Okay, so like every art school graduate of a Certain Age, I was (and still am) a devout Ingmar Bergman acolyte.
Scene from a bookshelf—mine.
There’s no Bergman I won’t watch again and again and pause the frame and use my little lecture pointer thingie to direct your attention to the way a vase is arranged meaningfully on the window sill. And I will KEEP going on in such a vein until the eyes of any listener within a thousand yards start to glaze over and they send up signal flares for rescue. Six hours of Death standing in a corner while Liv Ullmann (OR WHOEVER) gnaws a, oh, I don’t know, turkey leg and sighs? In Swedish? WHERE DO I GET MY TICKET?
So I approached the new HBO remake of Scenes from a Marriage with a significant amount of dubiosity. But … color me pleasantly surprised! It’s just the sort of thing I always like: talk talk talk talk talk and then nothing at all happens except maybe one person will walk into a room and rearrange a bowl of fruit and then uh-oh, recrimination, tears, silence. TIMES TEN.
It’s brought to you by the same people who brought you In Treatment, if that helps you figure out if it’s your thing or not; all of the dialogue has the same kind of heightened articulateness In Treatment was chock full of—everyone sounds super intelligent in that not-quite-realistic way. I mean, what, there’s not a single idiot in this town?
The two main performances (and there are hardly any others) by Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac are basically without flaw, so if that ‘s the sort of thing that revs you up, you’ll love it. They’re capital-A Actorly without being artificial, if that makes any sense, and it really is a thrill to watch people who are really good at this be really good at this.
Plus: it’s super-bleak! It makes a Thomas Hardy novel look like an Abbott and Costello routine. You should also go watch the original again (or for the first time?) and just make it a whole 12-hour “pursed lips and sobbing and looking forlornly out the wintry window” sort of weekend. You’re welcome!