10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 17 November 2007
Like Beethoven in his piano sonatas, the genius of Bergman builds an extremely impressive whole out of many small and seemingly simple elements.
At the surface level, the film is about a marriage between Marianne and Johan (played superbly by Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson). At a deeper level, the film is an honest insight into the human condition, with all its complexities (physical and metaphysical) including despair, joy, self-deception, self-obsession, cruelty, etc. Bergman's understanding of the human condition is on a par with that of the German-Swiss novelist Hermann Hesse.
The director relies primarily on the rich dialogs between the two main characters, as well as the intimate, emotion-capturing close-ups, to develop and convey his story. Scandinavian minimalist simplicity that pervades this film is an excellent choice, as it allows us to focus on the substance. The master cinematographer Sven Nykvist, as one would expect, did not disappoint us.
Bergman takes his time to fully develop the two main characters. This comes at a "cost" in terms of the length of this film. I am more than happy to bear that cost. All great masters know that it simply takes time to develop a character. This is true for films, novels, or even operas (Mozart and his use of operatic arias comes to mind).
This film reminds us that no one is perfect and no marriage is perfect either. A marriage can fail even when the two people give their best, let alone when they don't. We are also reminded that freeing ourselves from the imperfections of a marriage, our own personal imperfections and shortcoming will not, of course, just disappear. To be married (or not) becomes almost immaterial. Most of the time, we are, in essence, alone in this world (even when surrounded with other people, including family members).
I personally prefer the 5-hour TV version. I cannot find a single reason why I would want to deprive myself of the two hours that were cut from the theatrical version.
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on 5 March 2000
If you have the stomach for two and half-hours of traumatic relationship strive, then Bergman's "scenes form a marriage" is utterly rewarding as well as profoundly thought provoking. The slow decline and eventual meaningful and realistic conclusion of a relationship between a man and women who come to both realise the complexity of life and the intensity of other people's existence is a philosophical wonder that to date I have seen only in the work of Bergman. Woody Alan may have successfully presented Bergman's subject matter in a more jovial manner, but if you want life in all its horror, pain, bliss and uncertainty then you will find "scenes form a marriage" a step into the real world. This film is not escapism; it is about as close as you will get to someone else's "real".
I strongly recommend this film. It has a great deal to say about how we treat each other as lovers, friends, enemies, mothers, fathers and in sum as distant people not ourselves. The end whilst not romantic, has a poignancy and tenderness that may make you cry in concurring with the fragility and finiteness of life.
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on 17 January 2005
The synopsis given above will give you all the details you need about the story. The only reason for giving this film 4 instead of five stars is that watching this after having learned Swedish I find the translation a bit watered down. The great scene early on in the film where the guest couple have a very public and quite bitter needling match is under-translated. With a smiling face the husband tells his wife that they shouldn't be airing their dirty laundry in public the translation and says " we shouldn't create any emotional stains..." when what he really says is "we shouldn't create any emotional specks of shit". This kind of sanitation really tones down the pithy hurtfulness of this scene and the subtitling deserves a more enlightened and liberal translation.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 17 April 2006
Scenes from a Marriage is a moving portrayal of the degeneration of a relationship. We see a series of episodes involving the husband and wife (played by Erlend Josephson and Liv Ullmann) separated by periods of a few months or a few years, that chart the breaking up of the relationship. We move from apparent married bliss, through drifting apart, the revelation of infidelity, separation and divorce to a kind of reconciliation. The writing, acting and direction are, as you would expect, outstanding. Scenes from a Marriage is a brilliant film from a master filmmaker of 30 years' experience in the last phase of his career. (If you enjoy this, check out Bergman's last film Saraband, which comes back to the same couple 30 years on.)
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This is one of those great works of art that one should see at different stages of life. As a youth, this appeared as the most depressing failure and dependency, though I seem to recall that I was thrilled by my reaction, that once again Bergman "got to" me. Now, almost 30 years later, I see it in a completely different way: from a busy facade of marriage, splitting up was not necessarily a failure, but one gateway to becoming very different, in many ways more mature, people, yet with the same core - and they still knew that spark of love. Instead of depressing, I saw it as a beautiful kind of renewal, with all the negatives and suffering that comes from entering middle age. Either way, it is an amazing film journey, with many possible interpretations.
