Johan and Marianne planned to finalize their divorce after several years. They met in order to sign the papers but it was an extremely difficult task to carry out. Touching a low point in his life, ...
Marianne, some thirty years after divorcing Johan, decides to visit her ex-husband at his summer home. She arrives in the middle of a family drama between Johan's son from another marriage and his granddaughter.
In the midst of a civil war, former violinists Jan and Eva Rosenberg, who have a tempestuous marriage, run a farm on a rural island. In spite of their best efforts to escape their homeland, the war impinges on every aspect of their lives.
Two estranged sisters, Ester and Anna, and Anna's 10-year-old son travel to the Central European country on the verge of war. Ester becomes seriously ill and the three of them move into a hotel in a small town called Timoka.
Ten years of Marianne and Johan's relationship are presented. We first meet them ten years into their marriage. He is a college professor, she a divorce lawyer. They say that they are happily married - unlike their friends Katarina and Peter who openly fight, especially when under the influence of alcohol - but there is a certain detached aloofness in the way they treat each other. In the next ten years, as they contemplate or embark upon divorce and/or known extramarital affairs, they come to differing understandings at each phase of their relationship of what they truly mean to each other. Regardless of if it's love or hate - between which there is a fine line - they also come to certain understandings of how they can best relate to each other, whether that be as husband and wife, friends, lovers or none of the above. Written by
The film made its US broadcast debut on HBO in May 1975. See more »
I don't know what my love looks like, and I can't describe it. Most of the time I can't feel it.
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The end credits aren't shown on-screen but read by director and writer Ingmar Bergman, while "a beautiful picture of Fårö" is shown (different for each episode). Ingmar Bergman himself is in fact not credited at all. For the theatrical version, traditional on-screen credits were used, starting with "A film by Ingmar Bergman". See more »
Concerto for violin, strings & continuo in B flat major, Op. 10, No. 1
Written by Tomaso Albinoni
A short extract is played during the very beginning and end of each episode (it's not featured in the theatrical version) See more »
Scenes from a Marriage is a film about a breakup. We are not talking about some ephemeral youthful relationship, but a happy marriage of many years between a couple who truly feel they are happy together.
Yet cracks become visible, and soon the whole structure comes tumbling down as the once happy couple spends the next 15 years of their lives trying to make sense of it all. The film (aired in Sweden as a 6 part miniseries) is 5 hours of the most intense, painful, emotional conversations ever committed to celluloid. It is filmed almost entirely in close-up with sparse lighting and no music. I have watched it multiple times and by the end of the emotionally grueling experience it feels as though you have lived through each moment Johan and Marianne have experienced, no matter how far from your actual life any one detail might be.
That may not seem like the most pleasant viewing experience, but I should add that the film is not quite as harrowing as my description might make it seem. Yes, intense doesn't even begin to describe it, but Bergman has created the film with such honesty that there is no manipulation or unnecessary suffering. Even the immortal Eric Rohmer has never displayed this level of understanding into basic human relationships. Again, there is no manipulation here; Bergman would never stoop so low as to include suffering merely for the sake of additional drama. What is actually present in every second of the film is simply many lifetimes worth of wisdom on love, loss and moving on.
There are no easy answers in Scenes from a Marriage. The film is an emotional roller-coaster from start to finish. The person who is handling things the best will just as often have hit a new low when they are revisited down the road. The couple's bond will never disappear and yet they can never be what they were to each other. Old feelings resurface, old wounds reopen, old passions return and throughout it all Sven Nykvist's camera does not flinch. No film has done more with such a stark palate of images.
What elevates the film to "second favorite movie ever" level for me is not just the insight into human interaction, though that is my favorite subject matter in film. Scenes from a Marriage is not content to merely show what the loss of a loved one is like, Bergman also has a point beyond a simple documentation of the dissolution of a marriage.
By the final chapter, perfectly titled "In the Middle of the Night in a Dark House Somewhere in the World", an epiphany is reached. Johan and Marianne do not necessarily "get back together" or "never see each other again", but a certain level of acceptance is reached. That which can never be understood, which no one can put into words, and which has no solution is somehow grasped in the final scenes of this magnificent movie. Like a fleeting glimpse of the sun from inside a cave, all the mysteries of life and love briefly make sense.
While I never leave a viewing of Scenes from a Marriage feeling any less confused about the grand questions of life, I can't help but suspect that for a time during its brief 5 hours I almost had it. What more could any artist want from their viewer?
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