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Scenes from a Marriage (1974)

Scener ur ett äktenskap (original title)
PG | | Drama | 15 September 1974 (USA)
Scenes from a Marriage chronicles the many years of love and turmoil that bind Marianne (Liv Ullmann) and Johan (Erland Josephson) through matrimony, infidelity, divorce, and subsequent partners.


Ingmar Bergman


Ingmar Bergman




Cast overview:
Liv Ullmann ... Marianne
Erland Josephson ... Johan
Bibi Andersson ... Katarina
Gunnel Lindblom ... Eva
Jan Malmsjö ... Peter
Rossana Mariano Rossana Mariano ... Eva, 12
Anita Wall ... Fru Palm, Journalist
Lena Bergman Lena Bergman ... Karin
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Scenes From a Marriage, is by far, Bergman's greatest creation. Following 2 characters, Marianne and Johan, the film, in typical Bergman exquisite style, examines ontological questions of love, loneliness, being and what it means to be 'fulfilled'. As with all of Betgman's films, 'Scenes From a Marriage', is not simply a narrative about a married couple and their 'ups and downs'. Bergman, successfully probes into what it means and feels like to need the love and/or security, validation of another person and the consequences of life-changing decisions. It is a must-see, from the greatest film maker there has ever been.

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Ranked number 92 non-English-speaking film in the critics' poll conducted by the BBC in 2018. See more »


Marianne: I wonder what I did to cause the breach between us. I know it's a childish way of thinking, but there you are. What did I do wrong?
Johan: Why not ask a psychiatrist?
Marianne: I see one several times a week. Sometimes we meet in private.
Johan: Is he your lover?
Marianne: We did have sex a few times, but it was no good. So we stopped that and devoted ourselves to my soul instead.
Johan: What have you learned?
Marianne: Nothing.
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Edited from Scenes from a Marriage (1973) See more »

User Reviews

Intelligent and honest
17 October 2019 | by gbill-74877See all my reviews

In one of my all-time favorite Bergman scenes, a woman (Liv Ullmann) reads from a notebook she keeps about her thoughts and feelings to her estranged husband (Erland Josephson), all while we see real-life pictures from Liv Ullman's life, ranging from when she was just a child through adulthood. She says:

"Suddenly I turned and looked at an old school picture from back when I was 10. I seemed to detect something that had eluded me up to then. To my surprise I must admit that I don't know who I am. I haven't the vaguest idea. I've always done as I was told. As far as I can remember I've been obedient, well-adjusted, almost meek. I did assert myself once or twice as a girl, but Mother punished any lapses from convention with exemplary severity. My entire upbringing, and that of my sisters, was aimed at making us agreeable. I was ugly and awkward, a fact I was constantly reminded of. I later realized that if I kept my thoughts to myself, and was ingratiating and predictable, my behavior yielded rewards. The most momentous deception began at puberty. All my thoughts, feelings and actions revolved around sex. But this I never told my parents. Or anyone at all, for that matter. Being deceitful and secretive became second nature to me. My father wanted me to follow in his footsteps and become a lawyer. I dropped hints that I wanted to be an actress. You know what? I think I'm breaking free at last. But they laughed at me. Since then I go on pretending. Faking my relationships with others, with men. Always putting on an act in a desperate attempt to please. I've never considered what I want, but only, 'What does he want me to want?' It's not unselfishness as I used to believe. It's sheer cowardice. Even worse, it stems from my being ignorant of who I am. Our mistake was that we never broke free from our families to create something worthwhile on our own terms."

It's a fantastic, fantastic scene, speaking to self-discovery, conformity, and feminism, and it's so fitting that when she turns to him to see what he thinks, he's fallen asleep. The roughly 3 hour film, a condensation of an even longer TV series, is full of profound honesty about how these characters see themselves, their relationship, and the institution of marriage.

For most of the film (indeed all of it, after the 47 minute point), it's just Ullmann and Josephson, which is all right because the two of them are both natural and strong in their roles. We see early on that while the characters they play are both professionals with some shared goals in life, he's more selfish and egotistical, while she is more selfless and kind. "I believe ... in compassion," she says, "If we all learned to care about our fellow man from childhood, the world would be different." We then see them at a dinner party with married friends (Jan Malmsjö and Bibi Andersson) who carry on conversation jovially enough, but clearly loathe one another, and are heading for a divorce. Over one of many drinks, the man quotes August Strindberg as having once said, "Could there be anything more terrifying than a husband and wife who hate each other?" The conversation degenerates in a brutal way, horrifying for its frankness and for being in front of their friends. After they leave, Josephson's character observes that marriage for life is "a ridiculous convention passed down from God knows where," and that "a five-year contract would be ideal, or an agreement subject to renewal." It's all a foreshadowing of the difficulties that these two will face in the subsequent chapters of the film, even though they seem themselves as happy on the same page.

Some of the frustrations of marriage are clearly articulated, such as family obligations, different levels of sexual desire, and the rut of existence, while others are not. It's a bit remarkable that a film about marriage and separation (the latter of which is about half of it) has very little to say about their kids, though they are sometimes alluded to. The conversations they have, though, some of which are absolutely brutal. After he tells her that he's fallen in love with someone else, we see her trying her best to keep a brave face and clearly caring for him, hoping that he'll simply not go through with leaving her, while he veers from being honest to being downright mean. Later she'll endure the humiliation of talking to a friend over the phone who already knows, and informs her that many of their other friends do as well.

The back half the film is a little bit odd in that they continue to meet as friends and occasional lovers. While they seem to understand themselves and each other better, it's ironic that they are simply perpetuating a cycle by cheating on their partners. Their conversations and expressions of emotion are far more honest, making it seem like Bergman is saying this is how relationships should actually be. It's interesting that 'Scenes from a Marriage' are in large part scenes of a long relationship where the couple is no longer actually together. In one scene that shows just how conflicted they are, and in just how much lies beneath the surface, she comes by with divorce papers for him to sign. They go from a wonderfully tender moment making love gently on his office floor, to arguing, to him forcing her to stay, and then to him beating her. It may be honest, but it's difficult to watch. The last chapter seemed the weakest to me, even though they're reconciled to the lives they've led and the relationship they have, which seemed just a little too idealized.

It's lacking in production value because it was originally produced for TV, but its intelligence and honesty more than make up for it. It made me think, man what was on American TV while this aired?

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Release Date:

15 September 1974 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Scenes from a Marriage See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Cinematograph AB See more »
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Technical Specs




Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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