This is my current perception. Starting from a stiff and insipid interview, we see the 2 characters. Johan is something of a narcissist, an over-achiever but burdened with insecurity and need. Marianne is a maintainer of artifice, trying to keep them on track and refusing to see warning signs. They live in a web of obligation and busyness, so choreographed by their parents that they are under-developed as people. One of the most frightening scenes - the kind that make you remember childhood fears when your parents argued - is a horrible battle between married guests in their home, where their hatred for each other is scorching and irredeemably destructive. Their attempt to keep up appearances is as heroic as it is stifling. Of course, it can't last.
Once they separate, they begin to learn about who they are, to the extent that they can introspect. Both of them go through stages of pain, selfishness, anger, frustration, and realization, switching roles as to who is the more sympathetic or errant. All I can say is, it is a dazzling panorama of life, yet the production is extremely spare, only 2 people talking for the most part. I was once again astonished at the realism, the struggle, and the ambiguity of their redemption, if indeed there was one.
This is one of Bergman's greatest masterpieces, truly a must for all collectors. I will continue to watch this periodically for the rest of my life. The picture is a bit grainy. Recommended with the greatest enthusiasm.
This Criterion release contains both the original 6 part TV mini series, and the almost 100 minute shorter theatrical version.
In either guise, this is an amazing exploration of the decline and fall of a marriage, and the change, regressions and
growth of the two people in it. While a few other characters appear briefly, this is almost entirely a 2 actor piece, taking
place in small rooms, shot mostly in close ups. Brutally honest about its characters' considerable shortcomings, it also
extends to them a generosity and grace.
The two central performances by Liv Ullman and Erland Josephson are uncompromising and uncompromised, completely
honest and truthful, as if we were eavesdropping on a real couple. Astonishing work by both.
It's also an interesting portrait of a social moment - the early 70s - when women were finding their voice as equal partners
in marriage and society through the women's liberation movement. The piece feels dated, but only in an interesting way as
a look back, and yet seems to have paradoxically lost none of it's relevance. Styles and social customs may evolve, different
countries may deal with sex or affairs with somewhat different attitudes, but the desperately complex mix of needs, wants,
hurts, resentments and true love that make up a marriage seem to transcend time and place.
A very few moments feels forced or untrue, and another very few feel extraneous, but this is a remarkable film.
It also ushers in a new phase in Bergman's career, as the ever evolving artist moves into a kind of simple, naturalistic reality
that marked much of the work from this point on in his career. Gone are the heavy (if often tremendously effective) symbols
and surrealistic touches. This is life; raw, painful, rich and uncompromised.
I'm in the minority in that, for me the shortened feature version doesn't lose much in comparison to the 100 minute longer
TV mini-series it was edited from. While some interesting details that helped flesh out the story were gone, there is also a
laser like focus and heightened intensity that's been gained. For me it's a toss up. They're both great, landmark pieces of
film-making and acting, with slightly different strengths and weaknesses, but similar total effect.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 June 2010
One of the greatest works on this subject. If you can sit and concentrate on the dialogue through this film you will understand what most marriages are about. If you went through somewhat similar situation in your relationship you will appreciate even more this fantastic masterpiece.
on 7 January 2014
Scenes From a Marriage is quite possibly Bergman's most accessible film, dealing with two ordinary, relatively non-tortured protagonists, brilliantly filmed and acted. The only objection is that it was trimmed by just about two hours from the original six-part series as shown on Swedish television and subsequently around the world. Fortunately that version is available from The Criterion Collection and can be ordered here on Amazon UK. You will need to be able to play a Region 1 (North America) DVD. I cannot recommend this masterpiece too highly. It can be appreciated in the theatrical version, which runs just under three hours, but is best seen as a TV series of six 50-minute hours.
on 25 December 2014
A realistic and, at times, distressing portrayal of a marriage coming apart. The acting of the husband and wife - by Erland Josephsson and Liv Ullmann - throughout this relatively long film never ceases to be utterly convincing and of the highest order.This film must reflect the marital traumata and outcome of so many relationships in the real world; perhaps Bergman's own marital saga helped him to achieve the realism of this film.
on 28 October 2011
The more I watch this director's films and similar films the more I realise that they were experiencing the same issues that I see all around me. Sometimes I feel that I have discovered something totally new and then I watch a film, read some literature, etc and come to the conclusion that nothing is new. Just nobody is bothering to write a decent manual about life.....