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SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE (director/writer: Ingmar Bergman; cinematographer: Sven Nykvist; editor: Siv Lundgren; music: ; cast: Liv Ullmann (Marianne), Erland Josephson (Johan), Bibi Andersson (Katarina), Jan Malmsjš (Peter), Anita Wall (Mrs. Palm), Gunnel Lindblom (Eva); Wenche Foss (Marianne’s widowed mother)Runtime: 169; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Ingmar Bergman; Criterion Collection; 1973-Sweden-in Swedish with English subtitles)
“Left so little to the imagination.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Ingmar Bergman (“Through a Glass Darkly”/”The Shame”/”The Silence”) returns from his bleak 1960 films to film a more optimistic one with what goes for a happy ending (at least by his standards). It was originally created as a six-part series for television and plays for over 300 minutes; this film is edited by the director for theater release and comes in at a mere 169 minutes. It’s an engrossing close-up examination of a successful bourgeois marriage of ten years between professionals and keys in on how it slowly falls apart when the hubby announces that he’s fallen in love with another woman; it investigates the toll it takes on both parties during the next ten years. But in its exhaustive study (and I mean exhaustive), it focuses on the despair it causes mainly for the female (taken on a feminist point of view).

College professor Johan and his lawyer wife Marianne (Erland Josephson and Liv Ullmann) are the seemingly ideal happily married couple, with two daughters (never shown), until it’s learned that Johan has strayed and is involved with a younger woman (never shown). Johan splits for a holiday in Europe and upon his return the two try to reconcile. Their friends (Bibi Andersson and Jan Maalmsjo) are revealed as having an even more combative marriage. By the conclusion Johan and Marianne are each married to a different spouse, yet continuing to see each other; time has healed their wounds and given them a chance to reflect on their development from a more innocent time, and they both think they are better off for going through this tumultuous relationship.

The scenario is stark; there’s little action but much talk, as intense conversations take place in various rooms. Though its uncompromising and realistic, perhaps to a fault, it never moved me and its claustrophobic, hermetically sealed surroundings, left me pained and bored at times (much like the characters seemed to be). In the end, I was impressed by the actors and their first-rate performances of showing angst coming from within and in the intelligent script, but couldn’t help feeling it was all so sterile and hardly fulfilling in offering such trivial concluding insights (maybe at 80 minutes it would have been more rewarding, but at the three hour mark I was too conscious of how it was so slow moving and left so little to the imagination).


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”