Since the creation of cinema in the late 1890s, the camera has a fascination with capturing “nature caught in the act,” while also pushing at the humanistic conception of reality by “ignor[ing] the workings of nature out of the artist’s delight in sheer fantasy,” (Kracauer pg 31-32). These two distinct cinematic styles were defined by the ordinary, everyday moments caught on film by the Lumiere Brothers and the extraordinary, childlike tales of Melies.  Within these two styles, the camera also has a fascination with distorting the ordinary.  Kracauer explains cinematic themes that express the establishment of physical existence through movement, such as movement vs. inanimate objects and the small vs. the big.  Ingmar Bergman’s 1982 film Fanny and Alexander, samples all of these components to portray the coming of age tale of a boy who loses his father.

After the passing of Alexander’s father Oscar, his mother Emily remarries.  Throughout her courtship and into the marriage, Alexander sees the ghost of his father during important transitional moments.  The first time we see the ghost of Oscar is immediately after his wake.  The moment begins with a close-up of Fanny and Alexander both dressed in dark blue.  The scene then cuts to a long-shot of Oscar dressed in white, in a white room and playing a white piano. The scene then follows with the reverse of a close-up shot Fanny and Alexander, and then back to a mid-shot of Oscar.  The scene ends with a close-up of Alexander and then his point-of-view shot of a close-up of Oscar.

Deconstructing this series of shots reflects the cinematic styles of both the Lumiere Brothers and Melies.  Bergman is highlighting the reality of life and the fantasy of ghosts, a theme reflective of Hamlet.  The scene is a symbolic representation of how the children perceive the death of their father.  The image of Oscar dressed in white and the white room, signals the dominant ideology sounding the color, which are traditionally associated with the concept of goodness, cleanliness, virginity and for the children ghosts. For the children, the apparition of Oscar is symbolic of his continued presence in their lives.  For the audience, Bergman fuses the reality of Oscar’s death with the children’s perceived fantasy of Oscar’s ghost by juxtaposing the close-up shot of the children with the long shot of Oscar.  He is far away from them, yet the audience can see the intimate reaction each child has in seeing the ghost of their father through the close-up shot of their face’s, more specifically their eyes and stern hardening of their mouths.  The shot is jarred by the second shot of Oscar.  The medium shot of Oscar makes him appear physically closer to the children in both the actual space of the room and on the screen.  The move from the long-shot to the medium-shot embodies Kracauer’s concept of thematic motifs to express the establishment of physical existence through movement.  The audience does not see Oscar actually move.  He is mimicking an inanimate object, yet through the juxtaposition of shots he has moved and is beginning to dominate the frame.  The editing technique creates the feeling of a ghost, which echoes a fantasy thematic style.

The scene I have analyzed is only one instance where Bergman moulds the two cinematic styles with the themes that express the establishment of physical existence through movement.  As the film progresses Bergman pulls at the audiences perception of reality and fantasy through the eyes of the children until they are no longer able to distinguish whether the images shown are a reality of the film or a dream of the characters within the story.  The confusion felt by the audience is echoed in the final lines of the film, an excerpt from August Strindberg’s A Dream Play.

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