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  • I used to think that I knew a thing or two about marriage having been married for as long as I have but nothing from my experience had prepared me for the merciless and deep dissection of Marriage: Bergman Style. When we meet Johan and Marianne for the first time, they have been happily (or so it seems) married for ten years. They have two daughters; they are still young, very attractive, healthy, educated, well off, and they seem to love each other very much. But Bergman is not interested in happy families – all happy families are happy in the similar ways. Like Tolstoy many years before him, Bergman explores the second part of the formula – All unhappy families are unhappy in their unique ways.

    Bergman and his leading actors Liv Ullmann and Arland Josephson give one of the most truthful, honest, heartbreaking and credible portraits of a couple, one of the most intense character studies ever done on film. For five hours, we share twenty years from the lives of Johan and Marianne as well as their love, hate, misunderstandings, insecurities, anger, jealousy, denial, sadness, pain, despair, and loss. We witness the moments of incredible tenderness and unexpected and shocking violence, both physical and mental. There are no depth that they have not descended in the search of themselves and the meaning of their relationship.

    There are actually four marriages Bergman studies in "Scenes from a Marriage" –none of them is happy, all are miserable. Bergman does not deny the possibility of finding a soul mate but his opinion on the modern marriage is quite pessimistic.

    It felt like Bergman was saying - marriage is dead, long live love. For hours after the film was over, I could not shake off the sadness and pessimism of it. Only later I realized that even if four marriages in Bergman's film were disastrous, it does not necessarily mean that all couples in the world are or have to be that miserable. Bergman wrote and directed Scenes from a Marriage in 1973 when he was in his 5-th marriage, the one that would last for 24 years until his wife died. He brought in the screenplay (I think so but I may be wrong) the bitterness, resentment, anger and disappointments from his previous four marriages - maybe that's why the film is sometimes almost impossible to watch?

    "Scenes from a Marriage" is a masterpiece but it may leave you devastated and emotionally exhausted. I watched the original 5-hours TV version and did not even bother with three hours version. 10/10
  • 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.
  • "Scenes From A Marriage" is quite simply that: we meet Marianne & Johan ten years into their union & we witness half a dozen scenes of their lives. I'm not married, but I have of course known many people, family & friends, who were married & who talked, acted, & lived much like this couple does. That they are well-educated & affluent is somewhat irrelevant - married couples often seem to be keeping a certain secret (some keep it better than others) that they disguise with contentment, ritual, obligation, affection. Most of the time they keep this secret even from themselves. This movie is about the gradual discovery of the two main characters of the nature & ramifications of that secret.

    As far as Bergman films go, it's strangely pretty, in color, with two attractive leads. But I think perhaps Bergman (& Sven Nykvist) sought to give us a sense of familiarity with the suburban, middle-class surroundings to lure us into a false sense of the security of the marriage in question. Without giving anything away, I suggest that this film is no less dark & heavy than other Bergman films; it rather goes for the heart in the way that you often wish modern dramas about relationships would. It's not trite, nor contrived, nor easily resolved. It's wise as life.

    The movie was edited down by Bergman from a six-episode television series, which comprise the "scenes." The cast is great, but it's Ullmann & Josephson's show, & Ullmann is such a magnificent actor that I marvel at her expressive face, which Bergman smartly keeps his camera on.

    It's unbearably wise, & sometimes difficult, but there aren't many films out there as honest as this one.
  • Scenes from a Marriage is a film about a breakup. We are not talking about some ephemeral youthful relationship, but a happy marriage of many years between a couple who truly feel they are happy together.

    Yet cracks become visible, and soon the whole structure comes tumbling down as the once happy couple spends the next 15 years of their lives trying to make sense of it all. The film (aired in Sweden as a 6 part miniseries) is 5 hours of the most intense, painful, emotional conversations ever committed to celluloid. It is filmed almost entirely in close-up with sparse lighting and no music. I have watched it multiple times and by the end of the emotionally grueling experience it feels as though you have lived through each moment Johan and Marianne have experienced, no matter how far from your actual life any one detail might be.

    That may not seem like the most pleasant viewing experience, but I should add that the film is not quite as harrowing as my description might make it seem. Yes, intense doesn't even begin to describe it, but Bergman has created the film with such honesty that there is no manipulation or unnecessary suffering. Even the immortal Eric Rohmer has never displayed this level of understanding into basic human relationships. Again, there is no manipulation here; Bergman would never stoop so low as to include suffering merely for the sake of additional drama. What is actually present in every second of the film is simply many lifetimes worth of wisdom on love, loss and moving on.

    There are no easy answers in Scenes from a Marriage. The film is an emotional roller-coaster from start to finish. The person who is handling things the best will just as often have hit a new low when they are revisited down the road. The couple's bond will never disappear and yet they can never be what they were to each other. Old feelings resurface, old wounds reopen, old passions return and throughout it all Sven Nykvist's camera does not flinch. No film has done more with such a stark palate of images.

    What elevates the film to "second favorite movie ever" level for me is not just the insight into human interaction, though that is my favorite subject matter in film. Scenes from a Marriage is not content to merely show what the loss of a loved one is like, Bergman also has a point beyond a simple documentation of the dissolution of a marriage.

