Scenes from a Marriage

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Scenes from a Marriage
SwedishScener ur ett äktenskap
Written byIngmar Bergman
Directed byIngmar Bergman
Country of originSweden
Original languageSwedish
ProducerLars-Owe Carlberg
CinematographySven Nykvist
Running time
  • 281 minutes (TV version)[1]
  • 167 minutes (theatrical)[2]
Original networkSVT
Original release11 April (1973-04-11) –
16 May 1973 (1973-05-16)

Scenes from a Marriage (Swedish: Scener ur ett äktenskap) is a 1973 Swedish television miniseries written and directed by Ingmar Bergman. Over the course of six hour-long episodes, it explores the disintegration of the marriage between Marianne (Liv Ullmann), a divorce lawyer, and Johan (Erland Josephson), a psychology professor. The series spans a period of 10 years. Bergman's teleplay draws on his own experiences, including his relationship with Ullmann. It was shot on a small budget in Stockholm and Fårö in 1972.

After initially airing on Swedish TV in six parts, the miniseries was condensed into a theatrical version and received positive reviews in Sweden and internationally. Scenes from a Marriage was also the subject of controversy for its perceived influence on rising divorce rates in Europe. The film was ineligible for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, but won the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film and several other honours. The miniseries and film version influenced filmmakers such as Woody Allen and Richard Linklater. It was followed by a sequel, Saraband, in 2003, and stage adaptations. It was also adapted into an HBO miniseries in 2021.


The TV miniseries' six episodes ran between 11 April and 16 May 1973. At about 50 minutes per episode, the miniseries totals 282 minutes.[3]

Scenes from each episode appear in the film version, which is 168 minutes long.[3] The episode titles appear in the film version as chapter titles.[4]

# Title Original airdate[5]
1"Innocence and Panic (Oskuld och panik)"11 April 1973 (1973-04-11)
An affluent couple, Marianne and Johan, are interviewed for a magazine series on love after having renewed their marriage contract after their 10th anniversary. In the interview, they come across as an ideal couple with two daughters. Afterward, they entertain the couple Peter and Katarina, who have a miserable relationship. Marianne reveals to Johan she is pregnant, and she winds up having an abortion.
2"The Art of Sweeping Things Under the Rug (Konsten att sopa under mattan)"18 April 1973 (1973-04-18)
Marianne wakes up one morning determined not to visit her parents for dinner, as the family usually does each week, but backs down. At the university where Johan works, he shares poetry that he has not let Marianne see with a female colleague, who tells him it is mediocre. Later, Marianne and Johan debate the lack of joy they take in their sex life.
3"Paula"25 April 1973 (1973-04-25)
Johan reveals to Marianne that he is having an affair with a much younger woman named Paula, an unseen character, and wants a separation. He intends to leave home for many months, and shares his frustrations about their marriage and longtime desire to leave. Upon phoning a friend for help, Marianne learns many of her friends knew about the affair before she did.
4"The Vale of Tears (Tåredalen)"2 May 1973 (1973-05-02)
Johan visits Marianne, disclosing he intends to take a position at Cleveland University. Marianne then suggests they should finalize a divorce, hinting she is interested in remarrying. She shares what she has learned about herself in therapy, but Johan doesn't listen.
5"The Illiterates (Analfabeterna)"9 May 1973 (1973-05-09)
Marianne and Johan meet to finalize their divorce, leading to more arguments over the division of their belongings, the upbringing of their daughters and Marianne's new enjoyment of sex with her current partner. After the arguments escalate into physical violence, Johan sadly signs the papers.
6"In the Middle of the Night in a Dark House Somewhere in the World (Mitt i natten ett mörkt hus någonstans i världen)"16 May 1973 (1973-05-16)
Despite having both been remarried to other people, Marianne and Johan meet for an affair. Marianne reveals she had an affair in 1955, very shortly after they were married. It has been 20 years since they were married. Going to a friend's country house, Marianne has a nightmare, and wakes up fretting she has never loved or been loved. Johan comforts her that they share an imperfect love.



Director Ingmar Bergman drew on personal experiences with actress Liv Ullmann in writing the teleplay.

