Scenes From a Marriage
Scenes From a Marriage – the screenplay was written by Ingmar Bergman (1918 – 2007) in three months – drawing on almost thirty years of marriage experience with five different spouses, Bergman felt a strong connection with his lead characters Johan and Marianne:
‘I became very fond of these people during the writing process. They generally talk a lot of nonsense but now and again will say something of substance. They are nervous, happy, egotistical, stupid, friendly, wise, willing to make sacrifices, affectionate, angry, loving, sentimental, insufferable and endearing.’
Scenes from a Marriage is a film by Ingmar Bergman that depicts a failing marriage with brutal honesty. I’ve only seen extracts from it but those, together with the reviews I’ve read make me want to watch it because it seems to be the tale of all marriages that fall apart, differing in the detail but channeling the huge cocktail of clashing emotions that marriage can be.
“The reason that Scenes From a Marriage works so well is that although it shows us the breakdown of one, unique marriage, it also has large streaks of universality. I would defy anyone who has been in a long-term relationship not to see elements of themselves in the unfolding drama; whether it is in the fussiness of Marianne preparing food for her husband, the familiarity of the couple, rolling over one another in bed to set the alarm clock, the banal chatting about forthcoming family events and duties or in the simple domestic routines they have developed, choreographed and perfected over years of communal living.
After she has recovered from the terrible shock of abandonment, it is Marianne who manages to grow and develop as a person and analyses the failure of her marriage. What she discovers is that she has never really known who she is. Instead of being her true self she has played a series of roles; an obedient child, a popular teenager, an independent young woman and finally a wife and mother. During all this time she has let the expectations of others dictate how she behaves, but more importantly she has let these expectations become her own and allowed them to dictate how she feels, to the extent that she has obliterated all remnants of her true self. The more one reflects, the more one sees that we all have this tendency within us. Through our empathy with Marianne we see that all human beings are actors, creating fictional selves in order to relate to those around us. Subconsciously we are all playing our parts in the dramas of our lives; so where, ultimately, is that line between fiction and reality? I began to question myself – how much of my recent discovery of a desire to keep the bathroom clean is really me? And how much is it the idea of being a good wife? This playing of roles, of maintaining socially dictated facades within a relationship becomes one of the main themes of the series. When Johan leaves his wife in episode three he rails against the tediousness of the ritual of family events; keeping mother happy, remembering birthdays, visiting people and being polite. What he is really railing against is playing his role. He can no longer keep up the façade. He even confesses to enjoying being brutal, precisely because it is absolutely out of the character he has played for so long.“ Katy Karpfinger
“They have reached a truce which they call happiness. When we first meet them, they’re being interviewed for some sort of newspaper article, and they agree that after ten years of marriage, they’re a truly happy couple. The husband, Johan, is most sure: He is successful in his work, in love with his wife, the father of two daughters, liked by his friends, considered on all sides to be a decent chap. His wife, Marianne, listens more tentatively. When it is her turn, she says she is happy, too, although in her work she would like to move in the direction of–but then she’s interrupted for a photograph. We are never quite sure what she might have said, had she been allowed to speak as long as her husband. And, truth to tell, he doesn’t seem to care much himself. Although theirs is, of course, a perfect marriage. And so begins one of the truest, most luminous love stories ever made, Ingmar Bergman’s “Scenes from a Marriage.” Roger Ebert
Written (in Swedish, with English subtitles), produced, and directed by Ingmar Bergman; cinematographer, Sven Nykvist; edited by Siv Lundgren; art designer, Bjšrn Thulin; released by Cinema V. Running time: 168 minutes.
With: Liv Ullmann (Marianne), Erland Josephson (Johan).