When it was announced that HBO was going to produce a remake from the classic of Ingmar Bergman, Secrets of a marriage, the question that almost everyone asked was: why. And it is normal that they asked it. How crazy would he be to remake a masterpiece that is still valid decades after its premiere? In some way, in the proposal, it was also to recover the serial origin of the Swedish director’s work, which although many knew thanks to his film version, is really a six-episode fiction in which he dissects and radiographs a successful marriage in which From the outside, everything looks perfect.
The person responsible for the update is none other than Hagai Levi, creator of In therapy (2208), a series that drank from Secrets of a marriage, and that he had a crush on Ingmar Bergman’s son, Daniel, who was the one who approached Levi in 2013 to offer him this review which has finally taken eight years to see the light. Levi began to spin the project, and although initially his idea was to maintain even the same dialogues as the original, but making a change of roles in the couple, he realized that if he really wanted to do something different but keep the essence that was not the way.
After seeing the result, one has the feeling that Levi has managed to capture the essence of the Bergman classic and update it for a new generation of couples. Now revisiting the 1973 play, one is surprised to see a man who is eminently macho, controlling, and disgusting. Bergman did not give alibis to that character, and although there are men like that now, it no longer makes sense to capture them like that. What the creator does is show how the dynamics of a couple are always violent, how secrets are always hidden behind any relationship and how in the new relationship models the problems are always the same.
Liv Ullmann and Erlend Josephson are replaced by Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac; but what changes is how this couple is. Now she is the one who has a good position in a large company, the one who brings money home, and it is he who takes care of the children. A new masculinity that, however, gives off the same sexist behaviors. It is interesting to compare the two works. While in 1973 the character of Josephson answered in the interview that opened the series that he defined himself as “successful and a good lover”, the character of Isaac presents himself as a good father, generous, eager to let his shine woman; but it is he who takes the initiative. It is the man who speaks, the one who controls the space, the one who shows a new masculinity that hides a structural machismo.
The six episodes of the original have remained in five, but the essence of each of them remains, and the events that occur to this couple as well. The first chapter maintains the structure with that first interview, dinner with friends … but all filtered with the look of modern and current couples. Now friends have an open relationship, and it is debated what that means for a relationship. More current, more modern debates, which show that there has been an intelligent process and be careful when maintaining the essence of the original but always bringing it to our present moment.
None of this would do if Secrets of a marriage I didn’t have two actors as dedicated to the cause as they were Liv Ullmann and Erlend Josephson. Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain leave their skin in their characters and they are able to convey without words everything that happens in this decomposing couple. a tour de force that should fill them with nominations and in which they shine in very long sequence shots where they tear themselves unnecessarily, sometimes just with a glance. A fine and elegant work, which in the case of Chastain has even more merit, since it came to production a few days after starting filming due to the departure of Michelle Williams, who had to leave due to incompatibility with another project. An intelligent and interesting review that, moreover, does not attempt to refute the original work, but rather completes and updates it.
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‘Secrets of a Marriage’, a clever modern take on Bergman’s classic