Sunday, January 17, 2010

Scenes from a Marriage (1973)

Scener ur ett äktenskap, Sweden, 299 minutes, TV
Director/writer: Ingmar Bergman
Photography: Sven Nykvist
Cast: Liv Ullmann, Erland Josephson

Ingmar Bergman's amazing take on marriage and middle-class complacency, with brilliant performances from Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson, is fine even in the first version I saw as a teen and found interminably boring—the dubbed, bowdlerized, U.S. theatrical release of the original five-hour television series. Seeing it again in my mid-30s shortly after a divorce was a stunning body blow of an experience. More recently, I finally saw the complete and uncut original television episodes side by side with a subtitled version of the theatrical release. There's virtually no comparison. The TV episodes have more of everything and not too much of anything. I didn't have to blow my nose this time, but I did feel myself transported to another place, a place outside of time, familiar and painful and comforting all at once. This really is my favorite Bergman running away. Nothing else comes close, and there's much of his that I like and much more that I admire and respect. But this is something special, with a uniquely throbbing, complex, expansive, and generous humanity at its core and just enough cerebration to keep it real. Even the last episode, a fantasy but one that tore my heart out once, remains pitch-perfect.

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