Scenes from a mar­riage

Trans­lated by Zhang Weix­ing Edited by Justin Davis Pho­tos cour­tesy of Na­tional Cen­tre for the Per­form­ing Arts

Beijing (English) - - CONTENTS -

In 2017, to mark Ing­mar Bergman's 100th birth­day, Safy Neb­bou adapted the film Scenes from a Mar­riage into a dra­matic per­for­mance.

In 1973, the fa­mous 55-year- old Swedish di­rec­tor, Ing­mar Bergman, draw­ing on his own ex­pe­ri­ences in four mar­riages, shot the film Scenes from a Mar­riage, which ex­plores the dis­in­te­gra­tion of a mar­riage span­ning a decade through plenty of di­a­logue and stage drama-like per­for­mances. In 2017, to mark the 100th an­niver­sary of the birth of Bergman, fa­mous French di­rec­tor Safy Neb­bou adapted the film into a mod­ern dra­matic per­for­mance. It was staged the next year at the Na­tional Cen­tre for the Per­form­ing Arts (NCPA) in Beijing. The drama sur­gi­cally dis­sects mar­ried life and re­ceived favourable com­ments from the au­di­ence.

A Fa­mous Di­rec­tor’s Mas­ter­piece

In 1965, Bergman met ac­tress Liv Ull­mann when they were work­ing on his film Per­sona, and they fell in love. They worked on 12 films to­gether, lived to­gether for five years and had a daugh­ter. Ull­mann grad­u­ally be­gin to find Bergman to be wil­ful and con­ceited, and their rap­port de­creased. She ul­ti­mately left Bergman. Af­ter that, Bergman wrote a tele­vi­sion mini-se­ries ex­plor­ing the dis­in­te­gra­tion of the mar­riage be­tween Mar­i­anne, a fam­ily lawyer spe­cial­is­ing in di­vorce, and Jo­han, a lec­turer in psy­chol­ogy, span­ning a pe­riod of over 10 years. He drew on his own ex­pe­ri­ences, in­clud­ing his re­la­tion­ship with Ull­mann. In 1973, the mini-se­ries was con­densed into the drama film Scenes from a Mar­riage, which caused a sen­sa­tion, and helped make Bergman even more fa­mous in film and tele­vi­sion cir­cles.

Bergman was born in Upp­sala, Swe­den in 1918. His fa­ther was Erik Bergman, a Lutheran min­is­ter and later chap­lain to the King of Swe­den, and Karin, a nurse who also had Wal­loon ances­tors and who Ing­mar found could be ma­nip­u­la­tive. Ing­mar's fa­ther had strict ideas about par­ent­ing, which re­sulted in his child­hood be­ing some­what un­happy. At the age of nine, Bergman traded a set of tin sol­diers for a magic lantern. Within a year, he had cre­ated a pri­vate world with his new toy in which he felt com­pletely at home. He fash­ioned his own scenery, mar­i­onettes and light­ing ef­fects. He cre­ated pup­pet pro­duc­tions of Strind­berg plays and voiced all of the parts. When stay­ing with his fa­ther who was preach­ing at the coun­try church of Up­p­land, Bergman was fas­ci­nated by the church's mys­te­ri­ous world of low arches, thick walls, the smell of eter­nity, the coloured sun­light through the stained glass quiv­er­ing above the strangest veg­e­ta­tion of me­dieval paint­ings and carved fig­ures on ceil­ings and walls. His imag­i­na­tion was oc­cu­pied by an­gels, saints, dragons, prophets, devils, hu­mans... In 1937, Bergman en­tered Stock­holm Univer­sity Col­lege (later re­named Stock­holm Univer­sity) to study art and lit­er­a­ture. He read the plays of Shake­speare, Strind­berg and other play­wrights and spent most of his time in­volved in stu­dent the­atre. He wrote and di­rected plays and be­came a "gen­uine movie ad­dict."

In 1944, Bergman left the univer­sity and be­came a pro­fes­sional di­rec­tor at Hels­ing­borg City The­atre. Later, he trans­ferred to Gothen­burg City The­atre. He wrote the screen­play for Tor­ment (a.k.a. Frenzy) the same year. The film was di­rected by Alf Sjöberg and crit­i­cises the cruel and op­pres­sive con­di­tions in Swedish high schools. In 1946, he wrote and di­rected his first film, which was Cri­sis, mak­ing his de­but as a movie di­rec­tor.

