229 Scenes from a Marriage

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Martha
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229 Scenes from a Marriage

#1 Post by Martha » Sat Feb 12, 2005 9:45 pm

Scenes from a Marriage

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Scenes from a Marriage chronicles the many years of love and turmoil that bind Marianne and Johan, tracking their relationship through matrimony, infidelity, divorce, and subsequent partnerships. Originally conceived by director Ingmar Bergman as a five-hour, six-part television miniseries, the film is also presented in its three-hour theatrical cut. Shot largely in intense, intimate close-ups by cinematographer Sven Nykvist and featuring flawless performances by Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson, Bergman's emotional X-ray reveals the deep joys and pains of a complex bond.

SPECIAL FEATURES

• High-definition digital transfers of both the television version and the U.S. theatrical version of the film, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-ray
• Interview with director Ingmar Bergman from 1986
• Interviews from 2003 with actors Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson
• Interview from 2003 with Bergman scholar Peter Cowie comparing the two versions of Scenes from a Marriage
• PLUS: An essay by author Phillip Lopate

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#2 Post by Lino » Mon Feb 14, 2005 8:54 am

Hope you enjoy reading this:
The Charge

Johan and Marianne have been happily married for ten years. Johan is an associate professor, and Marianne is a lawyer specializing in family law. They lead a comfortable life with their two daughters.

Opening Statement

After 1972's Cries and Whispers, Ingmar Bergman teamed with two of that film's stars, Liv Ullman and Erland Josephson, for a six-part television miniseries called Scenes from a Marriage (Scener ur ett �ktenskap). When the show was a massive hit in Scandinavia, Bergman cut it down to just under three hours for a theatrical release in international arthouses, where it was equally acclaimed.

The full Swedish television version of Scenes has never before been available in the U.S. home video market, but the Criterion Collection has remedied that with this dazzling three-disc set. The miniseries is spread across Discs One and Two, while the theatrical cut is offered on Disc Three. And there are a few extras to boot. Now that's what I call definitive.

The Evidence

Scenes from a Marriage is about entropy in a relationship whose passion has been replaced by propriety. The film opens with Johan and Marianne being interviewed for a magazine article about their perfect marriage. They're a comfortably bourgeois power couple, educated professionals with two children and ample material possessions. To the world outside, they appear to have it all, but as the tale unfolds, we begin to realize they're going through the motions, living without intent.

Essentially a chamber play, the film offers only a handful of characters in addition to the couple. Even the couple's daughters disappear after a brief, non-speaking appearance at the beginning of the first episode; their further presence is only felt when Johan and Marianne speak about them. As a matter of fact, the only secondary roles that have much dramatic impact are superlative turns by Bibi Andersson (Persona, Wild Strawberries) and Jan Malmsj� (Fanny and Alexander), as a couple whose rapidly disintegrating marriage and cruelty toward one another foreshadow the fate of the leads. In half of the series' episodes, Johan and Marianne are the only characters on screen, though their discussions about friends, family, and lovers make the piece feel more expansive than it actually is. On top of all that, the couple's compassion and cruelty toward one another, their fight for control of the relationship, and acceptance that such control is impossible, unfurl with little in the way of histrionics. One might assume a five-hour telefilm with such dark and wrenching subject-matter, comprised almost entirely of intimate conversations between two characters, with only punctuations of high emotion, would tax an audience's patience, but Bergman's tale is strangely mesmerizing.

But for the delicacy of Bergman's screenplay and Ullman's and Josephson's impressive handling of dense and challenging material, the film could easily have slid into the worst sort of pretension. As it is, we're told far more than shown�the couple, for instance, discusses their respective lovers, but we never see them�and much of the dialogue is abstract and hyper-intellectual considering the emotional nature of the situation. I normally hate pieces in which characters explain their own psychologies, a device that's usually the sign of a hack screenwriter. In the case of Scenes, though, Bergman deftly mixes banal but highly mimetic dialogue about, say, beer and sandwiches, or the encroaching paunchiness of middle age, with intricate discussions of intimacy, sex, fidelity, money, career, lost potential, filial obligation, and propriety. The result is a film whose philosophical exploration has a solid foundation in mundane realism. Scandinavians fell in love with the miniseries because Bergman seemed finally to be delivering characters who were average people, a couple to whom they could relate. In truth, the film is no less metaphysical than The Seventh Seal. The addition of middle-class banality creates the illusion that Scenes is a straightforward television drama, but it also radically intersects with the film's thematic substance. The boring details of day-to-day life are the very things that have numbed Johan and Marianne to the predicament of their passionless marriage.

