“Abide with me”

Retouching the script “scenes from a marriage” by Ingmar Bergman
by Kostopoulos Nikos

I selected the scene where the protagonists, Marianne and Johan, are hosting a
dinner at their house. The guests are another couple and friends of them, Katarina and
Peter. The scene takes place at the living room of the house right after dinner where everybody had a couple of drinks already.

The guests, inspired by the recent interview of their hosts regarding their relationship, their lives and their marriage, engage in to a dialectical exaggeration of allegations
and bitterness towards each other. It seems as they both try to hurt and insult each other
in the presence of their friends. While doing so in a civilized manner till one of them,
Katarina, cannot take it anymore and throws a glass towards her husband Peter. This
exact timeline is that I am investigating on my one (1) minute film. First from the script
we understand that both Peter and Katarina are not talking to each other but about
each other and they are telling how bad and sad their partner in life is to their hosts. So
immediately we see an indirect dialogue. Through telling on their friends they are trying
to talk to their other half in an indirect way. Communicate their complaints and sadness
that are going through and that it is each other to blame for. But even so this is still not
a dialogue but for me what we witness are two monologues. Both Katarina and Peter are
talking disregarding the opinion of the other. A dialogue, especially a spoken one, usually is a conversation between two or more people and it contains an exchange of, let’s say,
opinions or knowledge. Here there is no such effort. Even if they were not in the same
room the statements would probably remain the same. There seems to be some respect
giving each other some kind of room to speak but through the whole scene the arguing
couple are in fact trying to diminish and disrespect each other. So I decided to treat it as
two monologues. Monologues that the viewer cannot actually follow and make reasonable sense out of them rather than the understanding that there is a problem. In order
to achieve that I decided to overlap the two speeches on top of each other. Having the
couple talking simultaneously the viewer cannot, even if one would try, understand what
is going on. What is the context of the discussion. In addition to that, working with sound
design, I tried to create the feeling that we (viewers) are in the same room as the voices.
To add to this confusion I started the visual part of the film with abstract movements
and images. The combination of the abstract images and the overlapping sound was an
effort to create a non narrative structure, where the only idea that could come across is
that we are watching at least two people (two voices) and that there is a confusion. At the
middle of my timeline I placed the sound of the breaking glass and at the same point the
image sequence has reached a point where is clear that so far we were watching an eye.
The breaking of the glass signifies an act of violence. Not verbal as before but physical.
At the same point the eye opens and we see it watching around. What I am trying to do
now is put the viewer in a position where we watch another viewer, one that is actually

present on the whole scene with the voices. Right before the breaking of the glass I start
using narrative, with beginning middle and end. The beginning is the breaking of the
glass and the eye opening, the middle is when the actual verbal fight is happening and
the eye watches in confusion towards the directions of the voices. The end is when the
eye finally speaks giving the viewer a short of explanation (catharsis), expressing what
was behind the abstractness all along and at the same time making the viewer kind of
active by directing its (the eye) gaze and voice towards us. What I tried to do actually is
show to the viewer the miscommunication between two people. But in a subjective way
towards the viewer. That the viewer would come to this conclusion. Then again having
the eye looking and talking straight to the camera I am taking advantage of the “god’s
voice”, the authoritative voice over that is on top and above of the film as something in
a higher level. So to summarize I am trying to put the viewer in the position of someone
that while being in a room where two people are fighting, all of his/her concentration is
on someone else also present at the same room, witnessing the exact same thing as the
viewer. Is that someone, the eye, their lover, their mother, the mirror.. It’s for the viewer
to decide. For me it is Marianne and my point of view is that of Peter’s, her husband. The
film of course as stand alone is lacking context, because I treated it as part of a bigger
project and a part of a scene from the script. In order for the film to be comprehended
outside of the context of the exhibition a first introductory image or text would be needed. This could be an image form the actual script describing the scene. Or a small text
again describing the scene, perhaps written in the style of a script.

Ps on why I chose that the actors would start speaking in English and then turn into
Greek and native language. English were used in the beginning because the actors were
asked to simultaneously recite the script. The reciting and in “bad” English was an attempt
to add alienation and distance according to Brecht. So that the viewer cannot relate to
the actors/voices. I believe it was exaggerated and in addition to the abstractness, was an
unneeded extra layer of confusion. Alienation was used in order to create more distance
from the beginning towards the end and thus making the impact of the end, placing the
viewer in a subjective stance and part of the film even greater. My original idea was that
during the first part and non narrative, of the film I would have a black screen and the
screen would light with the opening of the eye when the glass breaks. Later I changed
this idea to what we now see. Great role to this played the Monoform theory by Peter
Watkins. I was thinking that keeping the screen black the audience would concentrate
even more on trying to understand what the voices were saying but of course without
success so then they would start thinking of what might be going on. So an effort to
stimulate a thinking process for the audience. With the use of the abstract images this
becomes even harder because I believe the viewer is concerned on understanding what
is the image, to describe it, rather than what is going on. But I chose the abstract images over the black screen because I could not think of a reasonable excuse on the black
screen, within the film. If the black screen was the result of the eye being shut then when
the eye opened we should have a point of view through the eye and into the room and
not the eye itself. So then my effort to simplify with a black screen would lead to bigger

confusion.

Ps2 on why I am showing one eye. The theme of Ingmar Bergman’s “scenes from
a marriage” is again about communication. Through researching about communication
I got fascinated by the non verbal communication like facial expressions and gestures. I
emphasized on the movements of an eye when trying to communicate as it is a global
form of communication, as researches have proved.

Ps3 great part of the film was the fact that I used real couples to act. Through this
I tried to engage the actors in to what I was doing, commenting on the communication
between people and especially couples, but also to use the real life tensions that would
add up, after hours of practicing the English spoken text, to the fight scene of the ending.
Epilogue

My goal through this film was to put the viewer in a room of miscommunication as
being the one that is able to communicate, thus reflecting on his/hers own relationships
and attempts of communication.

I hope I succeeded on making clear my intentions and my use on narratives on my
film, through this long text. I hope even more that I succeeded towards my goal within
my film.

For this film I researched the work of Paul Ekman who is an American psychologist
and is a pioneer in the study of emotions and their relation to facial expressions. Also I
watched parts from the TV series “Lie to me” starring Tim Roth and re watched “Carnage”
by Roman Polanski. My research was focused on achieving the right facial expressions
to create emotions in the sequence of surprise-fear/confusion-hope. Also big part of the
research was on the technical and formalist parts of the film. I experimented with still and
moving images, different angles and different lighting set ups. Great influence all over
the work I believe is my background on experimental filmmaking, and all of the texts we
studied, during the course of narratology, together. I am balancing and playing with the
use of different narrative methods in order to engage the viewer in an active thinking
role.

following are some of the sketches and notes prior to the film

Kostopoulos Nikos
Rotterdam
28 April 2016