In 1948, Bergman di­rected the drama film Mu­sic in Dark­ness, which was nom­i­nated for a Golden Lion Award at the 13th an­nual Venice In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val. He also di­rected Port of Call later that year. In 1949, he di­rected Prison, Thirst and This Can't Hap­pen Here. In 1952, Bergman be­gan his six-year di­rect­ing stint at the Malmö City The­atre. Dur­ing this pe­riod, he di­rected the com­edy films Se­crets of Women (a.k.a. Wait­ing Women), Smiles of a Sum­mer Night and other films. In 1957, he di­rected the drama film Wild Straw­ber­ries, which won the Golden Bear for Best Film at the 8th Berlin In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val and was nom­i­nated for an Academy Award for Orig­i­nal Screen­play at the 32nd Academy Awards cer­e­mony. Later, he di­rected many more films and won a Life­time Achieve­ment Award at the 35th an­nual Venice In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val in 1971.

In 1975, Bergman was nom­i­nated for the No­bel Prize in Lit­er­a­ture as a re­sult of his achieve­ments di­rect­ing plays. In 1982, Bergman shot the drama film Fanny and Alexan­der, which in­volves 60 speak­ing char­ac­ters and more than 1,200 ex­tras. It is a his­tor­i­cal pe­riod piece that com­bines tragic, comic and hor­ror el­e­ments to­gether. The plot fo­cuses on two sib­lings and their large fam­ily in Upp­sala, Swe­den dur­ing the first decade of the twen­ti­eth cen­tury. The film won the Academy

Award for Best For­eign Lan­guage Film in 1984 and was nom­i­nated for a Golden Lion Award at the 40th an­nual Venice In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val. Bergman re­ceived two nom­i­na­tions at the 56th Academy Awards for the film, in­clud­ing Best Di­rec­tor and Best Orig­i­nal Screen­play.

In 2003, 84-year-old Bergman di­rected the drama film Sara­band for Swedish tele­vi­sion. This was the only film re­leased in cin­e­mas he di­rected af­ter Fanny and Alexan­der more than 20 years ear­lier. In 2007, Bergman died in his sleep at age 89 in his home on the is­land of Fårö.

Bergman was born into a re­li­gious fam­ily in a city with many me­dieval re­mains and dec­o­ra­tions. Grow­ing up sur­rounded by re­li­gious im­agery and dis­cus­sion, he devoted many of his works to re­pro­duc­ing the serene and mys­te­ri­ous scenes he saw in mu­rals. Through­out his life, Bergman was af­fected by the con­tra­dic­tion be­tween the rigid­ity of a re­li­gious fam­ily and sec­u­lar life. His films are per­me­ated with gloomi­ness, some­what hard to un­der­stand, highly philo­soph­i­cal and con­tain many gloomy in­ter­nal mono­logues. Bergman is noted for his ver­sa­tile cam­er­a­work and for his frag­mented nar­ra­tive style, which con­trib­ute to his bleak de­pic­tion of hu­man lone­li­ness, vul­ner­a­bil­ity and tor­ment. Scenes from a Mar­riage is a good ex­am­ple.

Dis­in­te­gra­tion of a Mar­riage

Scenes from a Mar­riage is known around the world. Bergman said: “Shoot­ing Scenes from a Mar­riage only took me four months, but I felt as if I spent my whole life shoot­ing it.” Liv Ull­man was al­ready di­vorced from Bergman when the film was shot. Ull­mann con­tin­ued to play a role in the film though and was the lead ac­tress Mar­i­anne. Er­land Joseph­son played the part of Jo­han and had worked with Bergman many times. He was fa­mil­iar with his work­ing style and re­quire­ments. Scenes from a Mar­riage was re­hearsed, shot and pro­duced more smoothly than Bergman had an­tic­i­pated. Edited into a nearly three-hour film from a six- episode minis­eries, the film won a Golden Globe Award for Best For­eign Lan­guage Film in 1975.

