Thursday, October 13, 2005

Scenes from a Marriage (1974)

The grade below is more like an A-/C+ split -- Ingmar Bergman's immense dissection of middle-class anomie is extraordinary when it observes the minutia of a marriage caught in a hell of comfortable stasis, but it becomes significantly less compelling once man and wife start to come apart. The film's length is both a strength and a failing: The larger-than-average canvas upon which Bergman paints his creation allows us to know and understand these people in intimate ways that get glossed over by smaller, shorter films... but there comes a point where maybe we know them too well and have seen them go over the same arguments one too many times and maybe would like them to zip their traps for a bit and stop sniping at one another, thanks muchly. This is no doubt Bergman's intention (the dissolution of a marriage, I would assume, looks almost exactly like this), but that doesn't keep the film and characters from getting a bit insufferable by the two-hour mark. It's like watching a guy with an open wound while he pokes at it obsessively and complains that it hurts when he pokes it -- there comes a point where you just want to slap him and scream, "Stop poking it! Let it heal, you idiot!" Still worth watching, though, if for nothing else than two true, realistic performances from Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson as the squabbling couple, and I have to admit I'm curious about how the five-hour television version flows. Also, the last line is perfect.

Grade: B


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