    By the final chapter, perfectly titled "In the Middle of the Night in a Dark House Somewhere in the World", an epiphany is reached. Johan and Marianne do not necessarily "get back together" or "never see each other again", but a certain level of acceptance is reached. That which can never be understood, which no one can put into words, and which has no solution is somehow grasped in the final scenes of this magnificent movie. Like a fleeting glimpse of the sun from inside a cave, all the mysteries of life and love briefly make sense.

    While I never leave a viewing of Scenes from a Marriage feeling any less confused about the grand questions of life, I can't help but suspect that for a time during its brief 5 hours I almost had it. What more could any artist want from their viewer?
  • Johan and Marianne have been happily married for ten years. Following the rough choice to abort their child, the marriage begins to fall apart. Theirs is a marriage of convenience anyway, so it is no surprise that they have looked elsewhere for love and comfort. One day, Johan runs away with another woman, and the process of divorce begins. "Scenes from a Marriage" (Scener ur ett aktenskap) is an intense and personal look at the sanctity of marriage in a world where divorce is in vogue.

    "Scenes" begins with Johan and Marianne being interviewed for a magazine article about their perfect marriage. Johan is confident in his happiness. He loves his wife, has fathered two children, and has a well-paying job. Marianne is sure of nothing, other than that she's happy. She tries to talk about her future, but the photographer cuts her off for a picture. She never gets to finish her thought. One wonders what she would have said if she'd gotten to same amount of time to speak as Johan did.

    During the course of an epic five-hour ride, the two will switch places. Johan will become uncertain of what he wants, and Marianne will become liberated and truly happy. It's what happens in between that fascinates. "Scenes from a Marriage" focuses on the in between moments in life. Most of the time there are only two characters on screen at a time. Filmed in an intimate, documentary-like style, the film gives us the feeling that we're watching a home movie about the down time in the couple's life. This is when they real emotions come to the surface. Johan reveals his passion for Paula, the woman who has seduced him away from Marianne. Marianne, reserved in public, let's her anger, pain, and jealousy flow freely when they are alone together.

    It is this that makes the film work. The film was written and directed by Swedish master Ingmar Bergman, a man who knows how to create arrestingly real drama. Bergman knows that the little moments in life are utterly more fascinating then the overblown public moments that most movies show. By allowing us into these personal moments, Bergman allows Johan and Marianne to become like old friends to the viewer, and that makes the story all the more impactful.

    The performances by Liv Ullman and Erland Josephson as Marianne and Johan are nothing short of revelatory. Let's face it, most actors don't shoot for the stars in television productions. Ullman and Josephson treat "Scenes" like any one of their theatrical films. This approach is much appreciated. I only wish they could teach American TV actors a thing or two. Ullman and Josephson deliver more meaningful and powerful performances in the course of five hours than half of the American network line-ups could provide in 5 seasons.

    Take, for example, the scene where Marianne discovers that she is the last person to know about Johan's infidelity. The camera gets in close on Ullman's face to reveal all the little details of her expression. Ullman's face is a mask of horror and shame. Her eyes are crying out in despair much louder than her voice can.

    There is another fantastic scene in which Marianne who, in the ultimate irony, is a divorce lawyer listens to a client discuss her loveless marriage. The comparison to Marianne and Johan's marriage is undeniable. The look on Marianne's face as she sees her future self in her client is hard to describe, but undeniably affecting.

    Johan has less emotional depth, as one of the main plot points is that Paula saps the life out of him as the relationship progresses. However, look at the earliest scenes of the film, where he is overflowing with happiness. The joy in his eyes and his voice are so real it's hard to believe that the whole thing was carefully scripted by Bergman rather than improvised by Josephson.

    It is said that, following the initial airing of "Scenes from a Marriage" on Scandinavian TV, the divorce rate in Scandinavia grew immensely. More surprising is that Ingmar Bergman was, and still is, delighted by this fact. The film does provide somewhat of an argument for staying together (Johan and Marianne bounce back and forth on th divorce issue several times) and ultimately, as far as I understand, says that even the most strained relationships can be helped. I suppose it is all up to individual interpretations.

    I think that "Scenes from a Marriage" is a film about communication. The lack of communication, and the inability to communicate at all, are the major contributing factors in the breakdown of Johan and Marianne's relationship. It isn't until the divorce papers come that the communication begins. A lack of communication with their own emotions prevents the two from seeing any way out other than divorce--they simply assume that it's too late and that all is said and done. It doesn't have to be that way, and "Scenes from a Marriage" will provide a wake up call to anyone who thinks it does.
  • After "Wild Strawberries," this is perhaps my favorite Bergman movie, though be warned: it will take the wind out of you, especially if you watch the full five-hour version in a condensed period of time, as I did.

    Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson create perhaps too realistic a version of marriage in this emotionally bruising film. When Marianne (Ullmann) finds out that Johan (Josephson) has been cheating on her and has decided to leave her, the safe, secure world she has built around her crumbles. She plays Marianne as a wife blind to her own husband's unhappiness and embarrassed that she didn't see it coming, and her's is a convincing portrait of a woman whose partner has decided long before her that what they have isn't working.

    Josephson makes Johan into a contemptible ass, but he still manages to earn our sympathy. It's easy to dislike Johan but difficult to hate him, so we're in many respects thrust into the same emotional straight jacket as Marianne.

