All scenes of an HBO wedding change from the 1973 miniseries


Warning: SPOILERS for the original Scenes from a wedding HBO series and remake.

The original by Ingmar Bergman Scenes from a wedding has influenced filmmakers since its release in 1973, and now HBO has adapted the Swedish director’s groundbreaking family drama into a new series set in America today. The limited series, created by Hagai Levi (The case) and starring Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac, reexamines Bergman’s classic tale from a contemporary perspective.

Bergman’s miniseries followed the ups and downs of a decade-long tumultuous relationship between married couple Marianne (played by Liv Ullman) and Johan (Erland Josephson). Levi’s adaptation stays true to the original premise while updating several aspects of the story to make it more relevant to audiences today. Levi’s Scenes from a wedding includes structural changes on the surface in terms of characters and plot. The story still revolves around an upper middle class couple, but instead of 1970s Sweden, they were transported to an American suburb in modern times.

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The HBO 2021 limited series is also shorter – five episodes instead of six – by cutting the second episode from the original, “The Art of Sweeping Things Under The Rug”. Other than this change, the episode titles remain the same. With the exception of “Paula” becoming “Poli” in Episode 3. Instead of Jonathan having the affair – as Johan does in Bergman’s story – this time it’s Mira who is unfaithful, as well ” Paula “becomes” Poli “- one of the many genre reversals in the series. The basic plot elements are also the same, at least from an outline perspective. Getting into the real details of the setting, characters, dialogue, and plot is where things start to change in Bergman’s updated version of the classic tale of marriage, love, and loss.

Define design changes

Scenes from a 1973 wedding

Along with the obvious updates that put Mira and Jonathan in modern times, there are also bigger changes to the set design in HBO’s modern take on the classic miniseries. Bergman had a small budget for Scenes from a wedding, and thus the scenography was refined, often resembling that of a theatrical rather than cinematographic production. There are no cuts to the neighborhood and the house the couple lives in at the start – for example – just like the one in the HBO series.

It might help explain Levi’s decision to open each episode of the new series by breaking the fourth wall – showing the cast and crew bustling about as they prepare for the opening scene to begin. Doing this allows the audience to see the metaphorical “stage” the actors are about to perform on. It sounds counterintuitive, but it also creates a heightened sense of realism in reminding that real life always takes place behind the camera – behind the front of the stage.

Changing gender norms and identity

Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain in Wedding Scenes

To update the series, Levi also made some changes to the characters. The names have been changed – from Marianne to Mira and Johan to Jonathan – for example. And the person who interviewed Mira and Jonathan in the opening scene has also changed. In the original version Scenes from a wedding, a blonde journalist from a women’s magazine asks the couple about their marriage. In the adapted version, the reporter was replaced by one of Jonathan’s graduate students, a Ph.D. candidate looking for how “Changing gender norms affect monogamous marriages” – a theme that runs throughout the modernized take. Before starting the interview by asking the couple to describe themselves in a few words – as the writer of the women’s magazine does in Bergman’s version – the student begins by confirming the pronouns of Mira and Jonathan.

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The questioning style is also more academic than that of the female journalist, as the viewer would expect from a graduate student. When the student asks the couple to describe themselves, she doesn’t ask for adjectives, she asks them to think about “Attributes that you can’t imagine without. “ And this is where audiences really start to see how the distinctions are made between Jonathan de Levi and Johan de Bergman. Instead of describing – in a rather obnoxious way – how wonderful he is in everything, like Johan – who considers himself a great friend, father and lover – Jonathan first describes himself on a basic level. It’s as if he’s ticking boxes on a standardized form – gender (male), religion (Jewish), political affiliation (Democrat). This gives viewers a few surface details about the character, but it also helps modernize the story. Levi seems to be saying something about how a person’s identity is defined in contemporary terms – by labeling and boxing people to determine where they might “belong.” This is why Jonathan defaults to these identifying markers when asked. It has become almost second nature to describe yourself in these terms.

