The turned back, the averted eyes and the dreaded silent treatment – a bad marriage is the war in which you sleep with the enemy… to begin with at least. We’ve seen the stats, and many have lived the reality; modern marriage is no walk in the park, so do we really want to watch five hours of verbal (and at times physical) fighting, when enough of it already goes on behind closed doors? Not really, but with Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac as our leads and Ingmar Bergman’s screenwriting as inspiration, perhaps this is an argument worth sitting through.
Hagai Levi’s Scenes from a Marriage is an HBO produced retelling of Bergman’s classic of the same name, with a glossy modernisation which flips the original’s gender role’s upside down. We follow protagonists Mira (Chastain) and Jonathan (Isaac), as they navigate the crumbling of a marriage in a modern world, where bringing home the bacon is ungendered and monogamy is a construct.
It sounds like a depressing drag, and admittedly it is – at times – but isn’t marriage the exact same? Besides, the real selling point of Levi’s Scenes from a Marriage is the quite frankly stunning faces of the series. Chastain and Isaac’s handling of their respective characters is expert, but it’s their chemistry that really seals the deal – need we even mention that viral video with that armpit kiss? It’s enough to get anybody hot under the collar, no matter how contrastingly ‘successful’ their marriage may be.
James Poniewozik, writer for The New York Times agrees, calling Levi “a deft emotional choreographer, and Chastain and Isaac…the dancers you want executing the steps”, so whilst the dance may be one which we have seen time and time again, it’s what The Rolling Stone’s Alan Sepingwall calls the “deep talents and remarkable chemistry of its stars” which makes this marriage story feel brand new. Besides, writer for The Financial Times, Suzi Feay argues that whilst the story of love lost may be a “narrow focus” as “Bergman knew, you can plunge deep, deep into the human heart and never reach the bottom”, something which Chastain and Isaac exemplify with “a moody brilliance”.
This is a Must – although perhaps not for the newlyweds.
First shown October 2021.