    The saddest thing about "Scenes from a Marriage" is how much affection and love there actually is between these two people, and how it's going to waste. When they get angry, they lash out to hurt one another with words and even with fists at one point. There are tears, laughs, reveries. It's obvious that there wouldn't be the need for all this if there wasn't so much ingrained affection between them, and it's tragic to see them become each other's enemy rather than each other's ally.

    For a very good if not quite as brilliant sequel to this film, see "Saraband," which has Marianne visiting Johan for the first time in many years after each has established a life of his/her own without the other. It brings a peaceful sense of closure and in many ways stitches up the raw wound left by the first film.

    Grade: A
  • The lawyer Marianne (Liv Ullmann) and the professor Johan (Erland Josephson) have been married for ten years, having two daughters. One night, Johan tells Marianne that he met a young woman, Paula, and he will travel to Paris with her for eight months. Caught by surprise, the perfect world of Marianne falls apart, and she starts living alone. Along the next ten years, they meet each other in different situations, in a relation of love and hate for each other. The first time I watched this theatrical movie I was single and was less than twenty years old. In that occasion, I loved the performances of Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson, but I found the story too long. Today, with twenty-five years of marriage, I have watched this film again on video: what a masterpiece! Ingmar Begman presents an amazingly credible and honest story of the relationship of a couple along twenty years of their lives. Liv Ullmann is so beautiful and has such a stunning performance that impressed me. Erland Josephson also has a magnificent performance as an insecure but sensitive man, full of contradictions and without knowing how to make a decision about his feelings. Unfortunately the VHS spoken in Swedish distributed by Concorde in Brazil has many dialogs without subtitles. Sometimes, four, five sentences are omitted in the translation, or a long speech of a character is resumed to a five or six words sentence. A crime against the viewer! Highly recommended for married couples as a lesson of life. My vote is ten.

    Title (Brazil): `Cenas de um Casamento' (`Scenes From a Marriage')
  • Ohmygod. Liv Ullman really deserved an Oscar for this one, as did Bergman. WOW- not many movies are this honest, this heartbreaking, this true, and this tumultuous- we see two people, in and out of a relationship over fifteen years, experiencing all the pain, loss, love, hate, anger, jealousy, denial, sadness, and so on that finding one's soul-mate brings, stretched out long-term.

    Not many movies even come close to this one's brutality in its genuine awareness of people. Most modern films (and television, for that matter) cannot even come close to the psychological precision of Bergman's films. Perhaps "Scenes from a Marriage" is his best work- more accessible than "Wild Strawberries", more compelling than "Persona." This is definitely a film to seek out.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    One of Director Ingmar Bergman's great talents was his deep understanding of women and his love for them. In Liv Ullmann he found a woman who could express that passion so that it could be felt by others. In the cinema that I most admire there is a collaboration of love and adoration between the director and the star that is expressed in the performance. We see this in the work of Krzysztof Kieslowski and to a lesser extent in the work of Roman Polanski and Roger Vadim. And I guess I might mention Benoît Jacquot and Andre Techine who first directed, respectively, Judith Godrèche and Juliette Binoche. But with Bergman there is a wider expression of this love and admiration to include the experience of pathos and tragedy. To understand what a woman is in the fullest extent of her being is what Bergman strives for, not just the revelation of a pretty girl. In Bergman we find the kind of all encompassing psychology characteristic of Shakespeare or Ibsen, in which the characters are fully fleshed and expressive of a wide range of human experience.

    This begins slowly as a stage play and continues as something seen on television and then suddenly springs like a trap and we are immersed in a compelling drama about people who are interesting and alive, people like ourselves who have the longings and the frustrations that we live but seldom express. As Marianne and Johan watch their friends expose the sordid details of their failed marriage, they are understanding and quietly smug that they are different, especially it is Marianne who is proper and conventional, always alert to the necessities of propriety, who feels this way, and is so happy that their marriage, while not perfect, will last. And so it appears.

    And then we have the scene in which Johan tells her that he is in love with a younger woman. It is nothing short of magnificent, one of the most memorable in all of cinema, and done with such subtly and power, infused with a deep underpinning of a wild and desperate, yet cunning expression of love from Liv Ullmann that would win over the devil himself. This is a woman at thirty-five, when everything that means anything to her is suddenly threatened, and this is how she responds, with genius.

    Or, some might say, with madness. Johan's dull indifference is absurdist, and Marianne's incredible tolerance and "understanding" of his behavior is stunning. Yet when it happens to us, sometimes we are just a bit ahead of ourselves and we realize what has really happened, and like Marianne we are generous and sad instead of insanely jealous. And Johan's insufferable arrogance and "worldly" understanding of himself makes us want to scream. And then it turns and he says, "I'm beaten," and there is just a trace of a triumphant smile on her face. At forty-five, he is a beaten man. "You win," is what he is saying. And now he becomes a bit pathetic. His behavior, when it is she who has the upper hand, is crude and ugly. Of course hers was cunning and desperate when he had the upper hand. And then it turns again and then again, and we have twenty years of a marriage.

    One thing I must say, this is a little too intense for TV! (The entire production, six hours worth, was originally made for Swedish TV.)