The film's heady passages are often delivered with a cold honesty that plays as artificial on the one hand, but also cruel in that surgically-precise way that only longtime intimates are capable of. And it's that very combination that proves so effective in selling the writing�one gets caught up in the episodes as if they're soap-opera melodrama, though they're not. Bergman's work is known for emotional restraint, and Scenes from a Marriage is no exception, but there's an underlying emotion in Ullman's and Josephson's performances that is powerful and evocative. For instance, when Johan first confesses he's taken a lover�a revelation that comes as a complete surprise to Marianne and the viewing audience�Marianne's initial reaction is so stoically detached it's unsettling. The couple's rational discussion of the affair and its consequences is bizarre on the one hand, but is also realistic because Ullman exudes the firmly controlled hysteria of a spouse in shock, and Josephson's utter honesty is clearly being wielded, at least in part, as a weapon against his spouse. Bergman's payoff is that when Marianne's histrionics finally begin at the end of the episode, they're not in direct response to her husband's affair but to the revelation that all of their friends knew about it long before she did.

Sven Nykvist's cinematography sports the unflinching close-ups that exemplify most of his work with Bergman in the 1960s and '70s (Persona, Shame, The Passion of Anna, Cries and Whispers), and maximizes Ullman's and Josephson's skill in speaking with their eyes and faces. Since it was produced for television, Scenes from a Marriage was shot on 16mm, and Criterion's DVD transfer has the coarse-grained look inherent in the small film stock. According to the detailed liner notes, the transfer began with the original negative, and the image was spruced up digitally. Colors are well reproduced, fleshtones are accurate, and blacks are fully saturated for the most part. While the image lacks the detail of 35mm, it stands head-and-shoulders above video sources, and is a wonder when one considers the film was made for television broadcast more than 30 years ago. This assessment can be applied to both cuts of the film, by the way. One need not worry that the shorter theatrical cut has received less attention.

As one can imagine, the audio track for Scenes from a Marriage is uncomplicated since it's a dialogue-driven piece. The DVD presents a restored one-channel mono track that leaves nothing to complain about.

Supplements on the three-disc set are sparse, but that's all right�Scenes from a Marriage is a film about which too much can be said. Because it's a character-driven film about the texture of human intimacy, all the analysis in the world can't do it justice. It's best experienced subjectively. Each of the discs in the set does have an interview segment, however, and they're all excellent. Disc One has a segment with Ingmar Bergman, dating back to 1986. In it, the director mainly ruminates on the enormous popularity of the film in Scandinavia, but he also talks about Johan and Marianne as complex characters. Disc Two has an interview with Liv Ullman and Erland Josephson, produced by the Criterion Collection specifically for this DVD release. The actors were interviewed separately�Ullman in English, and Josephson in Swedish�and their thoughts are arranged thematically, juxtaposing their answers to similar questions. Each talks about Bergman's directorial style; the script and how little was improvised (a shock considering the naturalism of their performances); the brief shooting time; the characters; and the film's success. Finally, Disc Three contains an interview with Peter Cowie, author of Ingmar Bergman: A Critical Biography and Swedish Cinema, from Ingeborg Holm to Fanny and Alexander. Cowie discusses Scenes from a Marriage's place in Bergman's cyclical career, as well as offering a detailed, episode-by-episode analysis of the differences between the 299-minute television cut and the 169-minute theatrical cut. The Bergman and Cowie interviews run approximately 15 minutes each, while the Ullman/Josephson piece clocks in at 25 minutes.

In addition to the interviews, writer and film scholar Phillip Lopate (Totally, Tenderly, Tragically) provides a concise but informative essay for the liner notes.

Closing Statement

If you're a fan of the theatrical version of Scenes from a Marriage who has never had the opportunity to see the television version, this DVD is a must-own. Bergman's deeply intimate portrait of a disintegrating relationship is even richer and more satisfying in the longer telling.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

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#3 Post by Narshty » Mon Feb 14, 2005 9:11 am

So you're Mike Pinsky?

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#4 Post by Lino » Mon Feb 14, 2005 10:09 am

No. I guess I should have added "...as much as I did".

