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Scenes From a Marriage - Criterion Collection
Scenes From a Marriage - Criterion Collection
Actors: Liv Ullmann, Erland Josephson, Bibi Andersson, Jan Malmsjö, Gunnel Lindblom
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Television
PG     2004     2hr 47min

Marianne (Liv Ullman) and Johan (Erland Josephson) always seemed like the perfect couple. But when Johan suddenly leaves Marianne for another woman, they are forced to confront the disintegration of their marriage. Shot in...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Liv Ullmann, Erland Josephson, Bibi Andersson, Jan Malmsjö, Gunnel Lindblom
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Creators: Sven Nykvist, Ingmar Bergman, Siv Lundgren, Lars-Owe Carlberg
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Television
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Love & Romance, Drama, All Made-for-TV Movies
Studio: Criterion
Format: DVD - Color - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 03/16/2004
Original Release Date: 09/15/1974
Theatrical Release Date: 09/15/1974
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 2hr 47min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 3
SwapaDVD Credits: 3
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 27
Edition: Box set,Special Edition,Criterion Collection
MPAA Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Languages: Swedish
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

A radically emotional film experience.
Toshifumi Fujiwara | Tokyo, Japan | 01/20/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This DVD set includes both versions of Ingmar Bergman's minimalist epic SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE; the 3 hours cut for theatrical release, and the original 6 episodes (Mr.Bergman calls them "scenes") over 5 hours-TV series, in a beautifully restored High-Def master.

The film was shot in 16mm which is grainier than a 35mm film, and this High-Def transfer even represents the peculiar material textuality of the grain structure of a photographic film stock. Some DVD aficionados might object to this un-digital look, but that actually makes the film more soft, warm, and human. It actually looks better than 35mm release prints of the 3 hours version.

I first started to watch the TV series around midnight, thinking maybe I will watch just the first episode and go to bed, and would continue to watch one episode every night. What happened? I kept watching until 5 in the morning, and was so excited I didn't feel like going to bed so also watched the supplements. The next evening I watched the 3 hours theatrical cut, finishing it with a burning desire of going back to the TV series.

With the consistent strength of his works, as well as his high reputation lasting for the last fifty years, it is hard to realize that Ingmar Bergman is actually a very flexible filmmaker, whose career is marked with constant transformations of style and subject matter. But comparing his greatest films such as SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT, MONIKA, THE SEVENTH SEAL, THE SILENCE, PERSONA, CRIES AND WHISPERS, AUTUMN SONATA and FANNY AND ALEXANDER, one should be surprised with the wide variety of his dramatic body of works which is constantly renewing itself.

SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE is a radical film.

With Drier's THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC and Roberto Rossellini's VOYAGE IN ITALY, it is probably the most radically purest adventure in film history: What is the essence of cinema after all? These films seems to be saying, "it's the actors and their faces".

There are several key films among Bergman's works that mark drastic transformations of the filmmaker, and SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE probably represents the most important one. It is also, while being the most popular work in his career (legends say that during its original TV broadcast, the streets were deserted in Scandinavian cities), it is also the most radical example of Bergman's creative challenges as well as the purest example of his fundamental attitude towards filmmaking: his abstinent concentration in observing how human emotions express themselves. The most important element in a Berman film is always the actors; their body and especially their faces.

In most parts you only see the two actors: Erland Josephson and Liv Ulman. Because it was a very low budget project originally made for television, there's nothing spectacular or photogenic in the modest production design which is kept in a minimalist simplicity. It was modestly shot in 16mm 1:1.33 aspect ratio, with a deliberately muted color palette. These are ordinary people living surrounded with un-extraordinary interiors and wearing every-day clothes, like most of us.

The story that spans over ten years has no apparent plot point except maybe Johan the husband (Josephson) confessing to Marianne (Ulman) that he was having an affair: still a banal one comparing to most ex-marital affairs in movies that usually develops into fits of jalousie, murder, and so on. Marianne simply becomes devastated, as most wives probably would do. The most "dramatic" thing she does is...screaming on the phone.