Changing the dynamics of power

Ingmar Bergman 1973 Scenes from a wedding interview scene

In the direction of changing gender norms, Marianne de Bergman was – ironically – a divorce lawyer, but Johan, who worked JOB, was still the breadwinner. In Levi’s version of Scenes from a weddinge, these gender roles are exchanged. As a technical executive, Mira earns more money than her husband, Jonathan, a professor of philosophy. She also works long hours, leaving Jonathan to take care of the household chores that Marianne takes care of in Bergman’s Scenes. Unlike the original, Levi’s modern take on it also understands how this role reversal affects women in a different way when there are children involved. Mira feels like she has to justify her long hours of work – she needs to make up for the time she took on maternity leave – in a way Johan never would have had in the original series.

Despite this reversal in the power dynamic, what’s interesting is how the opening scene of episode 1, “Innocence & Panic” of the HBO adaptation remains very close to the original in terms of relationship between Mira and Johan. As. Marianne, Mira is calm and distant during the interview, she is visibly uncomfortable and lets Jonathan lead the conversation, answering questions for her as Johan does Marianne in the 1973 version. In either case, the audience immediately sees the obvious disconnection between these two people who say they are happy in marriage. In Bergman’s scenes, Johan is completely oblivious to himself, and so is Jonathan, although the reasoning behind this lack of awareness is different. In this case, Jonathan has no idea that (spoiler) Mira is cheating on him, which is part of why she’s distracted in this opening scene. Like Marianne, Mira doesn’t want to be there for the interview – not because she’s shy and uncomfortable with the spotlight like Marianne, but because she knows it’s just a sham, as the public learns when her affair is revealed.

Changing family dynamics

Changing power dynamics and gender norms also create a different family dynamic in the HBO limited series. There are little details like who will cook dinner and put the kids to bed, and there are two girls in the original, while Levi’s version has one, but the role these kids play in each story in these stories. is also quite different. The girls from Bergman’s version appear in the opening scene, posing with their parents for a family photo that will appear alongside the women’s magazine article, after which they run away never to be seen again. Literally, this is the only time audiences see these girls in the miniseries. Basically the kids are there to serve the same purpose as the rest of the props. Looking at this today, it seems odd – why bring them up at all – but it also shows how family dynamics have evolved, at least in terms of how people think about the family unit today and how she is portrayed in movies and TV shows.

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At Lévi’s Scenes from a weddingMira and Jonathan’s daughter, Ava, is much more involved in her parents’ relationship difficulties as she witnesses their troubles. In Bergman’s version, the children are out of sight, out of mind. And maybe that’s as it should be, in reality parents have another life that their kids don’t see – especially when it comes to their relationship with each other – but in Levi’s version, viewers can see how these hidden parts of a parent’s life affect a child whether or not adults realize it.

Performance is always the key

Scenes from a wedding 1973_Bergman

Like Bergman’s Scenes, the HBO show relies heavily on its actors. Michelle Williams was originally chosen for the role of Mira. After being forced to drop out due to scheduling conflicts, Chastain was recruited. And while the show would likely also have worked with Williams in the role – given her level of skill and talent as an actress – it’s hard to imagine the relationship would feel the same as the one Chastain and Isaac present. to the public. Part of what made – and still does – Scenes from a wedding so powerful was the relationship between the director and the main lady, Liv Ullmann. Given their decades-long relationship – the two had a daughter together – Bergman would have known how to squeeze Ullmann’s emotions for this character in a way that someone who was not as close to her on the plane. staff could have done it. The same goes for Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac, who have been friends for the years they spent studying together at Juilliard. Without the real beautiful friendship these two seem to have, there’s always a chance the chemistry between the characters felt forced. And one of the things that do Scenes from a wedding work in both the original and HBO versions is that the relationship feels so real. Without it, a show like this wouldn’t work.

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