How Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes From a Marriage Became the Most Imitated Show of 2021

A spouse, a husband, and violently receding vows: these are the elements of Ingmar Bergman’s elegant 1973 sequence Scenes From a Marriage, starring Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson. Within the sequence—lately remade for HBO by Hagai Levi—Bergman tracks well-off couple Marianne (Ullmann) and Johan (Josephson), stripping away their picture-perfect facade to disclose the ruins inside as they fall out of affection and into one thing extra difficult. 

It’s a beautiful, painful, elegantly wrought sequence that, on the time of its launch, grew to become a phenomenon watched by hundreds of thousands of viewers. Scenes was massively influential, overtly imitated by filmmakers like Woody Allen (Husbands and Wives), Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story), and Andrey Zvyagintsev (Loveless), every to various and particular person impact. And whereas Bergman’s work—notably movies like The Seventh Seal and Persona—at all times looms within the fore of the cinematic consciousness, Scenes particularly has entered a renaissance section within the final 12 months, inspiring a increase of reveals and movies striving for the pandemic-friendly filming circumstances that chamber dramas present, in addition to the wealthy, resonant simplicity and pathos of the unique sequence. 

The 12 months started with one such undertaking: Sam Levinson’s black and white drama Malcolm & Marie. Starring Zendaya and John David Washington, the Netflix movie follows an sad couple as they arrive dwelling after an awards present. The night time devolves right into a set of screaming matches as every takes turns verbally lacerating the opposite. Levinson has mentioned Scenes was among his reference points when crafting the story, amongst different movies that additionally belong to the subgenre of Nice Actors Arguing in Stunning Rooms; the excessive altitude feuds of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? had been, naturally, additionally a key affect. However Malcolm & Marie, which was shot in simply days within the early days of the pandemic, earned shaky critiques, failing to rise to the heights of Levinson’s touchstones. It’s much less an issue of craft (the film’s shot superbly, in an beautiful location), and extra of storytelling, with Levinson transmuting his preoccupation with movie criticism, artistry, and possession onto Washington’s character. (Zendaya has mentioned she and Washington, each producers, gave suggestions on the story, pushing back in opposition to criticism of Levinson.)

Then got here one other Netflix providing, this another transparently pulling from Bergman’s oeuvre: the third season of Grasp of None. Created and completely directed by Aziz Ansari, the third season took a narrative left turn, leaving the New York Metropolis courting woes of Dev (Ansari) behind and as a substitute touring upstate, to the gorgeous dwelling the place Denise (Lena Waithe) lives in marital bliss along with her spouse, Alicia (Naomi Ackie). Narratively and aesthetically, the present blossoms into a contemporary retelling of Scenes, homing in on Denise and Alicia as they drift aside. Plotwise, the primary episode makes use of an identical blueprint as the primary episode of Scenes, displaying Denise and Alicia being interviewed at their dwelling (on a beautiful inexperienced sofa, no much less) and later having dinner with Dev and his girlfriend, who bicker and argue, in stark distinction to the tranquil central couple. Aesthetically, Ansari determined to shoot the sequence on movie for the primary time, choosing heat 16mm, identical to Scenes. 

His resolution to hint over the present’s plot is unsurprising; every season of Grasp of None is preoccupied with homage, nodding to the works of Woody Allen and Vittorio De Sica. And it’s clear that Waithe, who writes for the sequence, was pulling story inspiration from her personal life and previous relationships. It’s becoming, on condition that Scenes was, famously, impressed by Bergman’s personal relationships, together with his failed relationship with Ullmann. However the present is at its finest when it pulls away from simulating Scenes and as a substitute delves into Alicia’s journey, notably her journey with IVF. 

Grasp of None was merely a precursor to HBO’s Scenes From a Marriage remake, which aired its first episode Sunday night time. Directed by Hagai Levi, the present is Scenes for the fashionable age, adapting the unique’s themes and narrative arcs. It follows profitable couple Mira and Jonathan (Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac, recent off their swoon-worthy Venice appearance) as their relationship dissolves. However whereas Grasp of None went for an aesthetic recreation, Scenes dodges that booby entice, opening with a chaotic behind-the-scenes monitoring shot of Chastain strolling to the set—an ethereal, minimalist dwelling. The inexperienced sofa is maintained, however that’s about it. 

Narratively, the remake additionally injects fashionable thrives into the unique plot. This time round, Mira is the breadwinner and, as a substitute of working in remedy, she works in tech, sneakily checking her telephone throughout the opening interview scene along with her husband. One important deviation arrives later, throughout the abortion scene. Within the unique, Bergman skips over the enterprise of Marianne’s abortion, chopping to her post-op. Within the remake, Levi brings the viewer into the situation, displaying Mira as she meets with a health care provider who explains very plainly and exactly what the method entails, capping the procedural rundown with a nonchalant kicker: “It’s like a abdomen virus.” | How Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes From a Marriage Turned the Most Imitated Present of 2021

Huynh Nguyen

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