But that minimalistic modesty doesn't prevent SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE from being extremely intriguing, exciting, sometimes funny, and keeping the audience's emotion and interest always closely hooked. The simple visual design opens the door to appreciate the subtle yet profound emotional human expressions that we probably won't realize if it were in a superficially dramatic settings. You just cannot stop watching it, being constantly amazed with the wide variety of faces Ulman and Josephson transforms themselves into, and gripped with the depth of feelings that they express through that.

This film has an almost hypnotic effect. From the first episode you start living with Johan and Marianne.

Perhaps if you are a man you'd start identifying with Johan and his suffocating feelings after 10 years of seemingly happy marriage with his seemingly perfect wife--as I did myself. Then you will be surprised at, after the divorce, the transformation of Marianne becoming more and more alive and attractive. At certain point you'll feel miserable with him. If you were a woman you'll start seeing their story from Marianne's point of view.

But the film itself never takes side. If the audience will see it from Johan's point of view, they will eventually have to recognize his failures and defaults and limitations. If the audience will see it identifying themselves to Marianne, they will have to see how stuck she is, trapped in her own ideas.

Nevertheless, it is not a depressing pessimistic film like Berman's pre 1970's films. Once you truly accept that nobody is perfect, the last episode will reveal that this minimalistic epic of a married life is actually Bergman's celebration on relationship, and that mysterious feeling we call love.

Just a warning: I have to confess that when I first saw SCENES OF A MARRIAGE as a teenager, with only very few experience in life and especially in relationships compared to now... well, I was totally bored, didn't get the film at all. There are nudities in the film but none of them were about sex. Johan and Marianne were not attractive at all and seemed to me just stupid. So some films requires the maturity of the audience's part to be really appreciated. Don't judge Bergman if you are still under 28! Buy this DVD but save it until you'd feel you are getting matured.

In 2004, Mr. Bergman went back to the couple Johan and Marianne, after 30 years of their separation: SARABAND. Now they have grand children. I hope this long-waited return of Bergman to filmmaking will also be soon availabe on DVD."
A Bergman Masterpiece
G. Bestick | Dobbs Ferry, NY USA | 05/14/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"From its uncompromising script, through Sven Nykvist's deft camerawork to the flawless honesty of its acting, this film delivers one of the transcendent emotional experiences in world cinema. Its themes of personal and sexual liberation, as well as the emerging feminist perspective of its heroine, give it a definite period feel (early 1970s), but its concerns are timeless. In one great scene after another, Bergman lays bare our basic human conundrum: the need to be separate and autonomous wars with our need to be connected.

The opening scene is an interview with Johan (Erland Josephson) and his wife, Marianne (Liv Ullman) about their marriage. Self-satisfied Johan preens as he describes how perfect they are as a couple. Marianne, deferential, beams with quiet pride at his side. Despite their warm words, their bodies seem oddly out of rythym with each other, a clue to further cracks we soon see in the couple's smooth façade. She's not as devoted to their sex life as he is, and both of them resent the tyrannical sway of her parents. We watch Marianne try to tell her mother that they won't be coming as usual for Sunday dinner, and then quickly back off when her mother objects.

Johan is a closet poet. When he shares some poems with an old college friend, she tells him not to bother sending them to a publisher. In a quietly devastating aside, she tells him that back in their university days, their entire circle thought that Johann would advance much further than the rest of them. The implication is, of course, that he hasn't. Stalled in mid-career as a researcher, and chafed by the demands of domesticity, Johan undergoes a classic midlife crisis. He comes home from work one night and tells Marianne that he's fallen in love with a twenty-four year old colleague. He's leaving the marriage and moving to Paris with her. The rest of the movie traces the emotional contours of their separation, divorce, and post-divorce reconciliations.

