16 October 2004 | Quinoa1984
One of Bergman's most interesting works as a director and one of Ullman/Josephson's very best
Scenes from a Marriage (the TV version, even as the theatrical cut is still very good and worth the time if the only copy available) is an intimate, naturalistic portrait of a couple, who at first are seemingly happy, then aren't, then try and find out where they go wrong. It's involving drama at its nexus, and for those who love the theater it's an absolute must see (aside from the theme, no music, all talk). Johan and Marianne are two of Bergman's most interesting, true characters (among his countless others) that he's ever presented, and like many other film artists, you can tell he's lived through at least some if not most of the emotions and trials these characters have been through.
Along with several supporting characters, two of the more notable ones played by Bibi Andersson and Malmjso are a perfect contrast in the first episode of the series. The conflicts that are established throughout the series never pay-off in a mis-fire. Craft-wise there is almost no style except for the minimal lighting by the great Sven Nykvist. And the dialog that goes on between the two leads goes from amusing to tragic, from romantic to bleak, and with all the emotions that I (as one who's never been married) can only guess can be as so. Bergman's script would be just that, a poignant, very profound lot of bits between two people more or less on paper, if not for Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson. They turn on the emotions intuitively, like they've been these people somewhere else at some other time. Or rather, the husband and wife don't have very complicated jobs or economic situation, but the problems lie on the emotional plane, and the intellect they try to put to it. Johan loves another woman, how does that affect Marianne? Marianne asks for a divorce, how does that affect Johan? What will they do to cope? These are questions Bergman poses for his actors, among plenty of others, and they pull off the emotional cues off of each other like the most wonderful theatrical pros.
It's hard to find anything wrong with their acting, cause they don't over-do it (unless you're not into Marianne's changes in feeling in some scenes, which could be understandable), and the bottom line is that despite it being in Europe thirty years ago, it's highly possible these people could be in your house, or in your neighbor's house. Ullmann's Marianne is the 180 of her character from Persona, who could only let out emotions once or twice, mostly as an observer. Josephson's Johan is complex behind is usually sarcastic and simple demeanor- what drives him to do what he does in episode three, or in four? What will the conclusion lead to? Bergman creates a drama that is never boring, never diluted, and asks us to search for ideas about love and relationships we sometimes try and push away. It's a superb, concise treatise about the nature of falling in and out of love, how to differentiate what love is, and essentially what a marriage is. I can't wait to see the sequel, Saraband, which is Bergman's (definite) last film.