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Scenes From a Marriage (1973)


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I want to see this, along with ever other Bergman ever made, this year, but I don't know which version would be the better choice. If Fanny and Alexander sets something of a Bergman standard, I would go with the longer version, which I believe is what Criterion is referring to as the TV version. Same thing for Scenes From a Marriage? Has anyone seen this, or does anyone have some insight as to which version should be in my queue?

-s.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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I saw the theatrical version, but I wish I'd seen the TV one, which I've already added to my queue. The disc I got from Netflix had a featurette comparing the two versions. From what I saw, there was at least one scene cut from the TV version that seemed VERY crucial to me. If that was cut, well, who knows what else was missing from the one I saw?!

Sorry I can't offer more advice, but the general understanding I got from that featurette was that Bergman's TV versions are always better.

I'd love to hear from others who have seen both versions.

Edited by Diane
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  • 3 months later...

Seen it. The five-hour TV version, that is. Except I saw it on the big screen. But the theatre was projecting the Criterion DVD. I am so confused.

And this mini-series is so rigidly structured around its six parts that I can't imagine trying to compress it to something like half its length, as though it were a regular theatrical movie.

Diane wrote:

: Anyway, I'll sum up the general feel of the film thus: All marriages will eventually burn

: out. . . . There's a sense of loss, of missing something great, of a desire to reconnect

: as a family, but there's also a sense that marriage will never really work.

Yup, that's about the sense I get from it, too.

: The feature on the DVD mentioned how much Woody Allen loves Scenes from a

: Marriage. Supposed to be quite influential, I believe....

I could totally see that. In fact, when the friends start fighting in the first episode, I found myself wondering if this had inspired the Sydney Pollack - Judy Davis relationship in Husbands and Wives (1992).

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I'm in trouble. Saraband is going to be here in a few weeks, and I have too much on my table to commit to Scenes From a Marriage on DVD... Why oh why aren't there 34 hours in a day?

-s.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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I would love to get to this as well but I am still trying to fit in Franny... I have been a a Bergman binge lately (Cries and Whispers, Persona, The Passion of Anna) so maybe I will rearrange my order and go with Scene From a Marriage. This way I may get the chance to participate. We'll see.

...the kind of film criticism we do. We are talking about life, and more than that the possibility of abundant life." -M.Leary

"Dad, how does she move in mysterious ways?"" -- Jude (my 5-year-old, after listening to Mysterious Ways)

[once upon a time known here as asher]

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FWIW, my first impressions of Saraband...

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 2 weeks later...

A few thoughts...

Scenes from a Marriage chronicles the marriage of Johan (Erland Josephson) and Marianne (Liv Ullman), a couple happily married for ten years that sees their marriage disintegrate over the next decade. Over the course of the nearly six-hour miniseries, Bergman peels away the layers of this couple until we see them for who they are

All great art is pared down to the essential.
--Henri Langlois

 

Movies are not barium enemas, you're not supposed to get them over with as quickly as possible.

--James Gray

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Cool, John! Thanks for posting that. You've got me pumped for it. If Netflix had send me what was at the top of my queue, I'd be watching it this weekend. Instead it was Autumn Sonata, and still to be seen, Shame and Winter Light.

At least it's been a Bergman weekend. Nothing wrong with that at all.

-s.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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Cool, John!  Thanks for posting that.  You've got me pumped for it.  If Netflix had send me what was at the top of my queue, I'd be watching it this weekend.  Instead it was Autumn Sonata, and still to be seen, Shame and Winter Light

At least it's been a Bergman weekend.  Nothing wrong with that at all.

-s.

Ooh, Stef, Winter Light might be my favorite Bergman - let us know your thoughts when you see it. As for Scenes, are you getting the long, TV version? That's what I watched, over the last several days. We have a fairly new baby as well, and the 50-minute episodes made for nice viewing between crying fits.

Which reminds me. Was it Diane who saw both versions, and said there was a key scene missing from the shorter, theatrical version? If anyone knows what that missing scene was, I'd be interested.

All great art is pared down to the essential.
--Henri Langlois

 

Movies are not barium enemas, you're not supposed to get them over with as quickly as possible.

--James Gray

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John wrote:

: Neither of them were even pursuing the ideal, but had instead given up on it for

: something lesser. Yet even still, with maybe a supreme act of grace, they end up

: declaring their imperfect love for each other. This is a film about the terrifying death

: of a marriage, and its rebirth as something new and different.

Care to flesh out this "supreme act of grace"? All I saw was characters (and perhaps Bergman himself) making excuses for themselves.

I am also tempted to remark that sometimes being reborn as "something new and different" ain't exactly good. Exhibit A: zombies.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Care to flesh out this "supreme act of grace"?  All I saw was characters (and perhaps Bergman himself) making excuses for themselves.

I am also tempted to remark that sometimes being reborn as "something new and different" ain't exactly good.  Exhibit A: zombies.

I would agree that for the bulk of the film, these characters make excuse after excuse for why they are how they are. But I think that about halfway, Marianne, and then later, Johan, both move toward something more grounded in reality. They (and we) really begin to see themselves for who they are, warts and all. And yet they still end up acknowledging their love for one another, imperfect as it is. It is in that declaration and acknowledgment that I think they find a peace that they have not yet had.