The abandoned Marianne slowly frees herself from the hold Johan and a conventional marriage had on her. That freer person soon discovers her sensual side, and over time becomes the person Johann would actually rather be with. But it's too late; she's moved beyond him. In a scene as believable as it is wrenching, they meet in Johan's office to sign their divorce papers. They both need answers for why they failed at something to which they gave the best of themselves. And by now, Johan understands that freeing himself from Marianne didn't free him from his own limitations. His frustration and disappointment boil over into brandy-fueled violence.

The sad truth this movie reveals is that people can love each other without understanding each other, or they can understand each other without loving each other in the ways that they need to be loved. Bergman seems to be saying that nothing in the institution of marriage alters these facts. In the end, Johan and Marianne, both married to other people, still make room for the bond between them, a bond too deep to not acknowledge, but not deep enough to keep them from forsaking all others. They're not reconciled, exactly, but they've achieved the peace that comes from ceasing to struggle. As they hold each other through a long night, they look, and we feel, somehow hopeful. Bergman's great achievement is to make Johan and Marianne stand in for all of us, who are selfish and insecure, but heroic in our efforts to achieve any little clarity before the lights go dim.
Beautiful Brutality (A TRUE depiction of Marriage)
Yvonne Campbell | Cape Canaveral, FL United States | 04/03/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This film is incredible. It is, however, a brutal one to watch (the intense arguments are too intense to watch at times, there is so much PAIN in this film). Its basic plot, as ridiculous as this sounds, is "husband and wife argue, then make up, then argue, then make up, then argue, then make up, and so on and so forth" or "husband and wife love eachother, then hate eachother, then love eachother, then hate eachother, then love eachother, etc." Yet in this back and forth plot, progress is made all the time. A couple who seemed SO perfect in the film's famous and brilliantly forboding opening interview sequence, begin to realize that they cannot go through life being a perfect married couple and still love eachother in the process. The incredibly well rounded characters we know at the beginning of the film, Johan and Marianne, are NOT the same characters we know at the end. The incredibly cocky and self-assured ("it would be too much to say that im bright, handsome, and sexy") Johan becomes the incredibly weak and humble Johan as the the film progresses, while the woman Marianne, who believed that she was put on this earth to be a good wife and mother, nothing more, becomes the confident Marianne, who realizes it is not at all a sin to have your own personality. In essence, the film chronicles the immense change of two people as they become farther from eachother.Basically, the point of the film, in my view anyway, is to show that Marianne and Johan love eachother SO MUCH that marriage only restricts this love. They get along BEAUTIFULLY (they really do, unlike while they were married, when they just SAID that they get along tremendously) in the last Scene, when they are finally divorced and remarried to different people. Bergman's point surely was to show that marriage can be a bad idea. Two people who love eachother a great deal just do not work well together when married. Love becomes second to the other obligations that come with marriage. Too much time is spent discussing finance, the children, work, and looking like the happy married couple than time spent actually loving one another. Indeed Bergman laugably blamed the film for an increase in divorce rates. It seems wrong, but he may well be right. Marriage is bad for love. There were some things I enjoyed a great deal about the film. Firstly, the dialogue. It was brilliant, as one would expect from Bergman. Witty, clever, and powerful words (the film is based around conversations) prevail. Secondly, much has been said of Sven Nykvist's camera work, and I must agree it is wonderful. His camera captures so much emotion from the actors, he often keeps his camera fixed on Liv Ullman's face as she, for example, hears of her husband's infidelity. reaction is more important in Scenes from a Marriage than action is. Thirdly, the ACTING was nothing short of astonishing. Bergman regular Liv Ullman's performance is the performance of a lifetime. There is a scene where she is in bed with her husband, who had just told her about his desire to leave her for another woman, Paula. As he says "I've always hated you, for several years, I've HATED you", Ullman's reaction is INTENSE. It's as if