Bergman wrote the teleplay for Scenes From a Marriage over three months. He drew on his personal experiences, including his relationship with Ullmann; his unhappy, eventually dissolved marriages to Käbi Laretei and Gun Hagberg; and the marriage of his parents, Karin and Erik Bergman. As a boy, he had witnessed his parents violently wrestling, with Karin slapping Erik and Erik pushing her against a wall. Ingmar also found his mother could be manipulative.[6][7][8]

The budget for Scenes From a Marriage was approximately a third that of Bergman's previous film, Cries and Whispers. Half was covered by Swedish Television and half by foreign companies.[9] It was filmed in Stockholm and Fårö between July and October 1972.[10] Cinematographer Sven Nykvist emphasized close-ups and employed small indoor film sets. Nykvist later regretted not using more tracking shots when he learned the miniseries would have a theatrical release.[11] The filming schedule was one week per episode.[9]

Ullmann compared performing in Scenes From a Marriage to appearing in a documentary, saying she "felt very connected to the role." She said she was becoming more involved in the feminist movement while making the miniseries.[11] Due to Ullmann and Erland Josephson's comfort with their parts, the crew saved time by not having rehearsals.[9]


Scenes From a Marriage was broadcast as a miniseries in Sweden by SVT2 beginning on 11 April 1973.[12] Polls indicated most of the viewers were women.[10] A 169-minute theatrical version was screened in Sweden on 28 October 1974.[13]

In the United States, a 167-minute version of the miniseries was released in cinemas, with the 16 mm film modified to 35 mm.[2][11] It opened in New York City on 21 September 1974.[10] The full miniseries was later aired in the U.S. by PBS in March and April 1977,[10] and numerous times in 1979.[14] The Criterion Collection released the miniseries and theatrical version on a three-disc DVD in Region 1 in 2004, complete with interviews and an essay by Phillip Lopate.[15]


Critical reception[edit]

Swedish director Maj Wechselmann criticized Scenes from a Marriage for its approach to marriage roles.

In Sweden, Scenes from a Marriage received positive reviews for its dialogue and realism, with Mauritz Edstrom calling it "one of Bergman's finest human portrayals".[10] Åke Janzon said that while the miniseries was not a masterpiece, it demonstrated psychological tension. Swedish director Maj Wechselmann criticized it on feminist grounds, saying it failed to criticize marriage roles.[10] Bergman replied that the miniseries was meant to depict "Marianne's liberation" and female "suppressed aggressions".[16] One controversy revolved around allegations that Scenes From a Marriage led to higher divorce rates in Sweden and around Europe by teaching couples to communicate their conflicts.[17][18] Swedish divorce rates allegedly doubled one year after the miniseries was broadcast in 1973.[19][20] In 2013 Rachel Halliburton disputed these allegations in Time Out magazine, remarking that sexual and women's liberation were gaining prominence at the time and that the miniseries "as such was as much a symptom of what was happening to modern marriage as a cause".[21]

In the United States, Roger Ebert gave the theatrical version a full four stars, calling it "one of the truest, most luminous love stories ever made"[22] and "the best film of 1973".[23] Vincent Canby, chief critic for The New York Times, called the theatrical version "a movie of such extraordinary intimacy that it has the effect of breaking into mysterious components many things we ordinarily accept without thought, familiar and banal objects, faces, attitudes, and emotions, especially love. [...] Ullmann again establishes herself as one of the most fascinating actresses of our time." Canby also wrote that "Josephson gives an equally complex performance" but found the character less admirable.[4] Don Druker of Chicago Reader criticized the editing for the cinema, saying that the film "shows its reassembled status rather badly" and that "moments of searing insight" were provided mainly by Ullmann.[24]

The film was included in "The New York Times Guide to the Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made" in 2002.[25] In 2004, essayist Phillip Lopate wrote that Scenes from a Marriage showed Bergman moving on from exploration of God's silence to the subject of men, women, love and intimacy. Lopate found the film version "more harrowing and theatrical," while the miniseries "has the tendency to intersect with and form a more quotidian relationship to viewers’ lives; its characters become members of the family, and their resilience over time, regardless of the incessant crises thrown them by the script, induces a more good-humored, forgiving atmosphere."[26] In 2007, Kristi McKim of Senses of Cinema wrote that the film "stunningly exemplified" the "tension" in "the emotional causes and effects of feeling incompatible desires within the modern world."[27] The film has a 91% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 23 reviews.[28] It was included on BBC's 2018 list of the 100 greatest foreign-language films.[29]


The National Board of Review named Scenes from a Marriage one of the top foreign-language films of 1974.[30] It sparked controversy when its ineligibility for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film was questioned. The supposed reason was that it aired on television before it played in cinemas, but at the time that did not necessarily render a film ineligible. In this case, it was because the TV broadcast occurred the year before its theatrical debut in 1974.[31] The film's ineligibility prompted 24 filmmakers, including Frank Capra and Federico Fellini, to write an open letter demanding the rules for eligibility be revised.[31]

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
BAFTA Awards 1976 Best Actress Liv Ullmann Nominated [32]
Golden Globes 25 January 1975 Best Foreign Language Film Scenes from a Marriage Won [33]
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Liv Ullmann Nominated
National Society of Film Critics 5 January 1975 Best Film Scenes from a Marriage Won [31][34]
Best Screenplay Ingmar Bergman Won
Best Director Runner-up
Best Actress Liv Ullmann Won
Best Supporting Actress Bibi Andersson Won
New York Film Critics Circle 28 January 1975 Best Film Scenes from a Marriage Runner-up [35]
Best Director Ingmar Bergman Runner-up
Best Screenplay Won
Best Actress Liv Ullmann Won
Best Supporting Actress Bibi Andersson Runner-up


Scenes from a Marriage has influenced Woody Allen's filmography.