And I would not argue that everything is as I would like to see it at the end of the film for these characters. The new and different has some good and some not so good. The institution of marriage takes a pretty hard hit in the film, and I'm certainly not interested in discarding it. I was alluding to this a bit when I wrote above that Bergman's answers are not always wholly satisfying to me. This ending follows that pattern, yet I still see some beauty there. I still admire the declaration they make, limited as it might be.

All great art is pared down to the essential.
--Henri Langlois

 

Movies are not barium enemas, you're not supposed to get them over with as quickly as possible.

--James Gray

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Which reminds me. Was it Diane who saw both versions, and said there was a key scene missing from the shorter, theatrical version? If anyone knows what that missing scene was, I'd be interested.

Well, I've seen all of the theatrical and about half of the TV version.

The scenes involving Marianne's pregnancy and subsequent abortion

are not in the theatrical version. HUGE omission, IMO.

Edited by Diane
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Which reminds me. Was it Diane who saw both versions, and said there was a key scene missing from the shorter, theatrical version? If anyone knows what that missing scene was, I'd be interested.

Well, I've seen all of the theatrical and about half of the TV version.

The scenes involving Marianne's pregnancy and subsequent abortion

are not in the theatrical version. HUGE omission, IMO.

Yikes, that is a big one. Thanks for letting me know.

All great art is pared down to the essential.
--Henri Langlois

 

Movies are not barium enemas, you're not supposed to get them over with as quickly as possible.

--James Gray

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John wrote:

: And yet they still end up acknowledging their love for one another, imperfect as it is. It

: is in that declaration and acknowledgment that I think they find a peace that they have

: not yet had.

The peace of death, perhaps. "Since I gave up hope I feel a lot better," and all that.

I am not particularly impressed that they still have feelings for each other. As I say in my blog post (linked above):

While Johan is out of the room, the female journalist asks Marianne to define "love", and Marianne hesitantly says something to the effect that I Corinthians 13 offers a good definition, but it casts human beings in such a "harsh light" because very few of us can live up to its ideals. This sets the stage for the film's frequent references to the "guilt" that Marianne and Johan feel over their mercurial relationship; a scripture passage that many people have found moving, transforming and liberating represents, in this film, just one more thing for people to feel judged by.

At the very end of the film, in the very last scene, Johan tries to assure Marianne: "We love each other in an earthly and imperfect way." It is not clear whether he really believes this, or whether he is being calming and soothing just for the sake of it, as he has been before; but, given the many infidelities and betrayals that have taken place over the course of this film -- indeed, this very scene takes place years after Johan and Marianne have divorced, when they are cheating on their new spouses with each other -- I don't think it would be entirely off-base to read this line as a sort of justification for the characters' behaviour, especially since it comes from the character who gave up on the marriage first. God is dead, and perfection is impossible, so why even bother.

Note the character's use of the word "earthly" there -- not merely "imperfect", in the sense that none of us are perfect, but, rather, "earthly", in the sense of we are bound to this flesh and this existence and there's no point in becoming illumined with heaven's light, as it were.

And then, FWIW, I go on to say:

. . . it seems we are supposed to think they become a better, more honest couple once they are cheating on their new spouses with each other than they were when they were actually married to one another.

This impression is reinforced by the dramatic structure of the film, which consists almost entirely of scenes featuring just these two characters. There are a few supporting characters in the first and last episodes, and the characters frequently refer to their daughters and other partners, etc.; but the film's attention, as a whole, stays absolutely fixed on these two people. The film is invested in them, and thus so are we; and so we want to think that their affair in the final episode is a good thing, even though, if we were one of the spouses that they are now cheating on, we would probably think the affair was a bad thing. It is kind of like how
You've Got Mail
,
Next Stop Wonderland
and similar romantic comedies have conditioned us to accept that the stars of the film
must
get together, and therefore the people they are with at the beginning of the film
must
be dumped somewhere along the way, simply because the
form
of these films
demands
that certain characters must get together and stay together.

I am not saying that Bergman believes these two characters are "destined" to be together, or anything so trite as that. But I do think his nearly exclusive focus on them prejudices our response to them; we are almost never allowed even a glimpse into the lives of their other partners or other spouses, and so we don't particularly care about those people. We are missing the broader context in which the relationship of Johan and Marianne is being played out. It's a little like watching
The Decline of the American Empire
or its sequel [
The Barbarian Invasions
], but without the sense of community that those characters inhabit -- a sense of community that prevents us from taking any one character's side without reservation.

Diane wrote:

:

The scenes involving Marianne's pregnancy and subsequent abortion

are not in the

: theatrical version. HUGE omission, IMO.

Wow! No kidding. That's kind of where we first get our inklings that this marriage is going downhill, isn't it?

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Thanks for your thoughts, Peter. A couple of my own...