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#5 Post by cdnchris » Wed Apr 13, 2005 7:52 pm

I debated on which to watch first, the theatrical or the TV version, and opted for the TV version. I then figured I could maybe watch one episode a night and have it play like it did on TV, giving a 24 hour spacing between each viewing.

Well, I just flew right through the first disc and the only thing that stopped me from putting in the second disc in (well, I did throw it in but stopped it 30 seconds into the next episode) was I really had to get work done and should have started an hour and a half ago (of course now I'm typing this up instead because what I have to do is such a tedious bore)

I can't believe I put off viewing this for so long. I heard about it many years ago from reading stuff about Woody Allen, and while the premise fascinated me, I have to admit at that age watching a foreign movie was not appealing. Since I started getting into them I've actually meant to pick this up but could never find it, and the one time I did I didn't for whatever reason. I'm glad I put it off for so long, though, as something tells me I wouldn't have found it so thrilling then.

This movie/show is so incredibly intense, so real (it's like a documentary) and brutally honest. I was caught up in it like my wife with a soap opera, I was sitting there in my sweat pants and T-shirt with a bowl of ice cream (all I needed was the bag of bonne bonnes) and glued to my TV.

While the acting is just incredible, I think it's the camera work. It just gets right up in there on them and you can't escape, and it's even harder when you can see the emotion more clearly on their face. When Marianne finds out that her maid knew about Johan and Paula, I was fairly crushed. I was then nearly destroyed when she found out her friends knew about Johan and Paula, and I think it was all because of the camera work capturing everything (and Ullman giving an incredible performance of course.)

It's funny, I guess the show is kinda "soap operaish", except just more plausible. I can't stand that stuff (and I only started coming around to melodramas somewhat) but this was just so "real", it captivated me and I forgot about the fact that the scenes were all incredibly long (I think the whole third episode just about took place in that cottage bedroom) and I was just sucked in. I guess it was because I could relate. And I mean not in a way like my wife and I are going through something similar. I love her to death, and I'm sure she loves me (she hasn't gone crying back to warm California from cold miserable here, so that must mean something), but then I start thinking what will it be like in a few years? Will we sill feel that way? Will her little quirks drive me up the wall? Will mine drive her up the wall? Will we no longer be really intimate in any way? Will we drift and become bored? How could I stop that from happening? How could I keep things going? Will someone come between us? If she finds someone else how would I handle it? And so on, and so forth. Just watching those three episodes got me thinking hard.

I still have 3 episodes to get through and I probably posted too quick, but this is so far probably my favourite Bergman. I'll watch the film version afterwards, though it will probably be more out of curiosity to see how it was cut down and what was lost. I'm glad I waited, though, as the TV version is just one of the more involving and intense things I've watched lately.

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#6 Post by Lino » Thu Apr 14, 2005 4:31 am

cdnchris wrote: but then I start thinking what will it be like in a few years? Will we sill feel that way? Will her little quirks drive me up the wall? Will mine drive her up the wall? Will we no longer be really intimate in any way? Will we drift and become bored? How could I stop that from happening? How could I keep things going? Will someone come between us? If she finds someone else how would I handle it? And so on, and so forth. Just watching those three episodes got me thinking hard.
This is the reason why there was an increase in divorces in Sweden following the release of the series on TV. People started thinking and most importantly, talking with each other. Now, I'm not saying this will happen to you or am in any way wishing for that to happen, mind. I'm not that evil. But it just goes to show the incredible power of this work. I agree with every word you've writen.

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#7 Post by nyasa » Fri Feb 17, 2006 12:31 pm

At the risk of being uber-nerdish, I've been watching the Tartan version of this for the second time and noticed what seemed to be juddering cuts at, precisely, 01:12:40 and 01:17:42.

The first comes during the scene in which Marianne and Johan are in their bedroom talking about his affair. On viewing it in slo-mo, there's a single frame of Johan sitting down sandwiched between a cut from Marianne in bed to Johan standing by the bedroom door.

The second is a frame of Marianne packing a suitcase between a scene in the bathroom and one in the kitchen.

Are they in the Criterion theatrical version? (The timing will of course be different due to the PAL speed-up)

Are they deliberate subliminal images (the 'sequel', Saraband, which I haven't seen yet, apparently contains a subliminal attempted suicide), or just a bad edits?

