Ingmar Bergman made Scenes from a Marriage
for Swedish TV in 1970 about a marriage on the rocks. The new high definition restoration of the original six-part TV series is a nostalgic look at one of Bergman's best productions, claimed to have raised the divorce rate in Sweden. We begin the journey with an interview of the couple in progress by a journalist from a woman's magazine. Johan works at the 'psycho-technical institute' and Marianne is a divorce attorney. Everyone thinks they have the perfect marriage. This is a rational relationship where everything is planned. They have an apartment in town, good jobs, and a summerhouse. However, the glue between Johan and Marianne is based on tradition and doing the right thing. We never see their two girls and it is possible they are incapable of parenting.
There is little in the way of camera angles and editing to distinguish the series as a piece of cinema, shot by Sven Nykvist. There are of course scenes of Fårö where Ingmar Bergman has his summer residence, and Karlaplan in central Stockholm near his apartment, not far from the Swedish Film Institute. Otherwise, there are closeups of Marianne and Johan, Johan and Marianne. However, the dialogue and acting performances of Erland Josephson and Liv Ullman are so compelling, and mobile that you forget about that.
One day Johan comes home and tells Marianne that he has fallen in love with a 23 year old woman named Paula and is going with her to Paris for six months. He explains that she has had couple of previous relationships--a woman of the world. Marianne is shocked but offers to pick up his suit at the cleaners and pack his suitcase for his trip. She begs him not to go and her masochism never skips a beat to his indifference. When Johan returns a half-year later, tired of Paula, Marianne has a new boyfriend. However, she tells him goodbye when he calls to check up on her since Johan is invited to dinner. Johan leaves in the middle of the night with anxiety. The couple later meet to sign the divorce papers. They consume a bottle of scotch and Johan winds up slapping Marianne. In the final episode, we hear him calling someone on the telephone and arranging a meeting. It is Marianne. Though they are both married and settled, they still meet secretly. The final episode is the dullest of the six installments and the least believable.
It is hard to understand why the divorce rate would have increased after the film, other than sending a jolt to couples stuck in empty rituals. During the ebbs and flows of this relationship, there is an intense meeting between two souls that can not be together but are unable to live apart. Last year, Bergman finished the latest touch to the saga of Marianne and Johan in "Saraband", where the couple meet 30 years later, having sustained a warm connection through the years.
The DVD version contains both the old and restored versions, which are compared by film critic Peter Cowie who has written extensively about Swedish film. There are also interviews with Liv Ullman and Erland Josephson, and a rather old interview with Bergman in 1986.
For Movie Magazine, this is Moira Sullivan, Stockholm Sweden.
© 2004 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 7/04
Scenes from a Marriage
Sweden - 1973