Bergman's 1980 television film From the Life of the Marionettes centres on a couple named Peter and Katarina, loosely based on the supporting characters of those names in Scenes from a Marriage.[36][37][38] Bergman also wrote the first stage adaptation of Scenes from a Marriage for the Residenztheater in Munich in 1981.[39] Saraband, a quasi-sequel set decades after the original miniseries, aired on Swedish television in 2003.[40] In 2008, a theatrical adaption by Joanna Murray-Smith was performed at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry, directed by Trevor Nunn and starring Imogen Stubbs and Iain Glen.

Knots Landing creator David Jacobs based the series on Scenes from a Marriage.[41] Shashi Deshpande informally adapted it into the screenplay for Govind Nihalani's Drishti in 1990.[42][43] In 1991, Woody Allen costarred in Paul Mazursky's Scenes from a Mall, a dark comedy about a deteriorating marriage.[44][45] Allen's similarly realist 1992 film Husbands and Wives is also influenced by Scenes from a Marriage.[46] Some critics compared Allen's Annie Hall (1977) to Scenes from a Marriage.[47][48]

In an April 2011 New York Times Opinionator article titled "Too Much Relationship Vérité", Virginia Heffernan compares An American Family to Scenes from a Marriage:

It's now the future. And the 12-hour PBS time capsule, which will make a rare reappearance next week at the Paley Center in Manhattan and on some public-TV affiliates beginning Saturday, looks more like performance art than social science. Hammy stunts for the camera alternate with Bergman-esque staging. ("Scenes from a Marriage", Bergman’s fictional TV series, also appeared in 1973, in Sweden.)[49]

In June 2013, actor Ethan Hawke and director Richard Linklater said Scenes from a Marriage was the standard by which their Before Midnight must be judged.[50] Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev initially conceived Loveless (2017) as a remake of Scenes from a Marriage,[51] with critics also comparing Zvyagintsev's finished product to Bergman's miniseries.[52][53] Noah Baumbach's Marriage Story (2019) also contains references to Scenes from a Marriage.[54][55]