    I was pleased to see the photos of Liv Ullmann as a child and then as a little girl and then as a teen and then as a young woman worked into the script. She is so beautiful and wholesome in a distinct way, like no other actress, and yet I knew her in the ninth grade in the person of a girl with the same red hair and the same white, reddish, freckled skin. The range that Liv Ullmann displays in this film is remarkable, but she is not alone. Co-star Erland Josephson is also outstanding. And they had better be since they command the screen for most of the 170 minutes this version runs. What Bergman does that keeps us glued to the tube is he tells the truth. It's a Bergman truth, but it is a truth so beyond the contrivances and superficialities of most movies that we are fascinated.

    (Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)
  • jdoan-412 September 2006
    There are few other films that have the direct authenticity of this one. It is very frank, honest, tender, and heartbreaking. The performances of the two primary actors are amazing. Never once did I doubt their sincerity. In every single scene they overwhelmingly conveyed the intense and nuanced emotions of the couple. I use the word "overwhelmingly" because that is exactly what it is. At times it is hard to watch. Especially the scene in which Johan admits his infidelity. I could feel Marainne's hurt/anger/confusion. There are moments of intense tenderness, as in the last scene where Johan comforts Marianne after her nightmare. To be sure, the actors had some incredible material with which to work. Bergman knows human nature as much as any of modern writer. His dialog is poetic at times, and achingly authentic at others. They way the couple eviscerates and dissects each other is alarmingly, yet honest. Rarely is a character saying what they actually feel. Rarely do the characters know what they feel. They, like many people, really are "emotional illiterates." Bergman's direction is minimal, and that is what makes it so effective. The emphasis is completely on the characters and their existences. This is a powerful, evocative film. And I have seen only the theatrical version. I can imagine the full TV version is even more detailed.
  • Enormous success it had with audiences of Swedish TV, where it was shown in six episodes paved way for its theatrical release. This however called for compromising almost half the original length of celluloid.

    As one of more easily understandable Bergman films, "Scenes From A Marriage" met much enthusiasm on both sides of the Atlatic.

    The film showcases great two of Ingmar Bergman's favorite actors. Both Liv Ullman and Erland Josephson give lively mature performances, lauded by critics.

    Being a down-to-earth family drama with strong social commentary of great relevance, "Scenes From A Marriage" has something important to convey. It is a meaningful picture.

    It reflects on the nature of relationship between man and woman. It invites us to ponder on this basic issue, a cornerstone of human society Although not quite in the same league with bona-fide Bergman classics like "The Seventh Seal" and "Persona", "Scenes From A Marriage" remains a powerful movie.
  • Bergman set the standard for commentary on relationships with this film. Liv Ullman & Erland Josephson are extraordinary as a couple viewed over the course of their marriage and breakup thereof. Bergman and cinematographer Sven Nyquist do an absolute masterful job following both -- Liv Ullman truly has one of the most expressive, beautiful faces in cinema, and Bergman's genius is that he captured every nuance of her perfect performance masterfully.

    Don't expect a single extraneous, out-of-place shot. Expect the perfect cinema-plus-verite of long-term relationships that various others, including Woody Allen in his efforts (Annie Hall and onwards,) have tried to riff on -- but never as well.
  • Film discreetly mellows down the glorified myth of marital bliss, but at the same time gives you realistic, deep yet paradoxical association of two troubled souls. An ideal portrayal of human nature that cannot exist without hurting those who mean so much, especially those who are bonding in matrimonial. Well settled careers and added years to age make them no exception from the likes of those adolescence who are suffering from identity crisis And film exhibits that uncertainty of inexpressive emotions. Blend of love and hatred, growth and vulnerability of characters. Great performance by the two main characters, a lesson for married couple. In your face blatant reality that goes and finds it roots too deep within us. End is so imperfectly perfect like love of those two… A masterpiece and must see movie for all.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I have a tendency to mistrust shortened "American release" versions, so of course I watched the five hour miniseries--and now I need to watch the three-hour theatrical release just out of curiosity over what could possibly have been cut out. "Scenes from a Marriage" is one of those impeccably written and directed works where every line has its power, fascination, and importance. Liv Ullman and Erland Josephson acted so well, I can't help but feel that the more self-conscious elements of the series (the end credits read aloud, some of the ways the camera readjusts its composition) were put in there just to make sure people knew it wasn't really happening--otherwise it would have been too painful.

    In terms of specific moments, there's a little too much to get into, but I think an important thing to notice is that the two characters never really lie to each other. They change their minds, they lie to themselves, they try to hide the truth sometimes, but never do they really say anything that the other person doesn't understand (or hopelessly misunderstand) correctly.

  • Scenes From a Marriage, the ultimate screen love story, in its fullest rendition in a sequence of six parts, each its own self-contained play, could not strive for more in whatever it has. It's the story most universal to the world's shared culture, the desire to be loved, to question the meaning of it, to be involved in the most universal tradition according to that perceived basic human need, hope and expectation in the form of marriage, and to blindly take on all further bricks for the wall between you and the freedom you once had. This is the epic for day-to-day life, and as like any one of the Roman Empire or the salvation from any historical holocaust, it both intensifies and elaborates every dimension of itself to create the ultimate spectacle and sets the highest standards for production value, not just in general but the talent and delivery on any level technical, aesthetic, or otherwise. But a historical event or biography, depicting a state of overt and momentous chaos which forever changes lives and society, never has and probably never could have the same degree of emotional and cathartic impact of the same kind of magnified, impassioned ode rendition of the worst fears, most crushing emotional devastations, crippling inadequacies, and distilled sense of loneliness of any and everyone's love life in whatever guise. And this is not a saga of good and evil but a saga of two deeply imperfect layman professional people.