Greathinker

#8 Post by Greathinker » Wed Mar 08, 2006 12:25 pm

I just recently rented this and I have one episode left on the TV version-- I can't imagine how bergman managed to cut it down for a theatrical cut, i'll have to look at that some time. But what an incredible piece of work, is this not one of the greatest character studies ever put to film? I can't remember the last time I felt so engaged while watching two people talk. I know there are other merits but it makes me lament the state of current television and films, which seem to be so completely lacking after a viewing like this; it makes me remember how impactful the medium can be.

I'd be careful not to call this a soap opera, Bergman has something to say and he's doing it honestly, which is the complete opposite of what soap operas do. I know all of this has been said already but i'm still in awe, I can't wait to check out Saraband afterwards.

I also love how the show ends, "let me show you my sweet island while I give you the credits"

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#9 Post by denti alligator » Wed Mar 08, 2006 2:11 pm

but then I start thinking what will it be like in a few years? Will we sill feel that way? Will her little quirks drive me up the wall? Will mine drive her up the wall? Will we no longer be really intimate in any way? Will we drift and become bored? How could I stop that from happening? How could I keep things going? Will someone come between us? If she finds someone else how would I handle it? And so on, and so forth.
How long have you been married? I would say these things (some if not all) are inevitable (though they need not be fatal to marriage). Just my OT personal two cents...

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#10 Post by cdnchris » Wed Mar 08, 2006 5:40 pm

denti alligator wrote:
but then I start thinking what will it be like in a few years? Will we sill feel that way? Will her little quirks drive me up the wall? Will mine drive her up the wall? Will we no longer be really intimate in any way? Will we drift and become bored? How could I stop that from happening? How could I keep things going? Will someone come between us? If she finds someone else how would I handle it? And so on, and so forth.
How long have you been married?
I would say these things (some if not all) are inevitable (though they need not be fatal to marriage). Just my OT personal two cents...
I've been married three years about, and I know these things happen (I wasn't completely naive going in). But watching the movie/series really only made me confront those things, which I really just tried to ignore.

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#11 Post by solent » Thu Jul 20, 2006 9:43 pm

Forgive this nitpick but can someone confirm whether, in scene 4, the second phonecall from Marianne's boyfriend - after she reads from her diary & wakes Johan up - is left in the UK cut of the theatrical version? I seem to recall it being in my Tartan VHS but I no longer have this so I can't confirm. The film version on this US release has no phonecalls at all. [This is the phonecall when she splits up with her unfortunate (and rightly jealous) boyfriend David.]

I know this is a minor point but I need to know if my memory is playing me up or not.

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#12 Post by exte » Mon Jul 02, 2007 9:47 pm

I was thinking about this film for a few days and didn't know how to respond, but I think I've found a way: I was watching this BBC interview with Martin Scorsese, and he says something interesting that I think hits directly at what I found so fascinating and moving about Scenes From a Marriage (he says it in regards to Italian American, his short film about his parents):
Martin Scorsese wrote:"I began to realize it's really character - I like character driven films. And they reveal a lot about their character in the movie. The camera records them, and doesn't intrude. And I found that was interesting, that ultimately the most extraordinary thing in a frame is a human being, especially when they're able to communicate emotions to you or humor or sadness or any kind of emotion. And you get to know them by watching their faces on the screen. You don't have to have the camera tracking upside down, and go down into the copa, the back of the copa. That's something else. That has its place in the picture. Sometimes I feel maybe the pictures I make, the camera sometimes may not be moving - may be intruding, I'm not sure."
This is exactly how I feel about Scenes From a Marriage. I was utterly fascinated by how the characters were changing and evolving, yet the camera wasn't moving anywhere and there were no cuts at all, or it felt like there were no cuts. In fact, I thought I remember one particular shot lasting seven minutes long. Can you imagine? Seven minutes of dialogue being shown straight through, uncut? I have to see it again of course, though I can't believe the dvd costs so much. By the way, it's rated number two at IMDb for all of Ingmar's films, which I thought was interesting, too, as I have found it to be his most accessible work... Anyway, I thought I'd finally share my thoughts on the film.

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#13 Post by klee13 » Thu Jan 17, 2008 12:55 am

I haven't finished the second disc yet, but man this is good. The crazy thing is that it is almost devoid of all the things I normally like in movies like fancy camera work, story, (okay, it isn't devoid of a story, it just has a fairly simple one) and a diverse collection of characters. The only thing that's left is pure, raw emotion coming from the two leads. I particularly like scene three in which she can't even stand to grasp her husband's revelation until he says eight months, and then it hits her. The television version is definitely the way to go, if anything else because it would be impossible to digest this much gut-wrenching emotion in one sitting.

