Scenes From A Marriage’s Weird Opening Scene Explained

HBO's Scenes From a Marriage begins with an unconventional introduction sequence, providing a behind-the-scenes look of Jessica Chastain as she prepares to shoot the series premiere episode "Innocence and Panic." With masked crew members bustling about, Chastain walks through the set and takes her place for the first scene. Finally, at the call of "Action!," Chastain assumes her character, initiating the narrative portion of the episode. Although appearing bizarre and out of place on a surface level, Scenes From a Marriage's opening moments serve to lay the groundwork for the limited series' story.

Scenes From a Marriage derives from the original Swedish miniseries of the same title, directed by the legendary Ingmar Bergman in 1973. Chastain and Oscar Isaac star as Mira and Jonathan, a contemporary American couple married for 10 years, who live in Massachusetts with their young daughter, Ava. The five-episode limited series examines the couple's trials and tribulations as they deal with the underlying tension in their relationship.

Related: Why Scenes From A Marriage Is More Devastating Than Marriage Story

In "Innocence and Panic," the implied friction between Mira and Jonathan comes to a head when Mira reveals her unexpected pregnancy, which the couple agonizingly decides to terminate. Pretending lies at the very core of Scenes From a Marriage and director Hagai Levi makes a point in presenting Jessica Chastain as an actor before she transitions to the role of Mira. Right from the start, HBO's Scenes From a Marriage differentiates itself from the original with this subtle addition, effectively setting the tone for the remainder of the series. The real-life pretenders on screen are also pretending in the fictional marriage they're building.

The manner in which Chastain seamlessly transitions from herself to Mira at the episode's beginning evokes the often fine line between reality and fiction. Moments later, as Mira and Jonathan undergo an interview with a Ph.D. student for her study on monogamous marriages, Mira immediately exhibits a conflicted demeanor, as she is aware of her pregnancy while both viewers and Jonathan are not. Mira's troubled glances paired with forced smiles during the interview and in the following scenes reflect the character's employment of a facade in order to hide her true emotions. Jessica Chastain's prior behind-the-scenes segment depicts her as an actor in a literal sense, subsequently transitioning to a character who, more figuratively, puts on an act in her life and in her marriage.

Later in the episode, when Mira discloses her pregnancy to Jonathan, she tells him that it's the only thing in her life that feels real. She initially acquiesces to Jonathan's enthusiasm about having another child before succumbing to tears over her uncertainty. Deep down, Mira knows that she does not want another child, but Jonathan's contrasting feelings force her to fade into a shadow of her authentic being. Consequently, Mira attempts to be someone other than herself in catering to Jonathan's desires. Even after Mira ultimately decides to have an abortion, the choice destroys her, as she breaks down in sobs when left alone in the examination room. Mira is inescapably detached from herself, which coincides with the way an actor must be capable of separating from themself and adopting a fictional persona. Scenes From a Marriage's juxtaposition of the real-life performer and the make-believe character represents an uncanny, yet powerful manifestation of the narrative's theme of pretending.

Scenes From a Marriage promises additional behind-the-scenes sequences with Chastain and Oscar Isaac at the onset of the series' four remaining episodes. Intertwining these brief introduction segments within each chapter of the story intelligently reminds the audience of the overlying conflict at the heart of its characters' lives. As the strain on Mira and Jonathan's relationship escalates, so will the series' emphasis on reality versus pretend.

Next: Scenes From A Marriage Cast Guide: Where You Recognize The Actors From


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