    Each scene has the deliberate intimacy which extends our sense of how long we are spending in the given time and place with this married couple, so by the sudden cut from the first scene of Episode 1 to the second, we feel we have delved quite far into the nature and character of these two people, and yet we virtually haven't seen anything yet. Nevertheless, each Episode, or Scene, affords merely a snapshot in the lives of these two thoroughly normal, wholly and completely identifiable people. We are repeatedly lured with a sense of looking at their lives through a microscope only to discover we are under the microscope with them, sharing the experience of time and space in their lifelong daily landscapes. Alternately, we are also stunned by the remarkable simplicity of the entirety of situations that comprise Scenes From a Marriage, because they are nothing at all but natural, reflexive, rudimentary. Had the film lasted two hours instead of five, however neatly condensed, and indeed it surely is in its theatrical cut, it would nonetheless be simply two fifths of the experience. Since when can one's present life experience be delineated by one beginning, one middle and one end? There are countless beginnings, middles and moments that seem like the end, because nothing much else is new to the table at the time.

    Still, we only see moments in time for these two people where they're involved with each other. Most often, we only see the two of them in one room for a very long time talking to each other, or sharing time. That's the key. They're alone together. They feel alone together. They doubt their feelings because no matter how much or little they love someone else, they're so preoccupied with escaping the feeling every one of us can share with them: The feeling of being lonely.

    Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson move us in every way an actor does, by producing tears with the most honest and aching emotional pain, making us identify with the widest array of demeanors and mannerisms. Ingmar Bergman's script so deeply enmeshes the reality of their characters that it has them running the gamut of individual moods and mutual vibes in an average of a very short time. It's the sole natural effect that the two powerful leads completely embody the truth of the dialogues they exchange and the actions they make. One of the two is hardly vastly superior to the other, but both actors provide strong performances in different ways. Josephson plays Johan, a middle-aged man so used to his insecurities that he's no longer aware enough that they show and doesn't know that they are accepted, and continues to not think that they could be. An actor who has always tempered his presence purely by the level of a character's significance, he becomes so fixed in his nature as older men generally do that he always seems just as convincing when he deflects declarations of his flaws with rationalizations. Ullmann, on the other hand, is a powerhouse of transformation as Marianne, who at one point well into Episode 5 says that she feels like the people she and he were earlier are strangers. That is how we feel about them as well, not necessarily because they've changed, but also because we have seen them confront long-buried sides of themselves in exorbitantly dynamic roles that require actors of truly tireless talent, perspective and discipline.

    They're occasionally joined by their peers or family, and each of these performances too are memorable all by themselves. Ullmann shares the screen again with her Persona co-star Bibi Andersson, and as in that film, Sven Nykvist's compositions are completely controlled, but only in its endeavor to depict the actresses doing exactly what they must do. Jan Malmsjo gives a disquieting performance that, don't ask me why, called to mind a Bruce Dern as he was in Black Sunday and the end of Coming Home, Malmsjo playing Andersson's vitriol-spewing alcoholic husband. Gunnel Lindblom has almost the feel of Ingrid Thulin in her brooding undercurrent, playing a colleague of Johan's who isn't used to being polite or tactful but she's endeared by the same dysfunctions in him that Marianne loves and has had to learn to love. There are more, but one should discover them on one's own. Because no matter how wrenching it gets, we are always returned at the end of each episode to obligatory, reassuring images of Faro Island's natural Nordic beauty.
  • Rarely can there have been a wordier, more intense film than Ingmar Bergman's 'Scenes from a Marriage': over three hours of near-continuous dialogue, over 90% of which is shared by just two (of a total of six) characters in what are effectively just six lengthy scenes. Set over a number of years, they observe a couple's changing relationship, and in particular the gradual and ambiguous transfer of power from the husband to the wife. The characters fit a Scandanavian archetype, reserved rather than fiery, and intellectual to boot: of more modern films, only David Mamet's 'Oleanna' comes to mind as remotely similar, although the dialogue in that film is more forced and contrived than that in this one, which closer resembles that of Kieslowski, although the latter's films were of course much less wordy. If it sounds dreary, the surprising thing is how riveting it is: superb, economical acting, and the splendid script, keep you focused, even though not a lot (in the conventional sense) actually happens. And while you'll watch more accessible movies, it's certainly fair to say that you'll rarely see a film this old that feels less dated. It's not quite entertainment as usually defined; but it's certainly interesting.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is not a film for those who don't like to see the issue of love and marriage dissected as never before, I think. And, for this review, I cover every major plot point and what I see as the underpinnings of the story. So, if you haven't seen it, you may want to read other reviews first.

