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Scenes From A Marriage
cast: Erland Josephson, Liv Ullmann, Bibi Andersson, Gunnel Lindblom, and Jan Malmsjo

director: Ingmar Bergman

162 minutes (15) 1974
Tartan DVD Region 0 retail

RATING: 9/10
reviewed by Gary Couzens
Ingmar Bergman began writing Scenes From A Marriage at a low point in his career. He had just finished making Cries And Whispers and his finances were precarious. Scenes From A Marriage was made for Swedish television as a serial of six parts of 50 minutes each. It was released in cinemas overseas in a shorter version, which is the one on this DVD. Beginning in April 1973, the serial was a considerable success, as was Cries And Whispers in America, so Bergman's future was secure. He even became Sweden's unofficial marriage guidance counsellor, which given his own history is more than a little ironic.
   I've not seen the longer version of Scenes From A Marriage, which apparently includes characters and subplots removed from the cinema release. The marriage of Johan (Erland Josephson) and Marianne (Liv Ullmann) is very much the focus of Bergman's film, and he pares away virtually everything else. Much of the film is a two-hander, and there are only five other credited actors. We only see the couple's children briefly at the start, as they are shooed away while a journalist interviews Marianne and Johan about their perfect marriage. But it's not so: Marianne finds out that Johan is having an affair with a younger woman, forcing her to re-evaluate her marriage and her life. Eventually they divorce and, later, meet up again. They now have new partners (whom Bergman keeps off-screen), but they are still inextricably bound to each other.
   Television is a medium that favours the close-up, especially the much smaller sets available 30 years ago. The close-up, displaying all the nuances of his characters' emotions, is a principal filmic device of Bergman's on any size screen, and he uses it considerably here. He makes huge demands on his two leads, who have to carry a film of two and a quarter hours virtually on their own, but they manage superbly. You expect a Bergman drama to be brilliantly acted, and it is. Scenes From A Marriage is long and emotionally harrowing, but utterly absorbing and rewarding.
   Scenes From A Marriage was shot in 16mm and Academy ratio, and Tartan's DVD duly presents the film in a full-frame transfer. This is a digitally restored version. Given the original film stock, some grain is inevitable. Extras: film notes by Philip Strick, filmographies of Bergman, Josephson and Ullmann, the American trailer for Persona and a trailer for Autumn Sonata.

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