Charisma and science can go extremely far, as proven by the new viral video of “Scenes from a Marriage” stars Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain on the Venice Film Festival honorary pathway. Isaac turning those burning hot eyes on Chastain, maintaining eye contact with her, and kissing within her arm? No amount of traditional marketing for “Scenes from a Marriage” might have equaled the sensuality of that second. And the update it gave—that Juilliard classmates and long-lasting companions Isaac and Chastain are legitimately unstable together—is also the most grounded asset of Hagai Levi’s adaptation of Ingmar Bergman’s notable Swedish miniseries.
Isaac and Chastain stew and fume and sob and holler and kiss and sob more and shout more through each scene of this restricted series’ five scenes, and the emotional rollercoaster they give frequently invigorates, and then, at that point, surpasses, the profundity of their characters or the nuance of Levi’s composition. The troublesome, passionate, and angry layers that Isaac and Chastain add to their disintegrating couple here, after the assembled front alliance of their characters in J.C. Chandor’s 2014 film “A Most Violent Year,” give a sort of meta-commentary on the passage of time, the malleability of our personalities, and the inconceivability of monogamy. (See also: Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in “Titanic,” and then, at that point, in “Revolutionary Road.”)
In Levi’s “Scenes from a Marriage,” the 40ish Jonathan (Isaac) and Mira (Chastain) appear to be happily married. After gathering at Columbia University as undergrads, they reconnected years later, dated for two or something like that years, and have been married for a decade. Jonathan teaches theory at Tufts and is the primary caregiver for their young daughter, while Mira is a tech company VP and the family’s primary breadwinner. Their house is comfortable and lived (underway architect Kevin Thompson makes a pleasant showing with family photographs, stacks of books, and an energy that reflects parenthood rather than romance), they drink a ton of wine, and their schedules are fairly set—with brief period for each other.
By the by, all appears to be well until Mira admits her unhappiness in the marriage, sparking a progression of occasions that take place more than five years. Each resulting scene is an independent second on schedule—months and years later communicated through changed haircuts, notices of their daughter’s age, and professional accomplishments or disappointments. And each scene burns through a certain arrangement: Jonathan and Mira battle, and Jonathan and Mira can’t keep their hands off each other. After sharing 33% of their lives, the two trade the same accusations: “I’m simply not totally getting it” at whatever point one of them declares personal development; “Are you seeing somebody They utilize similar jeering and sardonic tones. And they contact each other affectionately (and sexually) with familiarity, information, and expectation, which makes an altercation that turns vicious considerably more startling. “I couldn’t say whether we can be in the same room yet without harming each other,” one of them says to the next, and that “yet” is doing a great deal of work.
The original “Scenes from a Marriage,” which starred Bergman’s creative and romantic partner Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson as a Swedish married couple agonizingly advancing toward separate over a time Endless motion pictures, TV shows, and creators have been enlivened by Bergman’s work, including Richard Linklater’s “Previously” set of three, Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story,” and Aziz Ansari’s and Lena Waithe’s “Master of None Presents: Moments in Love,” which echoes nearly every narrative beat of “Scenes” from the perspective of a Black lesbian couple. In his “Scenes from a Marriage,” Levi also emulates and reflects the original miniseries, with the same or somewhat tweaked scene titles, supporting characters who are romantically miserable (played by Corey Stoll and Nicole Beharie, who make an appearance for only one scene and would have been welcome for additional), and inquiries regarding the overlaps between reformist philosophy and an organization as conservative as monogamous marriage.
Those homages are intentional—yet their final products vary from predictable to disappointing. Levi’s sex flipped power dynamics are initially interesting, however time and again lean on a heteronormative binary or don’t delve meaningfully enough into characters’ backstories or motivations. Certain scenes drag a piece as the pair’s battles go around and around, at times drearily. A fourth-wall-breaking frame is unnecessary. Like in Levi’s series “The Affair,” points of view unobtrusively shift all through the five scenes of “Scenes from a Marriage,” however there is a particularly narrative gap between (Anyone who watched “Minutes in Love” will encounter significant a sensation that this has happened before during the final scene of “Scenes from a Marriage,” or, in other words that either series probably could have profited from greater creativity.) And Levi’s visual narrating, aided by cinematographer Andrij Parekh, defaults over and over again to trailing behind characters as they pace from space to room and here and there stairs; the observational feel and inescapable claustrophobia are the point, yet become belabored.
All of this is to say that nearly every technical aspect of “Scenes from a Marriage” is either productive or adequate, however rarely ascends into remarkability. That rarified air exists for Chastain and Isaac alone, who invigorate the miniseries in the two its tranquil and boisterous minutes. Chastain’s malleable face glimmers between exhausted resignation, weary distress, guttural anger, and conciliatory acquiescence consistently. During a meeting scene while Jonathan and Mira examine their marriage, during a quarrel with Jonathan over her plans for the future, during a conversation with a companion that finishes in an astounding snapshot of sexual craving. Chastain’s line conveyances go from stammering to punchy and her physicality goes from stopped to provocative, and yet her put-upon grin reveals Mira’s pervasive unsteadiness.
Isaac, meanwhile, has to be all the more firmly controlled as Jonathan, and he contrasts a steady and still performance with snapshots of physical lack of caution: the way he whips off his glasses, his abrupt lean down to light a cigarette on a gas burner, his hand scouring frustratedly through his hair. The actors’ contrasting energies make for a portion of the series’ best scenes. The uncomfortable opening in debut scene “Guiltlessness and Panic,” during which Levi draws the camera nearer and more like a married couple clearly on various wavelengths. A morning in “Poli” during which Mira drifts uncomfortably and Jonathan methodically packs Mira’s suitcase, with Levi following each neatly rolled or collapsed thing that Jonathan prepares for Mira before she leaves against his desires. The emotional whiplash of “The Vale of Tears,” wherein Jonathan and Mira run back and forward among desire and disdain and Levi isolates their home into contradicting channels. And a sexual moment during “The Illiterates” that is both amazingly arousing and narratively valuable as Jonathan and Mira lose their poise in muddled, ardent, and shameful ways. You imagined that Venice second was excessively? Prepare yourself. In general, “Scenes from a Marriage” doesn’t always match the power of Chastain’s and Isaac’s performances. Yet, when they consume white-hot, it’s hard to turn away.