Scenes from a Marriage

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Scenes from a Marriage

The Criterion Collection DVD cover
Directed byIngmar Bergman
Produced byLars-Owe Carlberg
Written byIngmar Bergman
StarringLiv Ullmann
Erland Josephson
CinematographySven Nykvist
Editing bySiv Lundgren
Release date(s)11 April 1973 (1973-04-11)
Running time281 minutes (TV version)[1]
167 minutes (cinema)[2]
CountrySweden
LanguageSwedish
 
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Scenes from a Marriage

The Criterion Collection DVD cover
Directed byIngmar Bergman
Produced byLars-Owe Carlberg
Written byIngmar Bergman
StarringLiv Ullmann
Erland Josephson
CinematographySven Nykvist
Editing bySiv Lundgren
Release date(s)11 April 1973 (1973-04-11)
Running time281 minutes (TV version)[1]
167 minutes (cinema)[2]
CountrySweden
LanguageSwedish

Scenes from a Marriage (Swedish: Scener ur ett äktenskap) is a 1973 Swedish TV series written and directed by Ingmar Bergman. The story explores the disintegration of a marriage between Marianne, a lawyer, and Johan, a professor (played respectively by Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson) over a long period, using a restricted cast, a naturalist, hyper-realistic cinematic style, claustrophobic close-ups, and strings of rapid, articulate monologues. After major success in Sweden, the series became notorious worldwide when it was condemned for allegedly inspiring a spike in Scandinavian divorce rates, which almost doubled in the year of its release.

Contents

Production

The TV version of Scenes from a Marriage is almost five hours long, split in six episodes. In the United States, a 167-minute[2] version was released to cinemas. The film was made on a $150,000 budget and was shot mostly in Fårö, Gotlands län in Sweden.

Reception

The film won several accolades including BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations for Liv Ullmann (Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama), and a Best Foreign Language Film. A sequel, Saraband, was released theatrically in 2003. In 2008, a theatrical adaption by Joanna Murray-Smith was performed at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry, directed by Trevor Nunn and starring Imogen Stubbs and Iain Glen.

Episode summary

This plot summary is for the 281-minute,[1] TV miniseries version of the work (the feature film retains the episode names as chapter titles). Each episode concludes with long, quiet, comforting shots of Fårö landscapes, as a "relief" from the up-close, tense and claustrophobic episodes. Each episode is structured around one critical scene, described below, the rest of each episode dedicated to discussion and aftereffects. Some of the episodes occur months or years apart.

#Title
1"Innocence and Panic."
The story begins with a laughingly superficial interview of Johan and Marianne by a reporter for a women's magazine. Peter and Katarina visit for dinner, and cruelly humiliate one another, while Marianne laments her inability to express herself. Marianne is pregnant, and regretfully aborts her baby. 
2"The Art of Sweeping Things Under the Rug."
Marianne tries to back out of a Sunday dinner with her parents but fails and realizes how difficult it is for her to defeat other people's expectations. Johan flirts, and Marianne offers counseling. 
3"Paula."
The couple retreat to their countryside cabin. Johan separates from Marianne, and begins dating Paula. 
4"The Vale of Tears."
Johan is disillusioned with his current lover and revisits Marianne. They discuss divorce, but can't bring themselves to sign the papers, then attempt to have sex, but Johan cannot maintain his erection. 
5"The Illiterates."
Marianne and Johan meet at his office to sign divorce papers, but Johan refuses. The two fight savagely. 
6"In the Middle of the Night in a Dark House Somewhere in the World."
Marianne and Johan have married other people, but are unhappy. They arrange to meet again at the cabin from Paula; on the way, Marianne visits her mother, consoling her after the death of her husband. Mother reveals that she always did her duty as a wife, though is vague and uncertain as to whether or not she loved her husband. At the cabin, Marianne sees Johan as small and vulnerable, and finds it touching. She admits to enjoying sex with her current husband in a way she never did with Johan, which upsets him. She claims she has always felt a kind of responsibility and attachment to Johan. The two fall asleep in conversation. When Marianne wakes up panicking from a nightmare, Johan comforts her, and the two lie together on top of the quilts. Johan declares that they are "the emotional illiterates" and, like many people, are incapable of marriage; yet they do not separate. 

In popular culture

David Jacobs, series creator of Dallas and Knots Landing, based the latter series on Scenes from a Marriage. The series focused on four married couples whose marriages were in various stages: the newlywed couple, the ideal couple, the couple whose marriage was in trouble, and the couple that recently reconciled. The series ran from 1979-1993.

In the 1984 SCTV skit/commercial parody "Scenes from an Idiot's Marriage", Martin Short plays Jerry Lewis playing a writer who goes through a comedic version of what goes on in Scenes from a Marriage, complete with Lewis's pratfalls and constant mistakes in pronunciation of Swedish names (he constantly mistakes the name Sven Gunderbloom as Sy Worthenson when his wife (Andrea Martin) announces that she is divorcing him and giving him Gunderbloom's name as her lawyer) and his later pratfalls serving drinks at a dinner party when he gets carried away with using a seltzer bottle, spraying the water everyplace.

In 1991, Woody Allen co-starred in Paul Mazursky's Scenes from a Mall, a dark comedy about a marriage falling apart.

Woody Allen's similarly realist film Husbands and Wives (1992) includes several nods to Scenes from a Marriage, including a wife who will not show her poetry to her husband.

In an April 2011 New York Times Opinionator article, titled "Too Much Relationship Vérité", Virginia Heffernan compares An American Family to Scenes from a Marriage:

It’s now the future. And the 12-hour PBS time capsule, which will make a rare reappearance next week at the Paley Center in Manhattan and on some public-TV affiliates beginning Saturday, looks more like performance art than social science. Hammy stunts for the camera alternate with Bergmanesque staging. (“Scenes from a Marriage,” Bergman’s fiction TV series, also appeared in 1973, in Sweden.)[3]

Cast

References

External links