterion, you get both is great. But seeing the Blu-ray screen captures that Dequinix has posted, all I can say is WOW!
I saw the theatrical version when it was first released in the US, and was very excited to see the television version when it was released on Criterion. Not surprisingly, the television version goes into more depth about the characters. No spoilers: you get some surprising information about assorted people that add a lot to the proceedings. One little revelation in particular changes pretty much everything I thought I knew about one major character. There are a couple of longeurs, to be fair, especially toward the end. One in particular is really longeurish, but it doesn’t last for too long, and the film is soon off and running again.
I’d say see both. See the theatrical version first, and if you like it (as any sensible human being should) go for the television version. But if you can only see one, I’d say invest the time and see the television version.
Bottom line: it is a win-win situation. Either way you’re having one of the great movie experiences.
DEQUINIX. I did the same research when I first watched the film. And i find the consensus to be 95% in favor of the Television Cut. After watching it myself, I was happy I looked into it before watching (as i was prob. going to watch the theatrical.)
So Television Cut. in all it’s glory.
the theatrical version, because its shorter and thus more accessible, but im planning to re watch the criterion edition of the tv version soon( just seen it once)
As a long time admirer of the theatrical version since first seeing it in the theatre and owning a copy of it, I was curious what I could be missing in the longer television version. Just saw it for the first time, borrowing it from the library. The longer version has some well-done scenes not in the film version, but I believe the major dramatic scenes have been retained by Bergman in the theatrical release. Although some of the ‘extra’ scenes (realize they were part of a larger whole) have an appeal unto themselves, they did not add anything for me to my overall impression of the film. There is, for example, an extended scene set in the theatre and a story told by Isak to the children, followed by an intriguing dream sequence in the television version that are not in the film. Good, well done scenes, but not essential for the story.
I have seen the theatrical version several times, so could spot the scenes left out from the shorter version, although there may have been the odd scene extended in the television version, too. Not sure without watching both. In any case, the new scenes didn’t add anything to the intensity I felt in the shorter version which meant Bergman did an excellent job not to cut anything ‘essential’ out. If you prefer the longer version, fine, but the theatrical version retains the vital essence of this beautiful production and is sufficient unto itself.
As I own the theatrical version and dearly love it, I doubt I will shellout for the Criterion containing both, as you can’t get the television version separately. If one doesn’t own a version, then the Criterion version with both and good special features is definitely the way to go.
Fanny and Alexander is by far my favorite Bergman film, though granted I’ve only seen a handful. I have the Criterion box set and have watched the television version and all the supplements, everything but the theatrical version. I enjoy the longer version so much that I have never been able to bring myself to watch the shorter. I get so taken up with the Ekdahl family that I can’t imagine missing a bit of it. It has become a tradition for me to watch it every year during the holidays.
The beauty of the television version is that it was originally conceived as television program and is broken into distinct episodes, so it is suited for viewing over multiple sittings and one shouldn’t be put off by the length.
This all holds true for Scenes from a Marriage too. Well, except that it can’t be my favorite because F&A is, but it’s damn good. Oh yeah, and instead of a holiday viewing tradition, it is tradition to watch it just after I get divorced. Fortunately, I suppose, I’ve only watched it once (so far).
EDWARD: I’m the same way but will need to watch the theatrical version soon. I bought the box set, might as well sit down and watch it one of these days…
KNDY, I agree. I’ve tried countless times, but just can’t bring myself to it. Whenever I try, I end up watching the longer version. One of these days…
I suppose I should apologize to the OP. The request was for info from those who have seen both versions, and I haven’t. But, dammit, the long version is that good!
I have seen both versions now and I must say that I strongly prefer the TV version. The theatrical version was a fine film, but it lacked the character development and moodiness that added so much to the experience. The pacing throughout the TV series allows it to unfold in a much more eerie and unsettling way, both in its depiction of the everyday reality of the lives of the Ekdahl family, and in the supernatural elements surrounding Alexander. I would recommend them both to viewers, but would recommend the theatrical version as a much lower priority in the Bergman canon, since there are so many other outstanding films to discover.
I know the OP requested no spoilers, but that was a year ago and I can’t explain my strong preference for the television version without going into some.
I certainly admired the theatrical cut of Fanny and Alexander and thought it a fine film, but for a movie so loved by film buffs, I was wondering what I was missing. Turns out I was missing 124 ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL minutes that are thankfully included in the television version. This extra time is needed as Bergman’s characters are so rich and real that they flourish with more space to breath. So much is going on and so many themes explored that it could have justified being even longer. Ironically, the addition of numbered episodes allows the whole to seem less episodic.