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#14 Post by MichaelB » Thu Jan 17, 2008 3:39 am

An English-language stage adaptation (sourced from the TV series, not the film or even Bergman's own Swedish stage version) opened in Coventry a few days ago.

It's directed by Trevor Nunn, with Iain Glen and Imogen Stubbs in the Josephson/Ullmann roles, and is reputedly pretty good. (though I spotted one dissenting view).

Whether I dare take my own wife to it is another matter entirely...

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#15 Post by arsonfilms » Thu Jan 17, 2008 4:24 am

Wow, I'd really like to see that.

Alone, of course. Please, please don't bring your wife. Nothing good can ever come from it.

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#16 Post by bunuelian » Thu Jan 17, 2008 4:29 am

That all depends on whether you can stomach the notion of being in close-up while you bare your truths to your wife, and vice versa. Terrifying.

Klaylock's response is like my own. This film works with a minimal amount of technical showmanship, because the artistry of everyone involved is so high. It is one of the finest masterpieces of the Bergman company. I only wish I had time to sit down to watch it more often.

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#17 Post by colinr0380 » Thu Jan 17, 2008 11:17 am

MichaelB wrote:An English-language stage adaptation (sourced from the TV series, not the film or even Bergman's own Swedish stage version) opened in Coventry a few days ago.

It's directed by Trevor Nunn, with Iain Glen and Imogen Stubbs in the Josephson/Ullmann roles, and is reputedly pretty good. (though I spotted one dissenting view).

Whether I dare take my own wife to it is another matter entirely...
I remember reading the hilarious review from the theatre critic in the Daily Mail yesterday which was a short piece expressing surprise over and over that after sitting through the play that Bergman would have wanted to get married so many times! Perhaps the best part of the review was where the writer said that while a Swedish woman might complain that her husband talked to her too much that the same was highly unbelievable for a British couple! :D

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#18 Post by Magic Hate Ball » Sun Oct 19, 2008 2:46 am

Klaylock wrote:The television version is definitely the way to go, if anything else because it would be impossible to digest this much gut-wrenching emotion in one sitting.
Somehow I manage this bi-annually. Every time, I sit down to watch one or two episodes, and then suddenly it's dark outside and I feel like a jug that someone has poured empty.

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Re: 229 Scenes from a Marriage

#19 Post by sjostrom » Tue Sep 08, 2009 10:31 am

While for Fanny and Alexander I vastly prefer the tv version, for Scenes from a Marriage I like how concentrated is the movie version. The fact that there are no exteriors nor (almost) other characters, makes the movie really intense. I remember coming out from the theater as if I had been beaten (I was 20, more or less). It's true, it's emotionally exhausting.

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Re: 229 Scenes from a Marriage

#20 Post by aox » Tue Sep 08, 2009 10:41 am

Coincidentally, I started watching this last night. I watched the first 3 episodes (disc 1), and as with Fanny and Alexander, I can't imagine what Bergman could cut to truncate this film. Everything seems essential and I am glad I am watching the longer version.

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Re: 229 Scenes from a Marriage

#21 Post by Magic Hate Ball » Wed Apr 21, 2010 6:03 am

Does anyone know what the music is at the beginning and end of each scene? It seems so familiar but I can't place it.

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Re: 229 Scenes from a Marriage

#22 Post by jindianajonz » Fri Nov 16, 2012 6:42 pm

does anyone know if this has always been released in its current (clear) DVD case? It seems like the clear cases weren't developed until well after this was originally released, seeing as other DVDs with similar spine numbers all have black cases.

If it was changed, what was the reason for it, and was anything removed from the booklet?

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Re: 229 Scenes from a Marriage

#23 Post by swo17 » Fri Nov 16, 2012 6:52 pm

It used to be in a triple-wide black case. Like several other older titles, whenever its last pressing ran out a few years ago, it was reprinted in the clear cases. I doubt the booklet contents are any different.

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Re: 229 Scenes from a Marriage

#24 Post by swo17 » Fri Jun 15, 2018 4:12 pm


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Re: 229 Scenes from a Marriage

#25 Post by barryconvex » Fri Jun 15, 2018 5:15 pm

About time. I've been waiting for this forever...This is my favorite of his films and Ullman gives one of the greatest performances in the history of acting.

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