  1. ^ "Scener ur ett äktenskap (1973)". Swedish Film Database. Archived from the original on 22 September 2012. Retrieved 18 July 2011.
  2. ^ a b "Scenes from a Marriage (AA)". British Board of Film Classification. 4 November 1974. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 24 March 2013.
  3. ^ a b Vermilye 2002, p. 142.
  4. ^ a b Canby, Vincent (16 September 1974). "Scenes from a Marriage". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 3 October 2016. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
  5. ^ Gado 1986, p. 530.
  6. ^ Hart 2008, p. 116.
  7. ^ Hart 2008, p. 117.
  8. ^ Cardullo 2012, p. 221.
  9. ^ a b c Gado 1986, p. 399.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Steene 2005, p. 425.
  11. ^ a b c De Vito & Tropea 2010, p. 202.
  12. ^ Steene 2005, p. 424.
  13. ^ "Scener ur ett äktenskap (1974)". The Swedish Film Database. Archived from the original on 19 January 2018. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  14. ^ Tannen 1994, p. 142.
  15. ^ Galbraith, Stuart IV (16 March 2004). "Scenes From a Marriage – Criterion Collection". DVD Talk. Archived from the original on 9 October 2017. Retrieved 8 October 2017.
  16. ^ Steene 2005, p. 426.
  17. ^ Shargel 2007, p. xxv.
  18. ^ Fouché, Gwladys (30 July 2008). "Do Swedes still blame Bergman for upping the divorce rate?". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 6 October 2016. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  19. ^ Brantley, Ben (22 September 2014). "A Marriage in Trouble, in Triplicate". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 29 April 2017. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  20. ^ Taylor, Paul (25 September 2013). "Theatre review: Scenes from a Marriage – 'A merciless dissection on the state of matrimony'". The Independent. Archived from the original on 5 October 2016. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  21. ^ Halliburton, Rachel (25 September 2013). "Scenes from a Marriage". Time Out. Archived from the original on 5 October 2016. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  22. ^ Ebert, Roger (15 September 1974). "Scenes from a Marriage". Archived from the original on 3 October 2016. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
  23. ^ "Ebert's 10 Best Lists: 1967–present". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on September 8, 2006.
  24. ^ Druker, Don (26 October 1985). "Scenes From a Marriage". Chicago Reader. Archived from the original on 15 September 2015. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
  25. ^ "The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made". The New York Times. 2002. Archived from the original on 11 December 2013. Retrieved 7 December 2013.
  26. ^ Lopate, Phillip (15 March 2004). "Scenes from a Marriage". The Criterion Collection. Archived from the original on 3 October 2016. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
  27. ^ McKim, Kristi (August 2007). "Marriage as Cinematic Movement, or Loving the Face in Close-Up: Scenes From a Marriage". Senses of Cinema Issue 44. Archived from the original on 3 October 2016. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
  28. ^ "Scenes From A Marriage (Scener Ur Ett Äktenskap) (1974)". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on 11 October 2016. Retrieved 20 March 2023.
  29. ^ "The 100 Greatest Foreign Language Films". bbc. 29 October 2018. Retrieved 10 January 2021.
  30. ^ "National Board of Review of Motion Pictures: Awards for 1974". National Board of Review of Motion Pictures. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007.
  31. ^ a b c Gates, Anita (15 January 1995). "There Are Movies, And Then There Are Movies". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 3 October 2016. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
  32. ^ Long 2006, p. xvi.
  33. ^ "Scenes from a Marriage". Golden Globe Awards. Archived from the original on 24 March 2016. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
  34. ^ "National Society of Film Critics Hails 'Scenes From a Marriage'". The New York Times. 6 January 1975. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  35. ^ "1974 Awards". New York Film Critics Circle. Archived from the original on 13 November 2016. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
  36. ^ Steene 2005, pp. 151–152.
  37. ^ Luko 2015, p. 209.
  38. ^ Maltin 2017, p. 507.
  39. ^ Gado 1986, p. 400.
  40. ^ Sundholm et al. 2012, p. 74.
  41. ^ Celizic, Mike (28 February 2008). "'Knots Landing' cast explains drama's longevity". Archived from the original on 8 March 2016. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
  42. ^ Rajadhyaksha, Ashish; Willemen, Paul (1999). Encyclopedia of Indian Cinema. Routledge. p. 496. ISBN 978-1-135-94325-7.
  43. ^ Dasgupta, Chidananda (1993). "Rudali (The Mourner)". Cinemaya. pp. 30–31.
  44. ^ Eno, Richard (30 November 2014). "10 Strong Cinematic Links Between Ingmar Bergman and Woody Allen". Taste of Cinema. Archived from the original on 3 October 2016. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
  45. ^ "Scenes from a Mall". Variety. 31 December 1990. Retrieved 10 June 2012.
  46. ^ Canby, Vincent (18 September 1992). "Review/Film Husbands and Wives; Fact? Fiction? It Doesn't Matter". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 3 October 2016. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
  47. ^ Canby, Vincent (21 April 1977). "Movie Review – Annie Hall". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 21 July 2013. Retrieved 19 July 2012.
  48. ^ McBride, Joseph (29 March 1979). "Variety Reviews – Annie Hall". Variety. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 19 July 2012.
  49. ^ Heffernan, Virginia (17 April 2011). "Too Much Relationship Vérité". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 30 September 2012. Retrieved 18 September 2012.
  50. ^ Film Society of Lincoln Center (6 June 2013). "Summer Talks: "Before Midnight"". Archived from the original on 24 October 2013. Retrieved 24 June 2013.
  51. ^ Goff, Samuel (11 October 2017). "Zvyagintsev returns: Russia's foremost director on his new film Loveless, critics and creativity". The Calvert Journal. Archived from the original on 11 November 2017. Retrieved 10 November 2017.
  52. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (17 May 2017). "Loveless review – eerie thriller of hypnotic, mysterious intensity from Leviathan director". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 26 May 2017. Retrieved 10 November 2017.
  53. ^ Semerene, Diego (12 October 2017). "BFI London Film Festival 2017: Andrey Zvyagintsev's Loveless". Slant Magazine. Archived from the original on 11 November 2017. Retrieved 10 November 2017.
  54. ^ Lane, Anthony (1 November 2019). "End Times in 'Terminator: Dark Fate' and 'Marriage Story'". The New Yorker. Retrieved 12 April 2020.
  55. ^ Rose, Steve (11 November 2019). "Microaggressions and misery: why Marriage Story is a rare example of a Hollywood divorce film". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 April 2020.


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  • Steene, Birgitta (2005). Ingmar Bergman: A Reference Guide. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. ISBN 9053564063.
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  • Tannen, Deborah (1994). Gender and Discourse. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195089758.
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External links[edit]