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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Scenes From A Marriage (Blu-ray)
Scenes From A Marriage (Blu-ray)
Criterion // PG // September 4, 2018 // Region A
List Price: $37.97 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ryan Keefer | posted October 5, 2018 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Ingmar Bergman perhaps didn't set out to do a drastically different project when he put together the story that later became Scenes From A Marriage, though he did turn out a project he said was personal to him. And the production's modern setting his such an emotional cord with viewers in Sweden when it first aired as a miniseries then a shorter theatrical cut of the film was made with Bergman's approval, and for good reason as it appears to be timeless for melancholic reasons.

The story follows Johan (Erland Josephson, The Unbearable Lightness of Being) and Marianne (Liv Ullman, Autumn Sonata) over the course of a decade as their marriage gradually disintegrates. Extramarital affairs, discussions over money and property, fights and separations pepper the course of their lives as they progress towards divorce or something close to it.

Josephson and Ullman's work with each other is rooted in authenticity, so when the disagreements come up, they are relatable even to today's couples. The dissatisfaction comes in various emotional, physical or financial ways, and as the marriage deteriorates, there is a certain sense of regret expressed at various times by both. At one point, Johan discusses to Marianne, both in their later years, the emotional illiterate monologue; choices they made early in their lives they came to regret, highlighting being aware of agriculture in Africa, but finding they lacked some practical things to raise a family and work with one another as mother and father and husband and wife. It's a moment that more couples probably have then they're willing to admit, and the two handle it well, among many moments throughout the show.

Bergman gives each star a chance to shine numerous times, but one thing he does a bit during Scenes is to focus tightly on one person while the other is acting off-camera, looking at that person's expressions as an emotional hammer is dropped on them. One of the notable moments for me was watching Ullman as Marianne deal with Johan's revelations that he wanted a divorce and that he was having an affair. Her pain is palpable and something that not a lot of directors that I'm aware of have tried since, perhaps because they could not have pulled it off as brilliantly as these two actors do consistently throughout the miniseries.

The permeating feeling I had through watching Scenes is that Johan and Marianne's communications with each other were not only mine, but they were almost anything that two spouses seem to share even four decades later. They are perhaps scared or brave and not willing to show it even after being married for a decade as Johan and Marianne are when we first see them in the miniseries. The miniseries is infamous for resulting in a spike of Swedish families seeking couples' therapy to improve on their marriage, and whether or not Bergman intended it or not, it would appear that Scenes From A Marriage is purposely descriptive to help show that it's not just Johan and Marianne's marriage, it's most anyone's and that Ullman and Josephson execute this as they have make it one that has deep meaning so many years later.

The Blu-ray:
The Video:

The miniseries and theatrical version are presented on separate discs, and given high-definition transfers from the 16mm print. Colors and flesh tones are natural and not too vivid, black levels are fine but not that deep, and given the source and era you're going to get a fair amount of film grain, and a lack of image detail. It's a step up from the original release, but it's been awhile since I've seen said release to quantify this definitely.

The Sound:

The Swedish PCM mono track sounds consistent and there is little to complain about given the production values at the time of filming. It is almost dialogue exclusive with little ambient moments to convey immersion; said dialogue requires little compensation and is as full as can be.

The Extras:

The material from the standard definition version is ported over to the Blu-ray release. Bergman has a fifteen-minute interview from Swedish television in 1986 where he talks about the film and its impact on him and how he put everything together, and Josephson and Ullman's separate interviews from the original release go into working with one another and with Bergman, and have good recollection about some memorable moments in the production. An interview with Bergman scholar Peter Cowie gets into the differences between the cuts and some moments episode by episode, and provides some context into the careers of Bergman, Ullman and Josephson at the time Scenes was Made.

Final Thoughts:

With Bergman's Scenes From A Marriage we get raw and compelling performances from Liv Ullman and Erland Josephson, given ample direction by someone with a keen heart to his material and emotions, and perhaps realizing as he became distant from it, that it was something that so many people could relate to. It looks at the relationship not only from the spousal basics but from larger cosmic ones that remain ones worth pondering for any husband and wife. If you had the several-disc release from Criterion in the past, you're only paying for the transfer, so take a minor bit of caution in it, but if you haven't seen one of Bergman's more notable works, now's your chance to see it and, given the length of the theatrical and television versions, for goodness' sake, pace yourself.

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