Theatre, 1981

Nora/Julie/Scenes from a Marriage

Bergman's compilation of Scandinavian drama for a German audience included three plays performed on the same evening at two different theatres on the same street.
'A fascinating array of parallels.'
Fritz Rumler, Der Spiegel

About the production

Wanting to provide his German audience with a taste of Scandinavian drama and his own roots, Bergman decided to put on three productions concurrently on three different stages. The plays he chose were August Strindberg's Miss Julie, Henrik Ibsen's A Dolls' House (known in Germany as Nora) and his own Scenes from a Marriage. His original idea was that the three plays would be staged in parallel performances on the three stages of the Residenztheater. This was not possible for practical reasons, and instead he produced a heavily re-worked version of Nora which was followed after an interval by Miss Julie. The stage version of Scenes from a Marriage was presented at Marstall. This dramatic triptych was referred to at the Munich Residenztheater as The Bergman Project and was, at the time, intended to be his farewell to Munich.

Bergman was later to produce Henrik Ibsen's A Dolls' House at The Royal Dramatic Theatre in 1989. The earlier Munich production provides pointers as to the interpretation Bergman was to adopt in Stockholm. In it, there was already an emphasis on the erotic, sensual side of Nora.

Most critics saw in Bergman's production a Nora who, right from the outset of the play, was in possession of the insight that eventually prompts her to leave. Nora was presented as a woman fully aware of the conditions imposed on her by society, and of how she could use her feminine talents to come to terms with them. This was a woman with a steady and sober view of reality.

The Swedish national edition of August Strindberg's works had recently been published. In the new edition of Miss Julie, Bergman discovered a reinstated exchange between Jean and Kristin which Strindberg had originally deleted from the script. The exchange describes how Jean had been a witness to Julie humiliating her fiancé in the stables in a horse-breaking game. Twice Julie had struck him, but the third time he snatched the whip from her and rapped her on the cheek.

To hide the red mark, Julie powders her cheeks, and Kristin comments on her white makeup. The discovery of these reinstated lines inspired Bergman to explore new dimensions in the play. In his interpretation, Julie bears the episode in the stable freshly in her mind, and it has a strong effect on her mental state and behaviour throughout the evening. In her cruel interplay with Jean she receives another wound, and the third one, to her throat, is a consequence of the two previous injuries.

On the whole, the experiment was not a great success. Many remarked that there was something almost gimmicky in allowing a director to premiere three plays on one and the same evening.

Sources

  • The Ingmar Bergman Archives.
  • Henrik Sjögren, Lek och raseri, Ingmar Bergmans teater 1938-2002, (Stockholm: Carlsson Bokfölag, 2002).
  • Bernt Olsson och Ingemar Algulin, Litteraturens historia i Sverige, (Stockholm: Norstedts Förlag, 1987).
  • Henrik Sjögren, Lek och raseri: Ingmar Bergmans teater 1938-2002, (Stockholm: Carlssons Bokförlag, 2002).

Collaborators