Scenes from a Marriage with Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac is already establishing itself as a major series while it is an adaptation of another monumental work, Scenes from Bergman’s Conjugal Life. We explain why.
What is it about ?
Adaptation of the miniseries (now a film) by Ingmar Bergman, which examines the notions of love, hate, desire, monogamy, marriage and divorce through a contemporary American couple.
Scenes from a Marriage, a series created by Hagai Levi with Jessica Chastain, Oscar Isaac, Corey Stoll, Nicole Beharie… Monday at 8:40 pm on OCS City
Who is it with?
For his reinterpretation of Scenes from the Married Life of Ingmar Bergman, Hagai Levi called on two of the best actors of the moment. Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain met on the benches of the Juilliard School in New York and have been friends for years.
They also already formed an on-screen couple in 2014 in JC Chandor’s A Most Violent Year. They meet again seven years later, after having ignited, during a pretty sequence, the red carpet of the Venice Film Festival 2021 where the series was presented.
Oscar Isaac plays Jonathan, an academic and father. Jessica Chastain plays Mira, a woman with a brilliant career, who will change her marriage by leaving her husband.
Well worth a look ?
Creator of BeTipul – which gave the adaptations In Treatment and In Therapy – and of The Affair, Hagai Levi is second to none when it comes to probing the depths of the soul. With Scenes from a Marriage, a modern reinterpretation of Scenes from the Conjugal Life by Ingmar Bergman, he delivers a work of rare power that literally leaves one behind.
After Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson, Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac play a dysfunctional couple. But Hagai Levi doesn’t just make a simple remake. While respecting the narrative framework of Bergman’s original series, he reinterprets it by injecting modernity into it.
His brilliant idea? That of reversing the roles of the couple in relation to that of Bergman. Here Jonathan is an academic, but he is also a homemaker who takes care of his little girl a lot and is happy about it. Mira has a brilliant career and is the household’s main financial resource. We also feel she is much less comfortable in her role as a mother.
Mechanisms of domination
With this role reversal, Hagai Levi changes the paradigm of the mechanisms of domination in the couple. We come out of the cliché of the domineering man, of the one who makes his home live and who is fickle as soon as he gets bored in his relationship.
If Mira is the one who ostensibly earns more money, she does not make it a lever of power in her relationship. And when she leaves Jonathan, she has met another man, but the real reason for her leaving is a decision by the couple (which comes at the end of the first episode and which we prefer to keep quiet here) who has her. deeply shaken.
You have to be pretty darn armed to watch Scenes from a Marriage. The intensity and the truth expressed are such that one comes out shattered. Hagai Levi, Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain make no concessions in their expression of pain, of the difficulty of continuing to love, of leaving or of being alone. Everything is trying. And yet, everything is incredibly beautiful.
In this quasi vivisection of the couple, there is also an impossible love story, conflictual, cruel, tender, inaccessible and always incredibly desirable. The sex scenes are both raw and of rare accuracy. They translate the truth of these two beings who are like magnets who constantly attract and repel each other.
Behind closed doors
The very principle of this story is to make it a kind of play. That’s how Bergman thought of it when he directed all six episodes of his series – before they were put together for theatrical release. This is how Hagai Levi stages it.
Each episode begins with the backstage of the shoot. The spectator finds himself as in a making of and follows Jessica Chastain or Oscar Isaac from his entry on the set to the clap. At the word “action”, the magic operates. They instantly enter their character. The staging goes on in a more traditional way. Exit behind the scenes, we go completely into fiction.
This extremely simple and brilliant device at the same time leaves room for wonder because we see two immense actors at work, but it also allows to take a certain distance with the series which concentrates the most intense moments of the history of this couple . There are days without crisis that we do not attend, but these intervals cut us off from a risk of overvoltage.
Scenes from a Marriage immediately asserts itself as a standard and a necessary and even indispensable adaptation of Bergman’s work. If the latter is an indestructible monument, it offers a vision of the couple who remain stuck in their time. With Scenes from a Marriage, Hagai Levi offers a story of timeless truth.