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A moving portrait of disaster, growth, and limits,
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This review is from: Scenes From A Marriage [DVD]  (DVD)
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.