‘Scenes From a Marriage’ 1974
Today was the second last of the Ingmar Bergman films in what has become The Two Weeks of Ingmar Bergman. In a lot of way this is one of the strongest of his films, a marathon 169 minutes. Like so many of his films it is about the breakdown of the marriage relationship and reflects Bergman’s interest in the effect of adultery on relationships as well as exploring the way marriage survive, and the manner in which they can fall apart. There’s not a lot of happiness, let alone joy, in the Bergman films that are considered to be amongst the greatest films in the history of cinema. It certainly looks like serious films are the kind of films that are really taken seriously by academics and critics, and Scenes from a Marriage is no exception. It’s a long hard slog, running close to the length of Fanny and Alexander but without the happy scenes.
I got to the end of the fourth episode, The Vale of Tears (1h50m50s), but it was 6am, so I went to bed before my children got up, disappointed to not watch it all in one slab. I haven’t seen The Illiterates or In the Dead of Night in a Dark House.
What’s interesting in the unfolding of the story so far is that even when the two main characters, Marianne and Johan’s, relationship seems to be good, it’s still hard work.
Bergman allows just one episode of their marriage to be good and then it starts to disintegrate. Just 25 minutes into the film, cracks are beginning to show. And everything that was presented at face value in the first of six parts, was too good to be true (in a Bergman film). The second part of Scenes, is called, The Art of Sweeping Things Under the Rug. A delightful title for a delightful episode. Well, not really. It actually is an incisive piece of writing by Bergman of a detailed conversation between Marianne and Johan, where things arise, it become obvious things are becoming tense and a little difficult and both parties back off. By backing off it allows things that could have been worked through, to be swept under the rug. Ironically, Marianne is a divorce lawyer, who comes across these kinds of issues in the breakdown of marriages but doesn’t recognise it in her own. By the time we get to the next episode, portentously titled, Paula, it’s not just things not addressed, its things not even alluded to. The viewer is not prepared through what we’ve seen of the always calm and collected Johan, for the sudden and vicious verbal attack upon his wife where resentments explode from deep within his psyche.