At the very end of the film, in the very last scene, Johan tries to assure Marianne: "We love each other in an earthly and imperfect way." It is not clear whether he really believes this, or whether he is being calming and soothing just for the sake of it, as he has been before;

This is a helpful way to put this. It raisies the ambiguity in those final moments. I am not sure there's any way to know for sure which way to take them though, for we don't have the benefit of seeing them beyond this moment in the cabin to know if they were genuine sentiments and they had actually changed.

Note the character's use of the word "earthly" there -- not merely "imperfect", in the sense that none of us are perfect, but, rather, "earthly", in the sense of we are bound to this flesh and this existence and there's no point in becoming illumined with heaven's light, as it were.

This is a good point - though I'm not ready to take it quite that far. Let me think on it a bit.

And then, FWIW, I go on to say. . . it seems we are supposed to think they become a better, more honest couple once they are cheating on their new spouses with each other than they were when they were actually married to one another.

This is a little too one-sided for me. I'd rather say that we have a bit more interpretive leeway here to say that yes they have made improvements, but they have also made a grave error, either in the nature of the relationship now or in their splitting up at all.

It seems that in a sense, we can see them as a better couple, if we can believe that they've truly made changes. I think we have more reason to believe Marianne has accomplished that, than Johan. I think of the scene with Marianne and her mother, where she says she will not be an the interment. This is a genuine contrast from the weakness she shows at the beginning of the film when trying to get out of Sunday dinner.

This impression is reinforced by the dramatic structure of the film, which consists almost entirely of scenes featuring just these two characters. There are a few supporting characters in the first and last episodes, and the characters frequently refer to their daughters and other partners, etc.; but the film's attention, as a whole, stays absolutely fixed on these two people. The film is invested in them, and thus so are we; and so we want to think that their affair in the final episode is a good thing, even though, if we were one of the spouses that they are now cheating on, we would probably think the affair was a bad thing.

I guess I would suggest here that maybe Bergman is saying something about the nature of marriage, something I think is right - namely that when two people are married, there is a kind of connection that keeps them bound in ways beyond legal formalities. There are deep-rooted physical and emotional ties between these two characters. Maybe Bergman has stacked the deck, but if he has, it serves to make a truthful claim.

All great art is pared down to the essential.
--Henri Langlois

 

Movies are not barium enemas, you're not supposed to get them over with as quickly as possible.

--James Gray

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John wrote:

: . . . we don't have the benefit of seeing them beyond this moment in the cabin to

: know if they were genuine sentiments and they had actually changed.

Just wondering, have you seen Saraband? Or do you think we should factor that film and what it reveals about their subsequent relationship (not that there was one) into our interpretation of this film in any way?

: : Note the character's use of the word "earthly" there -- not merely "imperfect", in

: : the sense that none of us are perfect, but, rather, "earthly", in the sense of we

: : are bound to this flesh and this existence and there's no point in becoming

: : illumined with heaven's light, as it were.

:

: This is a good point - though I'm not ready to take it quite that far. Let me think on

: it a bit.

Incidentally, one of the things I like about Saraband is that at least one of the characters DOES seem to be coming into touch with some sort of heavenly illumination. At any rate, that certainly seems like one possible interpretation of a certain key scene there.

(And another thing I like about Saraband is that its own formal structure, while similar to the format of Scenes from a Marriage, actually breaks free of the exclusive focus on Johan and Mariann, by focusing on a couple of other characters and allowing them to have their own existence, as well.)

: It seems that in a sense, we can see them as a better couple, if we can believe that

: they've truly made changes.

Perhaps, though I'm not so sure that we should go on thinking of them as a "couple" in the first place. Divorce means something. Their subsequent marriages mean something. But the film never lets us even meet these other partners, and so we are allowed to react to these two characters as though those other marriages didn't really mean anything at all.

: I think we have more reason to believe Marianne has accomplished that, than

: Johan. I think of the scene with Marianne and her mother, where she says she will

: not be an the interment. This is a genuine contrast from the weakness she shows at

: the beginning of the film when trying to get out of Sunday dinner.

[ nod ] As far as that goes, sure.

: I guess I would suggest here that maybe Bergman is saying something about the

: nature of marriage, something I think is right - namely that when two people are

: married, there is a kind of connection that keeps them bound in ways beyond legal

: formalities.

Perhaps, but if that is truly what he is saying, then he should be looking at their former and subsequent spouses, too.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Haven't seen Saraband yet, but want to very much. It's been playing here for a week and a half, but the wife and I haven't been able to get to it yet.

In terms of including what happens in the latter film in our interpretation of the first, I think it's a tricky issue. I would think there needs to be some connection, seeing as it is an actual continuation of the story. However, I'd like to think they can stand on their own as well.

I'm reminded here of Before Sunrise/Sunset. I'm not comfortable in either case just combining them and treating them as one long film, but I don't think it's out of bounds to allow one to inform the other to some degree. This strikes me as a difficult topic, maybe one worthy of its own thread.

Perhaps, though I'm not so sure that we should go on thinking of them as a "couple" in the first place.

I'll grant this point. Substitute "people" and I think my point still stands.

All great art is pared down to the essential.
--Henri Langlois

 

Movies are not barium enemas, you're not supposed to get them over with as quickly as possible.

--James Gray

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