It took me a little while to actually get into what’s going on here. This is a story of a marriage and a divorce. Simple but very complicated of course. We are presented a couple, seemingly happy, but it is obvious from the first shot that behind the facade lies a marriage that is dying. Sure, he uses his “love” for another woman as an excuse to get out of it, but that’s not the full story. It’s more like he is bored and the daily routines of work, homelife, weekend suppers with her parents are just taking its toll. Sex is not what it used to be either. She works too and she is usually tired. The brilliance of Bergman is that we come to realize this gradually. We come to realize, just like the charatcers do, that they are still very much in love. Years later, Johan and Marianne, after other relationships, other marriages, and even incidences of violence are still lovers. Indeed they are much happier than when they were married.
They do have 2 daughters, but they are out of the picture (at least in this version). Either way, Johan does not seem to care much for them. He is cold, detached and seems to think they are better off without him. Probably the most fascinating aspect of this film are the two characters’ transformation through the years. Johan starts out cocky, self assured and full of ambition. In the final scene we see him more grounded, simply happy to be with the woman he loves. Marianne is the opposite. We see her some out of her shy and co-dependent coccoon into a self assured woman who might or might not need Johan, but wants and loves him as his equal.
The original “Scenes From a Marriage” is a 6 hour miniseries that Bergman made for the Swedish TV. He created this edited version for the US theatrical release. The 6 hour verison should be even better at portraying the slow breakup of this marriage and it’s aftermath and giving more time to the few other minor characters in this play. I should’ve ordered that instead. It’s on my “to see very soon” list now.
It’s worth noting that Bergman’s final film Saraband in 2003 re-visits Johan and Marianne some thirty years after we first meet them here. I have scene Saraband a while back but I will definitly be revisting it now as well.