There’s something about the disintegration of marriages that we as audience members find so appealing. It wasn’t too long ago that Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson broke our hearts in Marriage Story (2019). Before that Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman viciously fought in Kramer vs Kramer (1979). And before that, Ingmar Bergman’s series, Scenes from a Marriage (1974), with Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson was released in Sweden. In HBO’s newest series, writers Amy Herzog and Hagai Levi have taken on the gargantuan task of adapting Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage for U.S. audiences with a modern day twist.
Filling the shoes of Ullmann and Josephson are Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac. The two play Mira and Jonathan a handsome couple who live in Boston as Jonathan teaches at Tufts and Mira is VP at a Tech company. We first meet Mira sending a text in the bathroom, but to whom? She walks downstairs to check on her young daughter as she innocently watches Wallace and Gromit on her tablet. A psych-grad soon greets her as she’s there to ask questions for research regarding a dissertation on the dynamic of primary female bread winners in a marriage. The series of intimate questions about sex life, how they met, how would they describe themselves, etc. plague Mira’s mind as she later reflects on the experience. She says, however, Jonathan just loves to hear himself talk to anyone who will listen. The questions come from Mira’s left and the haunting texts come from Mira’s right. But as the two sit together, holding hands and smiling, the camera pulls in tighter and tighter on the two. From that moment, the claustrophobia begins and, you’re in it.
The problems facing the couple become more intense, harder to swallow, as they do their best to stifle a cry — rubbing the tears from the bloodshot eyes. The drama hits fast with both Chastain and Isaac exhibiting their magnificent talents as they envelope themselves within these characters. One thing that often happens with the first episode in a series is that it’s usually the foundation episode. But for Scenes from a Marriage, there’s no holding back. As an audience member, you just hold your breath and jump.
With all understanding, it’s going to be hard to beat Bergman, and it’s only the first episode. However, this initial start for the series is promising. As the credits rolled, I was immediately left wanting more. I’ll refrain from giving this five episode series a rating, for now, but I will say that Scenes from a Marriage is definitely worth checking out.
Scenes from a Marriage
Directed by: Hagai Levi
Written by: Amy Herzog and Hagai Levi
Starring: Jessica Chastain & Oscar Isaac