    I know of no other film that takes such an uncompromising view of the truth – according to Bergman – about marriage; although Kubrick made a valiant attempt in Eyes Wide Shut (1999). This story is just too emotionally painful, however, because it asks questions that, I would suggest, most married couples have thought of, if not discussed, but most would avoid answering honestly. Because there is a strong implied argument, by the end of this film, that romantic love within marriage is a contradiction – mainly because a marriage between two is a business, just like any other. So, if you want a marriage to work – if it indeed can – then it must be worked at, by both, in the same or better way as a business.

    Scenes from a marriage is an episodic exposition of distinct events – scenes – that occur over a period of fifteen or more years between Marianne (Liv Ullman) and Johan (Erland Josephson). The version I saw was the 164 minute theatrical presentation for cinema. The original story was filmed for TV and was much longer.

    For clarity, I've labelled the scenes as follows: 1. The Interview; 2. The Dinner Party; 3. The Client; 4. The Truth; 5. The Separation; 6. The Return Visit; 7. The Divorce; and 8. The Affair and Revelation.

    1. The film opens with a magazine writer interviewing and filming Marianne and Johan as representing what can only be described as the perfectly married couple. Johan is insufferably confident and bombastic about himself, barely admitting that he can even make mistakes. Marianne, in contrast, is subdued, uncertain, deprecating – almost a parody of the good wife who defers to the subtly domineering husband.

    2. At a dinner party later, with married couple Katrina (Bibi Andersson) and Peter (Jan Malmsjo) – and during which the magazine article is discussed - Johan and Marianne discover that the marriage of their two friends is a sham, with the excessive drinking by Peter very much helping to loosen his tongue as the evening progresses, much to the embarrassment of all.

    3. Later, at work, Marianne, being a lawyer, is interviewing a woman client who wants a divorce. During that emotionally draining and frank disclosure, Marianne learns two things: the woman wants out of a marriage in which there is no love and, on Marianne's face, there is the growing realization about the similarities between the two women vis-à-vis their separate marriages.

    4. Eventually, Johan comes to Marianne one evening to announce that he's leaving her for Paula, a much younger (of course) woman. Stunned, aghast, and totally sandbagged, Marianne finds herself agreeing to let Johan go, after a long and tortuous discussion.

    5. Johan leaves and Marianne despairs to the point of calling a trusted friend for advice – only to learn that the friend had known about Johan's infidelity for two years. Marianne is shattered and Ullman's performance here, in extreme closeup on her face, is beyond describing. Somehow, however, Marianne pulls herself together; like many women, she's a survivor and sets out to find out more about herself.

    6. Still married though, Johan carries on, as does Marianne, both separately, although they've both agreed that a divorce is best. Johan, however, tires of Paula and her ways, and returns after two years to see Marianne and the children (who are now growing up, of course). They discuss their situation once again and Johan eventually comes clean: he wants to dump Paula and come back. Marianne is surprisingly hopeful, but – as expected – Johan chickens out at one o'clock in the morning and leaves again.

    7. Time passes but finally, they meet to sign the divorce papers. And yet, Johan still wavers, wanting to think it over, but Marianne is obdurate: she's moved on, and relishes her freedoms. The deal is done.

    8. Many years later, after both marrying and settling down with new partners, Johan and Marianne get together for a more-or-less continuous affair, quite happy apparently to cheat on their spouses while maintaining their happy(?) marriages. During the final conversation, however, they both recognize their innate inability to truly love anybody – perhaps even themselves.

    So, with this story, there is no dramatic denouement, no great finish to a love story that might have been: it's just the brutal reality of the need for communication and romance, unfettered by responsibility and accountability. Freedom at last...

    Almost certainly, in my opinion, this story has a lot of Bergman in it. He had quite a few marriages, I understand, so an autobiographical slant wouldn't be surprising. And while there is the obvious need for love and understanding for all of us, Bergman seems to be saying, in effect, that the individual is primary. Hence, although each must abide by the dictates of society's norms for functional acceptance and survival, it is only when free from those strictures that the individual is truly free. Of course, there's a paradox in that thinking – without structure and stricture, the idea of freedom is nonsensical – with many philosophers expounding thereon. Suffice to say, I think, that the French, above all, have succeeded where others have failed.

    The acting is just flawless. Ullman and Josephson are on screen almost every scene and significantly, we never see the children or Paula. And, as with most Bergman films, the lack of frills – just excellent photography, editing and script – allows the viewer to take it all in, unexpurgated, unsullied and, for some, probably unwelcome.

  • Scenes from a Marriage (1973)

    Written and played with amazing honesty. It's simple on the surface, and plain (which is different), and it might just seem insignificant as it goes. Even in the 2 ½ hour version, instead of the 5 hour one.

    But the two (and pretty much only) actors are so utterly convincing, and transparent, and the writing is so everyday and so profound, the result is something deeply moving. It's never especially fun, though it is often warm. It's absolutely not exciting, and in a sense very little happens, bordering on nothing.

    Except for what is said. This is a five hour conversation between two bright people who seem to love and understand each other better than most people every hope. And yet it isn't enough. They have a love without real passion, and without drama, or even surprise. The question for them, and us, ends up being, who cares? What really matters? What's the meaning of life after all?

