The original 1973 Swedish TV miniseries Scenes from a Marriage was about a divorce attorney and her husband whose relationship broke apart over the course of six one-hour episodes. Its teleplay was inspired by Bergman’s own experiences, including his romance with co-star Liv Ullmann, and it remains a beloved work to this day. Now Hagai Levi has remade the series for HBO, with Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain as a tech executive and her philosophy professor husband.
The couple’s home is the main setting for the five-episode series, which focuses on their disintegrating relationship. Rather than using the traditional suburban layout of a typical American house, the show’s sets were built on a soundstage in Westchester County, New York, with exterior shots taken around residential neighborhoods. Set decorator Michael Thompson says he tried to create a feel that would be similar to the actual house but that “wasn’t too literal.”
Unlike many modern productions, which use actors who appear as themselves or re-shoot scenes with actors who aren’t available at the time, Scenes from a Marriage has limited supporting cast members and takes place almost entirely inside the couple’s living space. That decision allowed the actors to focus on developing their relationships and their complicated arcs, which often veer from cutting verbal warfare to smoldering silences.
During a screening panel event at the Museum of Modern Art ahead of Sunday’s series premiere, Isaac and Chastain discussed their collaboration on the project and how their friendship—which goes back to their days in Juilliard together—played a role in their chemistry on screen. Chastain explained that she usually spends a lot of time researching her characters, but that wasn’t an option for this role because she started rehearsing only three days after meeting Levi.
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