Ingmar Bergman's Fanny and Alexander mined his childhood for inspiration; next came the autobiography, The Magic Lantern; and now, his screenplay recounting his parents' courtship and early days of marriage preceding his birth. But the joy which finally infused the earlier film is lacking in this much bleaker affair. Henrik Bergman (Fröler) is an impoverished theology student when he meets spoiled, rich Anna (Pernilla August). Instantly attracted, the couple spend the next two years battling parental obstruction; once together, their problems really begin... Bille August has space to develop relationships and explore the emotional nuances which lead to numerous confrontations; with cinematographer Jörgen Persson, he conveys a firm sense of oppressive natural forces; and the film boasts impeccable performances (von Sydow is splendid as Anna's father). But with a running time of three hours, this weighty drama tests the most patient soul.