Launched on September 17 on OCS, Scenes from a Marriage modernizes Bergman’s Scenes from the Conjugal Life. But Master of None season 3 also reinvents it in its own way. Decryption.
Scenes from Married Life (1973)
In 1973, Swedish public television broadcast the six episodes of Scenes from the Conjugal Life by Ingmar Bergman (better known in its version as a feature film). This chronicle of the life of a couple in six parts is essential not only as a masterpiece but also a quasi-sociological study of modern marriage. The one where couples marry for love, and not constrained by their social rank, their families or religion.
The series then offers an unprecedented dive into the daily life of this couple formed by Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson. In the roles of Marianne and Johan, they represent the new marital model of the 20th century in its most critical episodes. If this couple seems doomed to love each other despite the incessant arguments, the violence expressed and the divorce, all these dramatic moments mark the spirits forever. So much so that a peak of divorces occurs in Sweden shortly after the broadcast of the series.
Above all, Scenes from married life examines all the dysfunctions of the couple: between weariness, adultery in its “classic” configuration of the man who leaves his wife for another younger one and all the low blows that accompany this inevitable rupture . Seen since 2021, this version of Bergman returns to an image of worn-out Épinal, that of the all-powerful man and of the woman confined to her “profession of wife” and not really on the same footing of equality.
Scenes from a Marriage (2021)
When Hagai Levi tackles Bergman’s monument in Scenes from a Marriage, at the behest of his son Daniel Bergman (who is credited as a producer), he decides to reverse the roles between man and woman. Mira, played by Jessica Chastain, doesn’t define herself, deep down, as mother and wife – contrary to what she says in the first episode – but as a career woman.
She is brilliant at her job, to the point of being the main financial resource of her household. She repeatedly expresses some discomfort in her status as a mother and the difficulty of her relationship with her daughter. On the other hand, Jonathan played by Oscar Isaac, although an academic, is a daddy hen who loves taking care of their daughter and lives very well with the fact that his wife earns more than him.
But Hagai Levi pushes the role reversal even further since it is Mira who decides to leave Jonathan after meeting another man younger than her. And unlike Johan in the Bergman series, she never plays on her financial ease to bend Jonathan in any way. She is as accommodating as possible.
Why is the series with Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain a masterpiece?
Thus, in this version, Hagai Levi gives a strong and independent image of the mother and the wife who is no longer a housewife and who has a complex relationship with motherhood. There is no balance of power between Mira and Jonathan. It is also he who collapses when he is left. The cards of a dominant masculinity are reshuffled.
Master of None – Moments in Love (2021)
In season 3 of Master of None, titled Moments in Love, Lena Waithe and Aziz Ansari – who together wrote the five episodes of the season – also decide to offer their variation on the theme of Scenes from married life.
They move their speeches even further by telling this time about a homosexual couple, composed of two black women: Denise and Alicia, played respectively by Lena Waithe and Naomi Ackie. By choosing to tell the story of this lesbian couple, Lena Waithe and Aziz Ansari free themselves from all possible stereotypes linked to heterosexuality and the mechanisms of male-female domination.
The stakes of the couple formed by Denise and Alicia revolve around the question of fidelity and the desire for children. Denise – then a secondary character of seasons 1 and 2 – is married to Alicia and at the same time, installed for the first time in a stable and long-lasting relationship. A hell of a change after her past as a seductress.
It is this monotony of the couple that disturbs her and pushes her to look elsewhere, but also the question of an even deeper commitment by agreeing to have a child with Alicia. The theme of the couple is then centered on fundamental themes such as monogamy and parenthood, in …