Mar­i­anne and Jo­han are the main char­ac­ters. They have two daugh­ters and en­joy a happy, peace­ful life in the be­gin­ning of the story. Their friends Peter and Kata­rina have a mis­er­able mar­riage with each other. Mar­i­anne even­tu­ally finds that she is preg­nant. It comes at a time when she is re­con­sid­er­ing her ar­range­ments. She does not expect that Jo­han prefers to abort the child though. One day, Jo­han re­veals to Mar­i­anne that he is hav­ing an af­fair with a younger woman named Paula. Af­ter this, Jo­han and Mar­i­anne be­gin to live sep­a­rately. Dur­ing this pe­riod, Mar­i­anne be­gins to grow into the sit­u­a­tion, but Jo­han does not. Jo­han be­comes list­less and bad tem­pered dur­ing the act in which a di­vorce agree­ment is signed. Mar­i­anne has be­come an in­tel­li­gent and ca­pa­ble woman. When dis­cussing their di­vorce, they ex­press their dis­con­tents. It is not un­til many years later that Mar­i­anne and Jo­han fi­nally un­der­stand what love is.

Both of the cou­ples in the film ex­pe­ri­ence pain in their mar­riages. Per­son­al­ity de­fects such as de­pen­dence, lack of con­fi­dence, eva­sion, fa­nati­cism and self­ish­ness lead to many prob­lems. Mar­i­anne's pain comes from her in­abil­ity to per­ceive facts, which leads to her fail­ure to no­tice Jo­han's real at­ti­tude to­wards wed­ded life. Jo­han be­comes very tired of re­peated daily mat­ters, while Mar­i­anne al­ways in­volves him in them. Some of the scenes in the film de­pict Jo­han's im­pa­tience be­fore Mar­i­anne grad­u­ally re­alises her faults.

One of the in­ter­ludes in­volves a pe­cu­liar di­vorce case un­der­taken by Mar­i­anne. An old woman, whose chil­dren have all mar­ried, wants to di­vorce her hus­band. She states that she has been think­ing about it for fif­teen years and that she could not bear liv­ing with her hus­band be­cause they did not love each other. Her hus­band asked her to di­vorce him af­ter their chil­dren grew up. Her hus­band was a kind per­son, so she agreed. Mar­i­anne feels shocked when she hears the story.

This film is a cham­ber film con­sist­ing of two in­ter­ludes and six episodes. Each episode is in the form of a cham­ber drama and the di­a­logue is very im­por­tant. It is in­ci­sive, con­cise, ex­presses the char­ac­ters' feel­ings and their con­flicts and chang­ing psy­chol­ogy. It also fills in back­ground in­for­ma­tion about the story. There are only a few char­ac­ters de­picted on screen in the film. Many oth­ers are men­tioned though in­clud­ing their fam­ily mem­bers, friends, col­leagues, doc­tors, lovers and their new part­ners.

Some of the di­a­logue in the film is very im­pres­sive. For ex­am­ple, Jo­han tells Mar­i­anne how he feels about their

that Pan­ta­gruel be tied with four large chains and his cra­dle be hooped with a mass of thick wooden strips. Yet in the end, Pan­ta­gruel still frees him­self from the cra­dle. Later, his fa­ther sends him to school, where he does well.

As he ma­tures, he trav­els to fa­mous uni­ver­si­ties all over France, fi­nally go­ing to Paris to study gram­mar, ethics, rhetoric and arith­metic.

One day, Pan­ta­gruel comes across a man named Pa­nurge and finds that he can speak dif­fer­ent lan­guages. From that mo­ment on, the two be­come in­sep­a­ra­ble. Not long af­ter, Pan­ta­gruel learns that the Dip­sodes have in­vaded his land. With com­rades at his side, he quickly leaves Paris to de­feat the en­emy. Vic­to­ri­ous, he mo­bilises the res­i­dents of the land to suc­cess­fully con­quer the king­dom of the Dip­sodes.

In the third vol­ume, Pan­ta­gruel be­gins re­lo­cat­ing some of his own peo­ple to the newly con­quered Dip­sody, in­tend­ing to colonise the coun­try. In or­der to bet­ter gov­ern the coun­try, he also es­tab­lishes Pa­nurge as a lord, giv­ing him a gen­er­ous salary. Un­for­tu­nately, Pa­nurge's de­sire to hold costly ban­quets be­comes a source of trou­ble. Though Pan­ta­gruel is sat­is­fied with his com­pa­triot's as­sis­tance, he po­litely per­suades Pa­nurge to change his spend­ing habits, lest he never achieve great wealth. Pa­nurge dis­agrees, be­liev­ing hap­pi­ness and health to be life's pri­or­i­ties. Pa­nurge wants to marry but hes­i­tates, wor­ry­ing that his fu­ture wife will cheat on him. There­fore, he asks Pan­ta­gruel for ad­vice. His friend is like­wise with­out an­swer, so the two con­sult a book of for­tunes in search of ad­vice. As they do, Pan­ta­gruel finds the lines they read are all against Pa­nurge. He then ad­vises Pa­nurge to hold coun­sel with a fool, for a mad­man knows bet­ter than the wise. The fool speaks gib­ber­ish and men­tions the Holy Bot­tle, which is said to bear the an­swer. Pan­ta­gruel and Pa­nurge thus de­cide to set off to find the Holy Bot­tle.

