The Return of the Bourgeois: Fanny and Alexander in Swedish Politics

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In this essay it is argued that Bergman deviated from his highly critical depictions of bourgeois life in the films of the 1960s and 1970s, from Persona (1966) to the television series Scenes from a Marriage (1973), in Fanny and Alexander (1982), his final contribution to films made for the cinema. Bergman himself came from an upper-class bourgeois background, and by his own account he did not take an interest in politics until the mid-1960s. He sided with Sweden’s ruling Social Democratic party at that time, which certainly represented a sort of break with his family background. It is argued here that Bergman obviously profited from this connection to contemporary power politics, by obtaining official support for his work, both in the theatre and in film. However, Bergman temporarily broke off with Sweden in the aftermath of his being charged with tax evasion in 1976. The author argues that Bergman’s return to Sweden with Fanny and Alexander in the early 1980s coincided with a new Zeitgeist, in which the country’s Socialist past came under much critical scrutiny. It was in this new political climate that Bergman chose to celebrate the bourgeois society in which he was raised and at the same time denigrate enemies, like Uppsala philosophy professor Ingemar Hedenius, a strong advocate of scientific positivism and atheism, who appears in several Bergman film as the arch rationalist Vergérus. In Fanny and Alexander, this figure is somewhat surprisingly and ambiguously, depicted as the Lutheran clergyman.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIngmar Bergman
Subtitle of host publicationAn Enduring Legacy
EditorsErik Hedling
Place of PublicationLund
PublisherLund University Press
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9789198557718
ISBN (Print)978-91-985577-0-1
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Studies on Film

Free keywords

  • Ingmar Bergman, Ansikte mot ansikte (tv-serie/film), Henrik Ibsen, tv-produktion, primalterapi, Arthur Janov
  • Fanny and Alexander
  • tax scandal
  • social democracy
  • establishment left
  • Alfred Alvarez
  • neoliberal turn
  • Olof Palme
  • Ingemar Hedenius
  • Jan Aghed


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