every word he says is like a knife that sticks in her side. It's a thing that comes on all too suddenly, a man who she thought loved her sits there saying it was a lie all along. She carries the performance beautifully. Erland Josephson is also VERY good in an obviously more difficult role. He plays a man who loses his self confidence, and he plays it well. Lastly, I loved Bergman's use of forshadowing. On your initial viewing, Johan's addmitance about Paula comes off as extremely shocking, however, if you go back, everything really forshadows the end of their marriage. We know something's up from the very beginning. There is this sense of tension and uncomfortableness, its as if, at times, they dont even love one another, they are just playing the parts of the perfect husband and wife. This is my favorite Bergman film of those which I have seen thusfar (others are Persona, Wild Strawberries, The Seventh Seal, Cries and Whispers, Hour of the Wolf, Through a Glass Darkly, Winter Light, and the Silence.) It is a very realistic approach to the concept of marriage, and shows the fact that married life is not all as good as it seems. This film will leave you breathless, if not lifeless. I recommend the SERIES rather than the film, there is even more intensity, and more characters and character developement. Arguments become intense. ONE WORD, and i am not joking, can strike your heart like a sword, just as it does to the characters in the film. It's always that one last thing someone said that they shouldn't have. It is INTENSE. I cannot reccomend this DVD enough! BANG UP JOB CRITERION!!!!!!!!! I love the inclusion of Both the series and the film, particularly the series, and the extras, though small in numbers, are GREAT in quality. The three interviews included arre very informative, and i could ask for nothing more. The insert booklet is very nice and very attractive, as is the entire package. The entire package, down to the menus, was very nicely designed. the menus are animated and fit the mood of the film very well. The image, though it could not be helped (it was shot for television), is kind of bad, So.........FILM: 10 STARS/ 10 STARS
DVD: 9 STARS/ 10 STARSOne of the greatest films of ALL TIME, certainly one of my favorites, and one of Criterion's best releases hands down. BRILLIANT FILIM!!!!!!"
Amazing! One of Bergman's greatest: way ahead of its time!
jeffrey4318 | Chicago, IL United States | 03/22/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This Criterion edition is an absolute must-have for any fan of Ingmar Bergman's work. I have seen the 3-hour film version several times before, and felt it was superb, as most of Bergman's films are, but it faded for me in comparison with my favorites, "Persona", "Cries and Whispers", "The Silence", "Shame" and "Through a Glass Darkly". The 5-hour TV version, however, presented here for the first time in the US, is a revelation to me. It is startlingly contemporary. It is like seeing the film fresh, for the first time. I am struck by the naturalness of the acting of Bjornstrand and Ullman, giving astonishing performances, both in terms of nuance and intensity. At times, one forgets that they are acting, they so inhabit their gruelling roles. Liv Ullman is particularly great here, and photographed with luminous intensity by Nykvist, the master cinematographer. This is a woman who has her world shattered, and who responds to her changed circumstances in realistic stages: denial, anger, grief, rage, and finally acceptance. Also, I am struck by the way this particular film is the unacknowledged "grandfather" of independent contemporary film technique. A recent article in the New York Times on Dogme astonished me by the failure to even acknowledge Bergman's influence. Liv Ullman is spot-on in the interview when she notes that "Scenes from a Marriage" was Dogme filmaking 30 years ahead of Dogme, and that the often hand-held camera here moves with precision, versus the shallow, self-indulgent scattershot mess that is so tedious in the films of the Dogme filmmakers. In the five-hour TV version, one sees the film as it truly is, a groundbreaking, thoroughly engrossing masterpiece. Finally, it reminds us of how little we ask from our own TV movies in the US. This is a riveting, compelling, lacerating work, made with compassion and with a strong humanist understanding. Bergman didn't come to this spareness and austerity out some philisophical point of view, like Dogme has with its "manifesto". Instead, "Scenes from a Marriage" arrives at its technique out of Bergman's desire to get as close as he can with his camera to the faces, emotions, and flawed humanity of his characters. It was a process he began with "Persona" and which opens further in "The Passion", and which here is expanded out and relentlessly focused, like a pure, blue, Scandanavian flame."