In the fourth vol­ume, Pan­ta­gruel and Pa­nurge seek the Holy Bot­tle, to de­ter­mine whether Pa­nurge should marry. On the fourth day af­ter their de­par­ture, they make their way to the is­land of Medamothy un­der the guid­ance of a light­house. There they pur­chase rar­i­ties and strange an­i­mals and con­tinue mov­ing away from the equa­tor.

As Pan­ta­gruel and his com­pan­ions con­tinue their trav­els, they come across a wide va­ri­ety of lands and won­ders. Among them are the “Peo­ple who fast,” who live a life of greed and lux­ury, the is­land of Ruach, where peo­ple eat noth­ing but wind pro­duced by dif­fer­ent types of fans, and the is­land of PopeFiglan­d, where the once rich and proud Gail­lardets were re­duced to slaves for mock­ing the im­age of the Pope when they once ut­tered, “a fig for it.”

Seek­ing the Holy Bot­tle and Do What Thou Will

In the fi­nal vol­ume, Pan­ta­gruel and Pa­nurge find the Ring­ing Is­land. There, where a noise like var­i­ous bells ring across the land, Pan­ta­gruel and his

com­pan­ions meet an old her­mit in his hut at the bot­tom of a cliff. There they must fast for four days, as it is one of the fast­ing days of the is­land. When the days of fast­ing come to an end, the old her­mit gives them a let­ter rec­om­mend­ing them to the mas­ter of the Ring­ing Is­land. At the her­mit's re­quest, the is­land mas­ter treats Pan­ta­gruel and his en­tourage well, and the en­tourage is able to sail on.

Pan­ta­gruel and his com­pan­ions then ar­rive at the realm of En­t­elechy. The land is strange; its queen can cure ail­ments by singing and feeds on ab­stract things like thoughts, ideas and im­ages, rather than from food. Fi­nally, af­ter much travel, Pan­ta­gruel and his com­pan­ions ar­rive in Lantern Land, where a fountain in­side a tem­ple spouts wine rather than wa­ter. Pa­nurge is led to a chapel where he finds the long-awaited Holy Bot­tle. He hears a voice com­ing out of it, stat­ing “Trinc” or “some drink.” This is the an­swer they have been seek­ing af­ter all their dif­fi­cul­ties.

The novel be­gins with drink­ing and mer­ri­ment and ends in the same way. It can be said that such merry mak­ing is the most im­por­tant theme through­out the com­plete novel. Gar­gan­tua's fa­ther is a he­do­nis­tic man who overindulg­es in drink and salted meat. Be­fore Gar­gan­tua was born, he in­vites every­one to a feast and carouse. At the end of the novel when Pan­ta­gruel and Pa­nurge find the Holy Bot­tle, the wa­ter they drink from the fountain also seems to tastes like wine.

In Gar­gan­tua and Pan­ta­gruel, Ra­belais cre­ated the im­age of two giants, Gar­gan­tua and his son Pan­ta­gruel. More than be­ing huge, they are wise, ver­sa­tile, no­ble and moral, chang­ing them­selves and so­ci­ety through their own ef­forts. When the two giants fin­ish their stud­ies, they en­counter an in­va­sion by for­eign en­e­mies. In­deed, their ac­tions and no­ble moral­ity are mainly re­flected in war.

From the day it was pub­lished, Gar­gan­tua and Pan­ta­gruel has en­tranced read­ers for cen­turies with its fab­u­lous char­ac­ters and ab­surd plots, oc­cu­py­ing an un­shak­able po­si­tion in the his­tory of world lit­er­a­ture. As Ra­belais points out in his fore­word, “in the pe­rusal of this trea­tise, you shall find an­other kind of taste and a doc­trine of a more pro­found and ab­struse con­sid­er­a­tion, which will dis­close unto you the most glo­ri­ous sacra­ments and dread­ful mysteries, as well in what con­cerns your religion, as mat­ters of the pub­lic state, and life eco­nom­i­cal.” The code “Do What Thou Wilt” as de­scribed in the novel re­flects the au­thor's hu­man­is­tic ideal.

