1973, Movies, TV

Scener ur ett äktenskap [Scenes from a Marriage] (1973, Ingmar Bergman)

As I noted elsewhere, before the Golden Age of Television in the US, it was unheard of for prestigious Hollywood filmmakers and actors to work in TV but that was not the case in Europe. In Europe, prestigious filmmakers would work in TV when they wanted to. I don’t know when that started but it was somewhat common by the 1980s. I don’t know if this was the first prestige European miniseries made by one of the most famous filmmakers in the world, but it may be among the earlier ones. Ingmar Bergman was one of the most famous non-English language filmmakers in the world in 1973 and he made a TV miniseries. The English-speaking world didn’t know what to do with it and demanded a theatrical version. Due to the wonders of our modern age, I watched the miniseries instead of the “film.”

I don’t know the European TV landscape in the early ’70s so I have no idea how something like this stood out (or didn’t), but I do expect that, outside of some documentary programs, there was nothing like this on American TV at the time. And there was not that much in films like it.

I guess it can be thought of as a six-act play or a series of six one-act plays. There are almost always only the two lead actors on screen and in some episodes they are only in one location and barely leave one room. (The first episode suggests otherwise but that episode has more cast and sets than just about any other one.) It’s an intense experience that has much more in common with plays and 21st century relationship dramas than much I’m aware of at the time. (Though obviously some Bergman movies cover similar themes.)

The style of this is one of the styles most parodied/alluded to in the English-speaking world. Some of the shots in this I’m pretty sure I’ve seen parodied on SCTV or SNL or whatever. And Woody Allen’s Bergman-influenced films seem quite indebted to this miniseries/film.

It’s a lot, though. It’s mostly unhappy and it has dated a little bit in the way that so many “battle of the sexes” films date over time. These are not necessarily people you want to spend 5 hours with, especially the husband. (It’s weird that the essay with the DVDs and Jenn both felt like the husband was the protagonist. That may have been the intention though I found him fairly pathetic and unlikeable.)

A landmark, I think.


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