    Famed Swedish director Ingmar Bergman doesn't worry about making inaccessible or offputting films. He makes them so subtle in their probing of life's mysteries (and it is the mystery that we are confronted with, not the events under out noses), they stand apart, almost from anything anyone else has made. It's not for everyone. If you are new to his films, don't start here. It isn't fair. (Start, maybe, with Wild Strawberries.) But this one is interesting if not exciting, and deeply felt. Woody Allen often professes a tremendous admiration for Bergman's films, and you can even see an influence here, where ordinary, educated people deal with ordinary, profound issues.
  • Cosmoeticadotcom17 September 2008
    Warning: Spoilers
    Leo Tolstoy once opined that all happy families are happy in but a few ways, while those that are not suffer in many unique ways. This apothegm was never more well evinced than in filmmaker Ingmar Bergman's five hour 1973 Swedish telefilm Scenes From A Marriage (Scener ur ett aktenskap), a miniseries that was even more influential in Europe than the American television miniseries Roots, which captivated American audiences only a few years later. Bergman's miniseries was repackaged for foreign markets into a 169 minute film version that, in 1974, was almost universally lauded by critics in America. Although, because it started out as a TV show, it was ineligible for Oscar consideration in America, it did win the National Society Of Film Critics Award for Best Picture, and, in 1977, PBS aired the entire uncut series. In many ways, it had more in common with such offerings as the U.K.'s Up Series documentaries, or PBS's An American Family, which chronicled the ups and downs of the real life Loud family. It was a film that also radically departed from many prior Bergmanian paradigms, even as it continued his in depth exploration of the interior human landscape.

    Gone was the poetic and dazzling cinematography of Sven Nykvist, as it was replaced by an even more obsessive look at the human mien, especially the gloriously radiant features of actress Liv Ullman's face. Ullman portrays Marianne, the female lead of the series, a thirty-five year old liberal leaning divorce lawyer who is married to a more culturally conservative forty-two year old professor and researcher at the Psychotechnology Institute, as well as a wannabe poet named Johan, played by Erland Josephson. We never learn the couple's surname, which only adds to their everycouple iconography, and the intimacy viewers feel with and for them. The couple's two daughters, Eva and Karin, make only a brief appearance at the start of both versions, although they are mentioned a few times more in the series. As the film version opens, the couple is being interviewed by a female writer (Anita Wall) for a woman's magazine, after ten years of marriage, and there are some awkward moments that belie the problems awaiting them just under the surface of their claims of being almost a too content couple. We are not sure whether this scene is the present- meaning 1973, or ten years earlier, for the series will progress over a decade. The TV version goes farther than the film version, and the first scene, or night's viewing, is titled Innocence And Panic. We see more hostility bared- overtly and covertly, and find out the interviewer is a passive/aggressive old schoolmate of Marianne's whom she is not too fond of…. ultimately, Scenes From A Marriage is a great work of art, and one that will still have relevance as long as human beings involve themselves in mating rituals. While it details a marriage, that marriage fails not because of the husband's midlife crisis, nor does it even fail because of the wife's first infidelity and over-compensatory smothering, but because the two characters were simply ill suited for one another- personally, emotionally, politically, sexually, and philosophically. No matter how well they knew each other, and we know that they know each other all too well, basic incompatibility cannot be overcome. Thus the greatest lesson the film teaches is not how to act during marriage, but to choose well before entering into it, because that is the single most important choice a would be spouse can make, and gives rise to the maxim that Tolstoy spouted. Were that not so Scenes From A Marriage would not be as engrossing, insightful, and relevant a work of art as it still is, as it would be like so many other marriages and films in the real world- thriving on the low hum of ignorance that its participants and viewers enjoy.
  • Scenes from a Marriage (1973)

    Theatrical version

    **** (out of 4)

    Ingmar Bergman's nearly three-hour drama about a husband (Erland Josephson) and wife (Liv Ullman) who's been married for ten years and then discover they can't stand one another yet they can't keep apart. I viewed the theatrical version, which is three hours full of conversations and nothing but conversations yet I can't wait to view the TV version, which runs two hours longer. For a three-hour film that has nothing but talking going on, this thing turned out to be a real masterpiece and I'm glad to read that the TV version is even better. Bergman has quickly jumped to one of my favorite directors, right up there with Scorsese, Kubrick and Allen. The funny thing is that this film clearly influenced everything Woody Allen did after this year in his career. Annie Hall, Manhattan and especially Husbands and Wives, which is pretty much a remake of this, are heavily influenced by this film. The two actors do a marvelous job with their roles as they've got to depend on acting skills, which most would fall on their face trying to do. The wide range of emotions they go through, sometimes seconds apart, is remarkable to watch and I'm starting to feel Ullman is perhaps the greatest actress I've seen when it comes to playing emotion. What I loved most is how honest, brutal and open this film is towards relationships in general. There's a lot of ugly nature in this film but hey, that's life and I think that's the entire message of the film. A remarkable piece of work that hits every note correctly and certainly has me wanting more.
  • I haven't seen a great deal of Ingmar Bergman's work, but I doubt if he ever made another film quite like this one. Although he may have looked at intimate relationships before, I wouldn't think he had done it in such a naked manner. There are no abstractions or representations here, just basic camerawork, usually from one talking head to another, mostly in tight shots or close-ups of the two principals, who are in practically every frame of the film. There's hardly an exterior shot in the whole movie, appropriate since we're dealing with emotions and inner feelings.