Gar­gan­tua and Pan­ta­gruel cre­ated a new lit­er­ary form for epic nov­els, broad­en­ing the ca­pac­ity of lit­er­a­ture to re­flect re­al­ity and lay­ing the foun­da­tion for the later de­vel­op­ment of nov­els that fol­lowed in its gi­ant foot­prints. The adventures of the pro­tag­o­nist are used to de­velop the plot, while the writ­ing fo­cuses on por­tray­ing the char­ac­ters. Pa­nurge, the cen­tral fig­ure in the last three vol­umes, be­came the first “typ­i­cal cit­i­zen” in French lit­er­a­ture. The most defin­ing artis­tic fea­ture of the novel is its use of ex­ag­ger­a­tion and satire, en­dow­ing each de­scrip­tion with hu­mour and irony. Be­liev­ing that “laugh­ter makes men hu­man,” Ra­belais drew on me­dieval farces and tales that fea­tured both ele­gant hu­mour and vul­gar ridicule. In re­view­ing the au­thor, Vic­tor Hugo re­flected “his burst of enor­mous laugher is one of the abysses of the spirit.” Ra­belais mas­tered many for­eign lan­guages such as Latin and Greek and was versed in di­alect and ver­nac­u­lar. He used the lan­guage spo­ken by or­di­nary French peo­ple as the lin­guis­tic ba­sis of his novel, which was then an in­trigu­ing and unique ap­proach in French lit­er­a­ture.

Gar­gan­tua and Pan­ta­gruel has had tremen­dous im­pact on the world. In the 1950s, China be­gan to study this world­fa­mous work. How­ever, it was not un­til the 1980s that China con­ducted se­ri­ous re­search on Ra­belais and Gar­gan­tua and Pan­ta­gruel. Chi­nese ver­sions of the works in­clude Cheng Yut­ing's trans­la­tion pub­lished by Shang­hai Trans­la­tion Pub­lish­ing House in 1981, Bao Wen­wei's trans­la­tion pub­lished by the Peo­ple's Lit­er­a­ture Pub­lish­ing House in 1983 and a trans­la­tion by Yang Songhe, pub­lished by Yilin Press in 2002. All three ver­sions made a high-level sum­mary of the thoughts and art of Gar­gan­tua and Pan­ta­gruel and has its own em­pha­sis. Fa­mous con­tem­po­rary schol­ars such as Nie Zhen­zhao, Jiang Chengy­ong and Liu Mingjiu also recog­nised Ra­belais's anti-feu­dal hu­man­ism and his artis­tic meth­ods of ex­ag­ger­a­tion and irony. Liu Mingjiu pro­posed that Ra­belais' ex­ag­ger­ated de­scrip­tion of the phys­i­ol­ogy and nat­u­ral qual­i­ties of the giants' births aimed to con­vey to read­ers his ba­sic un­der­stand­ing of hu­man be­ings, which re­ferred to men's nat­u­ral qual­i­ties and their na­ture to win. Zhao Wei­wei sug­gested that Ra­belais ex­pressed his in-depth ex­plo­ration of hu­man na­ture and the value of hu­man be­ings in­spired peo­ple to fight for free­dom, democ­racy, equal­ity and in­di­vid­ual lib­er­a­tion, and fully af­firmed hu­man de­sires along­side a just strug­gle for hap­pi­ness and peace, which called for the birth of giants with per­fect hu­man­ity that in­tro­duced a new sta­tus quo.

With his fas­ci­nat­ing words, Ra­belais brightly coloured the cul­tural move­ment of Re­nais­sance, im­press­ing read­ers with the im­age of his giants Gar­gan­tua and Pan­ta­gruel. Gar­gan­tua and Pan­ta­gruel is a mon­u­ment in the his­tory of French lit­er­a­ture. It is also the ban­ner of hu­man­ism and a shin­ing lit­er­ary light for France and the his­tory of hu­man thought.

A dra­matic per­for­mance of Scenes from a Mar­riage at the NCPA in 2018

An il­lus­trated pic­ture from Gar­gan­tua and Pan­ta­gruel

François Ra­belais

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