Top 100 Films #33 – Scenes from a Marriage (1973)

 

image-w1280-1#33. Scenes from a Marriage (1973)
Directed by: Ingmar Bergman
Written by: Ingmar Bergman
Starring: Liv Ullmann, Erland Josephson

While Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage is one of the longest films I’ve ever dedicated my time to, it’s also one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had with the medium.  The television miniseries version of Scenes from a Marriage runs for 281 minutes, split into six parts.  The film follows the lives of Marianne (Liv Ullman) and Johan (Erland Josephson), an affluent Swedish couple who have just celebrated their 10-year anniversary together.  Johan eventually reveals to his wife that he is having an affair with a younger woman, and requests a separation from Marianne.  After he leaves the house for an undetermined amount of time, Marianne learns that many of her friends knew of the affair long before she did.  Eventually their separation leads to a divorce, and both parties remarry.  Swedish director Ingmar Bergman’s films are notorious for their contemplative looks at life, death, love, and faith, and Scenes from a Marriage is no different.  While it may not be as dream-like or atmospheric as some of his films, many of his famous themes are still very apparent, especially with how the story plays out over its 4.5 hour run-time.  The commentary it provides on love is almost entirely unique in the medium of film, giving a bleak and honest look at marriage.  Bergman pulls no punches with his screenplay, examining in depth the banality, frustration, and dissatisfaction found in many marriages.  While I can’t personally relate to the circumstances that Johan and Marianne find themselves in throughout the film, Scenes from a Marriage still somehow manages to connect with viewers.  This is done by Bergman not “picking sides” in the film, instead treating both parties as equals and openly criticizing them both, and allowing the audience to make up their own minds about the events taking place before them.  Bergman’s script is intelligent in this way, using long scenes of dialogue to push the story forward – using its minimalism as an advantage, rather than as a cheap source of exposition.  While Scenes from a Marriage is undoubtedly bleak and harrowing, its closing chapter is surprisingly romantic and intimate in its notions – something I have rarely felt while watching a Bergman film.  Scenes from a Marriage is a 4.5 hour epic about the pitfalls of marriage and love in general, and while it may not be the best starting point for an exploration into international cinema, it’s an undoubtedly affecting and progressive picture that will leave viewers reeling in the best way.

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