The latest HBO limited series, “Scenes From A Marriage” is adapted from Ingmar Bergman’s classic Swedish mini-series of the same name and the latest version is developed, written, and directed by Hagai Levi. “Scenes from a Marriage” explores and dives deep into the topics of love, hate, monogamy, marriage, and divorce through the lens of an American couple Mira (played Jessica Chastain) and Jonathan (played Oscar Isaac).
WARNING: MILD SPOILERS AHEAD FOR “SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE” EPISODES 1 & 2
Episode 1: “INNOCENCE AND PANIC”
The episode begins in an unconventional manner. With a behind the scenes footage of Jessica Chastain as she arrives on set and in an almost seamless transition, the episode rolls out and we are pushed into the lives of Jonathan and Mira as they sit down for an interview with a psychiatrist student working on the issues faced by married couples. We get to know how Jonathan and Mira came to know each other, Mira isn’t thrilled nor excited about telling their story, so Jonathan takes over and narrates their interaction.
As we continue with the episode, there is a time skip, and we see Jonathan and Mira having dinner with their friends Kate (played by Nicole Beharie) and Peter (played by Corey Stoll). Things heat up amidst their conversations while Peter and Kate discuss their open relationship. Drama ensues and quickly escalates as Mira takes Kate upstairs.
Peter and Kate eventually leave. Jonathan and Mira get to discuss their relationship, right before going to bed and she drops the news of her pregnancy, and the reactions that follow-through doesn’t necessarily feel natural at all. As we get to the end of the episode, it ends on a powerful note at the hospital, where we get to see Jonathan and Mira are two entirely different people, while one is still in love, the other is quickly falling out of love.
Episode 2: “Poli”
“POLI” begins by following Oscar Isaac to set this time. At this point, it has become a common question…why are we getting the behind-the-scenes treatment to every episode? Because setting up the episode like this feels a little artificial and it severely undercuts the performances that follow next.
While Oscar Isaac settles into the character, there is no discussion or mention about Mira’s abortion. We notice that Mira is out on one of her business trips and we see Jonathan follow through his day’s work. But as time progresses at the end of the day, we see Jonathan prepping his late-night meals and he hears the door knock and is delighted to see Mira return from the trip.
In the first episode, we get to see Hagai Levi is almost following the same note but with updated characters and locations. The classic Ingmar Bergman’s series has followed through, but in the second episode, we can clearly notice that this series is no longer the following Ingmar Bergman’s classic and we are introduced to the reveal that stuns all of its viewers.
Hagai Levi and his adaption switch the roles of characters in their entirety as we come to know Mira has been having an affair with a man named Poli, which also indicates that a lot of time has passed after the abortion. Jonathan and Mira have been growing apart. When Mira reveals to Jonathan that she has been seeing someone, we see Jonathan completely clueless and broken and not being able to understand what he was supposed to do with that sort of information.
In the first episode, we get to see the cracks that are visibly present in Jonathan and Mira’s lives, but in the second episode, we get to know the reasons. The second episode drives and delivers the narrative of why talking isn’t necessarily communicating and how Jonathan ended up creating and living inside a bubble where he couldn’t notice the sadness in his wife Mira’s eyes.
As the episode progresses we understand that Jonathan wants to sit and talk things through and is never the one who is listening. Mira on the other hand is feeling trapped and is feeling hurt by being unable to be truthful to Jonathan and wants to let go of the pain, that is consuming her and leave the marriage.
As the end scene almost rolls up, we get to see Jonathan breakdown, only after Mira steps out the door. Mira steps out the door and she doesn’t want to have a breakdown or a second thought about staying back, because if she stays back, she might never move on or break free from the pain she is feeling.
The idea of gender swapping the characters will have its impact and in fact, will lead to heavier and stronger emotional moments and dialogues as the series progresses and would become a topic of conversation on the internet as well. Compared to the last episode, this week’s episode does a lot of heavy lifting and delivers its work intensely, leaving the audience wanting to know more of where Jonathan and Mira’s lives are headed.
“Scenes From A Marriage” is streaming now on HBO Max.
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