Most important is how the extra time affects the supernatural elements of the story. In the theatrical cut, the magic emanating from the Jacobi household seems like a sharp tonal shift that requires a suspension of disbelief. The television version lays this groundwork much more fully with ghostly visitations and more of a spiritual undertone permeating throughout. Now, when Isac screams and the children’s image appears to the Bishop while they are presumably still it the box, it’s a powerful moment, not a WTF moment.
This is quite probably my favorite film of all time, and while either version is a treat, I have to favor the long version. Longer is not always better—indeed I think most films are too long. But in this case, I am completely drawn in. The length of the film adds to the sense of time passing. Not a moment feels like filler to me. There is nothing I want to be rid of.
Having been familiar with the US theatrical version and having recently seen the full length cut for the first time, I’ve got to go with the later. It contains so much more of the magic realist elements that are now for me the heart and soul of the film. Before, I’d really enjoyed it but preferred other works by the master, now I feel that it is one of his best works and one of my favorite films. That is, in the five hour cut.
I think that I would go with the television version too.
I also saw the theatrical version first,which I immediately loved.It was also one of the first Bergman films I watched(second only to Seventh Seal I think),and so it was one of the reasons I liked Bergman so much.
But I must say that the TV version seems more complete to me.I mean,theatrical version contains the most important elements of the film,but in the TV version there are many scenes that really contribute to understand the film and especially its characters in such a depth,that the theatrical version doesnt.Moreover,most of the extra scenes are excellent and,as most of the film,breathtakingly beautiful,so you never get tired through the long running time of the film,And I must say that the dream seqeunce of Alexander in Isak’s store,may no be so important in the plot of the film,but it’s one of the most magical moments in the film and,perhaps,in the whole filmography of Bergman.It deserves to see the TV Version,if only for this particlular scene.
Television version digs into places that should have never been left out of the story.
This was my introduction to Bergman fifteen or more years ago. It remains one of my favorites.
Jake La Motta:
By dream sequence are you referring to the pilgrimage? Because if so, I’d have to disagree on its importance to the plot. I feel that it brings it all home for us in terms of Alexander’s development (it is a bildungsroman, after all), both for the duration of the events of the film and for his future. The story Isak tells him helps Alexander put everything into perspective, and puts into words what he had up to that point not been able to express. That’s why he populates the road with representatives from his own experiences.
Television Version gets my vote.
I would say the television version. This was my second Bergman film. Saw it some years ago and since then its become one of the movies I watch every christmas.
The Criterion blu-ray box-set is amazing.
“Most important is how the extra time affects the supernatural elements of the story. In the theatrical cut, the magic emanating from the Jacobi household seems like a sharp tonal shift that requires a suspension of disbelief. The television version lays this groundwork much more fully with ghostly visitations and more of a spiritual undertone permeating throughout. Now, when Isac screams and the children’s image appears to the Bishop while they are presumably still it the box, it’s a powerful moment, not a WTF moment.”
Television version > Theatrical
I vote for the Television version. The whole subplot involving both uncles and their marriages are just footnotes in the theatrical version. Not in itself a bad thing, as the focus of the film is Alexander. But, when I saw the TV movie, I was opened up to how skillfully Bergman sets up all of the various relationships and how beautifully he foreshadows action. I’m happy that, I saw the theatrical version first, because then I could see exactly where Bergman wanted to go (With each plot) as I was watching the extended version.
If Bergman retired after this film as originally planned, it may have been the most perfect swansong in the history of film.
^ No, it wouldn’t have been anyhow, Ghatak’s, Jarman’s and Terayama’s are far superior, not to mention a more well-known response, Klimov’s. Technically, he retired from theatrically featured films, the rest were TV and honestly, I saw 2 of them and they were mediocre TV)
Still, I’ll definitely take the TV version by a LONG SHOT, including the TV version of Scenes from a Marriage, nevertheless, all those are second-tier Bergman, even if F & A TV summarizes the thematics of his career.
^^Saraband was theatrically released Dim.
Second tier my ass ;-)
^ Theatrically released AFTER it was shown on TV, dude, there’s an EFFING difference. The F & A theatrical version was the first one that got a major release and then the TV version was publicly shown!
That makes F & A Bergman’s last final FEATURE film. Theatrical releases post-TV versions don’t count like Saraband.
Yeah, second-tier, much like Bunuel’s second-tier French films!
The only version I’ve seen is the TV version, and it’s wonderful—not my favorite Bergman at all but magnificent nonetheless. What are we bitching about, exactly? Something that doesn’t really matter?
I personally have not seen the theatrical version, but the five hour version is down right beautiful. There are very few films that I would classify as perfect, but this is definitely one of them, for me anyways. I can’t imagine a single second being removed from it, let alone a whole two hours. Television version all the way!
television version by a mile, i saw the theatrical version first, then the television version the next night, the theatrical version is so incomplete in comparison to the television version, seeing the television version in one go on 35mm in a cinema would be like a dream come true.