As for the Criterion five-disc DVD: This may be the most beautiful DVD release ever devoted to a single film. The original 188-minute international release is here, of course, in all its original glory. (It won four Oscars: foreign language film, costumes, art direction/set decoration, and cinematography--the last to longtime Bergman collaborator Sven Nykvist.) An audio commentary by Peter Cowie gives useful background.
That film was carved out of Bergman's preferred 312-minute version, telecast on Swedish TV and included here. While the shorter cut remains a wonderful movie, and complete unto itself, the five-hour film is a deep, luxurious expansion. There is more of the Christmas Eve party that begins the film, more of the theater, more of Alexander's imagination. Especially meaningful is a long sequence between Fanny and Alexander and their doomed father, as he demonstrates the nature of storytelling with a simple chair.
Also here is The Making of Fanny and Alexander, Bergman's feature-length self-portrait, and a fascinating look at the rapt attention he bestows on actors and camera. DVD extras include a penetrating hourlong TV interview Bergman gave in 1984, and a 40-minute documentary shot in 2004 with reminiscences from cast and crew (including actors Guve, Pernilla August, and Erland Josephson). A handsome booklet includes essays by Rick Moody and Paul Arthur, and one disc is made up of pithy introductions shot by Bergman in 2003, for 11 of his classics, plus a sampling of trailers. Fanny and Alexander was Bergman's final theatrical film, though he has gone right on making TV movies and writing screenplays. This is a fitting treatment of his triumph. --Robert Horton