    Bergman the director is not so much the prime figure in this film as is Bergman the writer. The movie is literally what its title says--several long scenes of a husband and wife (played by Erland Josephson and Liv Ullman) at various stages in their marriage, which is ten years old when we first see them. Through these long takes we witness the tangible beginnings of the deterioration of their relationship, then follow it through its various up-and-down stages. The form of the film, being mostly dialog with little action, forces an intimacy with the viewer also, especially if you are watching with subtitles, since you can hardly afford to take your eyes off the screen for a moment.

    What is Bergman trying to tell us about Johan and Marianne, and about all married couples? In spite of all we see, it's still hard to answer. On one hand the two seem to live up to the old cliche about people who can't live with and can't live without each other. On the other hand the epilogue scene seems to indicate that if the couple had made the effort to work harder at their relationship, the years would have been much happier. Just as in real life, answers don't come easily.

    This may be the ultimate relationship film, though not necessarily the best. It's not an easy journey to make, but one that is worthwhile throughout and another testament to a great filmmaker's wide-ranging talent.
  • Two of Ingemar Bergmans' most famous works were originally released as TV miniseries: Fanny and Alexander, and Scenes From a Marriage. Finally, after many years, the 6 episode long mini-series version of Scenes has been released in America.

    I never saw the original 4 hour movie version of Scenes, but something tells me I wouldn't have liked it. The movie is very talky and most of the scenes are just long conversations between two people. My butt hurts just thinking about having to sit in the theater that long.

    As a mini-series, though, it is possible to break the film up into 6 easily digestable parts, as was intended. It wasn't great in terms of cinematography, or exciting plot points, but I don't think it was intended to be.

    It was obviously something meant to be watched slowly, so that the characters could get a chance to grow and develop realistically. While it was still a little slow going at times, it is worth checking out if you like probing psychological character studies.

    The leading actors Liv Ullman and Arland Josephson give what must be one of the most realistic portraits of a marriage that exists on film. Mostly this is because the actors get 5 hours to depict their two characters. This kind of intense focus almost never happens in cinema, and for this reason alone it is worth watching. Give yourself a week to see it, you will be highly rewarded with one of cinema's most intense character studies.
  • Ingmar Bergman provides us with a very intimate portrait of two people in a marriage that dissolves into bitterness and hatred; and yet ultimately they both love each other and come to understand each other in a way they might never have done were it not for the divorce. Liv Ullmann, an extraordinarily captivating presence, plays a woman who can be irritatingly passive at times; but I was mainly on her side, even though it becomes clear eventually that her passivity masks her aggressive manipulation. Erland Josephson, with his rodent-like features, is harder to like, especially since his character is vain and petty. He's the one who leaves her for another, younger woman. I spent much of the movie hating and despising him, but by the end, I came to understand him and understand that Ullmann was as much responsible for the dissolution of the marriage as he.

    "Scenes from a Marriage" is a very, very rich experience in its original form as a 299-minute miniseries. I've yet to see the 168-minute theatrical version.
  • One wonders why a director who has been married at least five times would even think of doing a film about marriage. Yet if you watch it you will know why. The film takes a very scrutinizing yet objectionable look at love, marriage, sex, and even happiness. It questions what it all means and whether the ideal union between two human beings is even obtainable. It's honest and realistic. It looks more a two flawed individuals than as a couple, which makes it more interesting. It shows the never ending complexities that the institution of marriage creates. How the 'meeting of the minds' is task in itself. It also examines the delicate balance we all have of pursuing selfish needs and still wanting to be loved.

    This is a very deep psychological study with endlessly stimulating dialogue. The two stars dive into their roles with a emotional abandon. The atmosphere and approach is quite civilized yet their is moment of completely unexpected violence, which is good. It shows that the director, in an effort to pull out the reality, isn't afraid to dig to even the darkness part of the human psyche.

    However some of this does become overly protracted. The approach is too scholarly, which gives it a very wooden feel. The viewer never gets emotionally drawn in and there is never any dramatic impact. It takes a full hour before this thing even starts to gain any type of momentum. It also would have been more complete to see these people when they first met instead of starting when things are already beginning to go bad.

    Still this is a worthwhile exercise. Many married viewers may find a lot of truth to this especially if they stick with it. The characters go through a full range of emotions in each and every scene. Bergman shows an amazing intimacy. You really feel like you are alone with these people and no one else is around. The lighting is terrific and cinematographer Nykvist captures Ullmans expressive face like no one else.

    6 out of 10
  • The tiresomeness of this cannot be endured.

    A Swedish couple long married with children, manage to give the impression that they've only recently met and spout long speeches about how they really love/hate/are indifferent to each other while maintaining the preoccupied air of those who are worried that they might embarrass themselves by involuntarily breaking wind at any moment.

    The trivia section claims the text of the film is used as a stage play. I can believe this.

    The piece is static.

    The acting is stagy.

    The dialogue is totally unnatural.

    It's an exercise in eavesdropping on a couple of self obsessed bores.

    I suspect the modern equivalent audience for this 34 year old film now watches 'Big Brother' and those other 'reality' entertainments designed to allow shameless exhibitionists to show off in front of jaded voyeurs.
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