Some of the best movies and TV shows today focus on the worst marriages. In fact, on-screen versions of problematic relationships reflect our rapidly changing society.
“You hated me!” – shouts the husband in the film “Marriage story” (2019) to his ex-wife, who yells back at him: “You hated me!”
“I hate your face” – says a man in a comic drama “Together” (2021). And the woman he lives with compares him to cancer and diarrhea.
In the new HBO series “Scenes from Married Life” remake of Ingmar Bergman’s classic 1973 series, the wife is about to leave her husband.
Her angry husband Jonathan (Oscar Isaac) says they should end the relationship. “Until we figure out how to fix it.” Mira (Jessica Chastain) sarcastically retorts: “You don’t attract me anymore, and how do you fix that?”
Marriage wars of the 21st century
Luxurious and juicy fights between spouses and partners are now the hallmark of toxic marriages and relationships in the 21st century. They reflect our era when divorce is common and long-term relationships don’t always involve legal marriage.
V “Marriage history” director Noah Baumbach’s wife (Scarlett Johansson) leaves New York to pursue her own career in Los Angeles.
Remake “Scenes from Married Life” changes the balance of power, unlike Bergman’s version. This time the wife is cheating, not the husband. No, this is not an emphasis on the fact that women or men are to blame, it’s just that the films show our today’s society evenly.
In the good old days, on screen, as in life, unhappy married couples had few options. A man could change, and he got away with it, because divorce was considered a scandal.
The woman was just unhappy. But she could kill her husband like in classic film noir “Double insurance” (1944) and “The postman always rings twice” (1946), which were the embodiment of many women’s fantasies.
Or the unfortunate woman could commit suicide by jumping under a train, like Anna Karenina, or by swallowing poison, like Emma Bovary. The constant image of the sufferer, from Greta Garbo in 1935 to Keira Knightley in 2012, still resonated with disaffected wives of the 20th century.
Two versions of Scenes from Married Life
A new variety of marriage films began to appear in the 1970s, influenced by the sexual revolution of the 1960s. A prime example is the painting “Single woman” (1978).
Wealthy New York woman Erica (Jill Clayburgh) stands on the street when she is abandoned by her husband Martin. “I fell in love with another”, He says regretfully.
But Erica gets used to a new independent life and starts an affair with the artist Saul Kaplan (Alan Bates). This is a new wave of feminism, but the husband still makes a decision and dictates his terms.
The same thing happens on the show. “Scenes from a Married Life” (1973) Bergman, showing divorce and its consequences. Marianne, the character of actress Liv Ullman, has had a lavish career as a divorce lawyer (ironically), but her husband Johan (Erland Jozefson) dominates the family.
When he leaves Marianne for a young girl, the abandoned wife goes crazy for months. But by the time Johan wants to return, Marianne already feels her power over him.
The director shows all the delights of a troubled marriage with violent quarrels and manipulations on both sides, which is already very similar to today’s toxic marriage stories with a constantly fluctuating balance of power, complaints about sex or lack of it, and often the infidelity of one of the spouses. Actually, all these aspects bring the couple to a critical point.
By the way, after showing the first “Scenes from Married Life” Bergman on Swedish television in 1973, the director was even accused of rising divorce rates in the country.
Remake 2021 “Scenes from Married Life”, written and directed by Hagai Levy, focuses on the harrowing relationship between the characters and exploring their strong love-hate relationship.
The miniseries begins with observing Mira and Jonathan’s seemingly stable marriage, followed by their tumultuous breakup and the ensuing passionate meeting scenes after the divorce.
The different flooring is a detail that adds modernity to the show, so to speak. Mira is a successful leader, and Jonathan is a low-income professor who sits with their little daughter. As you can see, quite realistic changes in the 21st century.
You can even consider Mira to be selfish and manipulative – not because she wants to leave, but because of the harshness and callousness of her act. In the remake, it is the wife who returns home one evening and declares that she is leaving for a younger man with whom she is having an affair, and the shocked husband begs her to stay.
Spouses deliberately say hurtful and unforgivable words to each other. But these are the very words that we ourselves sometimes want to voice, but we know that we hardly dare to say them out loud.
“The Marriage Story” by Noah Baumbach
V “Marriage history” Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver play Nicole and Charlie, an actress and director working together in a theater company.
A framed magazine article about them on the wall of their Brooklyn home is eloquently titled “Scenes from married life“ – and this headline does not bode well in any way.
Baumbach’s script begins with a description that each spouse gives to the other. Charlie says that “Nicole could have stayed in Los Angeles and become a movie star, but she gave it up to play with me at the theater in New York.”
And this is the beginning of a problem, or at least an early signal of it. Of course, sooner or later Nicole drops everything and moves to Los Angeles with their son to star in a TV show.
She explains to her lawyer (Laura Dern) why the marriage fell apart:
“I never felt alive. Besides, I think he slept with his assistant Marianne. “
Nicole and Charlie’s violent quarrel after they broke up is probably the most memorable scene in the film. The ex-spouses claim to have physically repulsed each other during their marriage, and – even worse – they blame each other for the worst traits inherited from their parents.
This is the kind of marital war where there is no way out, and it fully reflects today’s realities of bad and decaying marriages.
Possible emergency exit
Middle-class movie heroes very often become the characters of toxic reference marriages.
In the film by Derek Sienfrens “Sad Valentine” (2010) Michelle Williams plays Cindy, a freaked out nurse and mother. Ryan Gosling is her husband, Dean, who paints at home and sips beer in the morning before work.
But they have the same insoluble marital problems and the same quarrels and scandals. The director begins the film with the worst moment in their marriage, and then gracefully moves on to the earlier moments when Dean and Cindy were in love. But then they are drawn into everyday life: he drinks, and she comes from this into rage and despair.
Film “Together” (2021) shows just how relevant today’s toxic relationship dramas can be.
Actors James McAvoy and Sharon Horgan play an unmarried couple with a 10-year-old son who (they are the only three actors in the film) are isolated in their home during the pandemic.
Director Stephen Daldry literally dissects their relationship, which was already unstable before. Unnamed heroes talk to the camera and to each other, and we find out the reasons for their anger and discontent.
He is a successful businessman, and she is a human rights activist, so he has money, and she has strong moral principles. By the way, they don’t like the idea of having sex with each other.
Months pass, a pandemic and growing irritation become an integral part of their lives. Out of boredom, they again begin to devote more time to intimate relationships, interspersed with quarrels.
Towards the end of the film, James McAvoy’s character makes a discovery that seems like a revelation to him.
He says he hated her for so long, but everything has changed:
“I think it’s not in vain that we somehow ended up in this place where there is love that exists beyond hatred. Not many people can go to such a place. “
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