HBO: TV reveals “secrets of a marriage” | the TV

Marianne and Johan loved each other. Really, for years. It may even be that love still reigns between them. But that is no longer enough. Because their relationship also added scars: misunderstandings, difficult decisions, mistakes, suffering. An abyss that time was digging as they looked away. “Everything went to hell, without knowing why”, the protagonist of Secrets of a marriage, the devastating series that Ingmar Bergman filmed in 1973, starring Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson. Almost 50 years later, there are still no answers. After all, no one really knows what is going on in a relationship. But television is investigating again. Behind the camera this time is Hagai Levi. In front, Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain. His house seems more modern, of course, as does his dialogue. However, the new version of the series maintains the same ambitious attempt: to unravel the mystery of love.

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The piece will air on HBO beginning September 13. But, previously, it was screened at the Venice Film Festival. So far, his connection to critics has not been very passionate. Rather tepid – an enthusiastic hug for both actors, but just a pat for the production itself. After watching two chapters, the verdict seems ambivalent: Secrets of a marriage strives to build a credible and contemporary couple, away from stereotypes and clichés. He wants anyone to see his story reflected in Mira and Jonathan, the new names of the protagonists, to experience their euphoria and pain. Here, however, is the main problem. Waiting for so many modern concerns, the series is somewhat careless with the most important thing: emotions. And so the masterful tension that Bergman built has partially faded. The impression, yes, is that the work improves with the minutes. And the comparison, in any case, forces him to measure himself against a masterpiece.

Hagai Levi knew perfectly well. “I haven’t seen the original in a year. I had to get to the point where I could think it was wrong, to feel free. Now I can love her again, “said the filmmaker during a meeting with a group of journalists on Sunday at La Mostra. And Chastain confessed that not only did he know her, but he loved the original series. And Ulmann’s performance: “It presupposes perfection, so it couldn’t be overwhelming.” The actress, in any case, was well aware of the challenge of taking on the role.

The two actors with director Hagai Levi, in Venice. Joël C Ryan / AP

“It was exhausting. And very painful. When we started filming, it became a kind of out-of-body experience, ”he said. So much so that, while his two characters found out if they loved each other, they hated each other. another, or both, the same relationship between the artists has apparently been a roller coaster ride. Despite the fact that its pillars were the proof of any filming. “We grew up together,” Chastain summed up. Specifically, they met in high school, when Isaac was her boyfriend’s best friend. They went through the Juilliard Conservatory of Art, their first outings, the selection of the cast of About Llewyn Davis who launched the actor’s career: «I told him they wouldn’t,» he remembers laughing, and even a movie as co-stars, The most violent year. The friendship of a lifetime helped them, he says, but it also complicated things.

“When you know someone so well, you realize if something is wrong or if it bothers them. It is as if you have immediate language or read their mind. We also know how to get angry or hurt. And say something like that right before “action”! To be heard. So sometimes the show feels like a documentary, ”added Chastain. It is difficult to understand the line between the joke and the reality. What is clear is that the experience was tremendously intense for everyone. “So we need time to recover. We told ourselves that for a few weeks we were living on another planet ”, explained the director. For handling such fragile material, they both appreciated the presence on set of an intimacy coordinator, a professional figure. Appeared in Hollywood in recent years and in charge of ensuring that filming sex scenes or footage with a high physical and emotional commitment does not disturb anyone, the stars or whoever is filming it.

Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac at one point in the series.

The context has also blurred the limits of fiction. They filmed in October last year, when the world was still learning to get used to the health crisis. “After months of confinement and confinement, anyone has had a strange situation with their partner,” summarized Chastain. And they themselves spent a month rehearsing – “something that rarely happens on television,” Levi said – and talking about the script and its possibilities. The actress, for example, insisted that her character had never thought of the idea of ​​getting married before. And some viewers, it seems, were surprised by the role reversal. Because she pursues a solid career, while he dedicates himself above all to the profession of father and owner of the house. “It is interesting to note that this can still surprise or generate rejection. Men have always favored this and it is normal. Why would the opposite be weird? ”Asked the interpreter.

Chastain swears, yes, the set did not turn into a group psychotherapy session: “Not that I went home and reconsidered one thing or another. But I hope the public will. ”A delicate process, of course. Perhaps the show will bury more than one married couple. But it can also save some. Love, after all, is a mystery.

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