Thursday, May 26, 2016


Perhaps S. is right. Perhaps my need to be understood clearly, utterly, and completely, to remove any shadow of doubt from my actions and interactions, is my form of insecurity. My fear: being misunderstood, being used as a textbook, without feelings, without emotions. There is a lot at stake here. What is at stake: the concept of home, of belonging.

I split, I split, I’m splitting. I want to be whole, contained by a single landscape to which I belong entirely. Is there such a landscape? Will I ever find peace?

This is what I now understand about my film:

-that its script will mimic the form of a textbook, an instruction manual (like a survival guide, a travelogue, or The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. “This time, there will be no witnesses.”)
-that its title, following the Quijote’s elaborate and absurdly long chapter designations, will be elaborate and absurdly long, something like The Internal Exile’s Guide to Survival in the Desert with an Apocryphal Sequel Describing Similar Techniques for Survival at Sea.
-that the woman’s voice (when will people stop calling women “females” and men “males,” like the terms are interchangeable? They’re not. Do your bloody homework) will be clinical, detached, precise, as she catalogues landscapes and ways of surviving them
-that the man’s voice, asking important, elemental questions, will be the opposite of that. That the two will never address each other directly, demonstrating the well-known fact that communication is an illusion, that the purpose of the other is to expose you to your own, humbling solitude.

Imagine the following dialogue:

"SHE: The necessity for this script is to be found in the following considerations:
-that after 25 years as an exile, I felt the need to clarify the term
-that I met you
-that I finally understood the split inside me after reading a book that explained, quite unapologetically, the difference between tourists and travelers. Tourists plan their return trip from the beginning; travelers care little about retracing their steps. Thus tourism is closer to a full circle, to that movement of revolution that always accompanies social change, when a disappointing political regime is replaced by another, disappointing political regime in a dizzying movement whose endless repetition we call progress;
- that the need to define my position as an expat presented itself when, after months of poring over you, as if you were the rare edition of an exemplary book, I realized I wanted to come home
-that home itself was a term I would have to redefine as it had, in me, neither spatial nor temporal anchors
-that the successful nature of this definition (a revision of sorts) rested, partly, on the success of our collaboration which would be guaranteed only by a complete lack of secrecy
-that you who know nothing of the place I come from, you who feel so resolved inside your beautiful illusions, you who have found your way to me by understanding that everything I know, I know from books, and that there are only two landscapes you compete with – the desert and the sea; you must have understood the risk I’m taking here, and yet you stayed, knowing that my biggest fear is not stagnation, but the monstrous untimeliness of things.
-that I would like to disturb you on an elemental level not just because it’s you, but because I’ve never troubled anybody like that except maybe that 23 year old who left on my doorstep, wild flowers incased in a block of ice he’d fashioned himself, and when I didn’t believe his intensity, he shaved his head and went on a pilgrimage but not before saying “One day you’ll regret this.” I regret this.
HE: Are you writing to me?
SHE: I’m always writing to you. I am an exile in exile, like the man in that Italian novel, who found himself shipwrecked on a shipwreck. Imagine the disappointment. Faced with his imminent death, he discovered the shipwreck was a library, a floating book depository, a tomb. So he read, and he wrote letters which survived him. What else could he do? This script will not survive me, but I must write it for you, for me, for the fact that this imaginary conversation (because I’ll never send you this letter so you’ll never know what I think of you) happens in the desert, a place where, they say, nobody gets lost. People die or go mad, but the desert always returns them after a while. I read that in a book."

For years, now, I’ve evaluated everyone else's insecurity. Perhaps this is a film about mine.
Another obsession: to vivisect a character, split her open, show her insides, shout “Don’t you see she has nothing to hide?”  Perhaps this is a film about that.

Insecurity, honesty, exile.
An experiment: what happens when the kind stranger across the table, the one you’ve decided to open up to, without boundaries, without shame, without expectations, reminds you that you are nothing but a kind stranger?

Perhaps this is the beauty of that equilibrium, that equality you so desperately seek.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

We split, we split, we split!

A little while ago I made a vague attempt to explain to a group of strangers my understanding of the possibilities of The Tempest. I wanted to use The Tempest as a frame and talk about connections (I was in the process of connecting with someone, utterly, for the first time in years); about the way the waters relate to the desert, about how they are both opposing landscapes with the ability to kill.

Influenced by Craig (who was nothing but a Quijote of his time), Peter Brook directed The Tempest three times (or two - I can't remember), pausing for decades between productions. I envy that silence. But more than anything, I envy the fact that Brook had the luxury to experiment, that his circumstances were such that when he treated the stage both as a refuge and as a laboratory (research), people understood, and did not question him.

In his version of The Tempest that I like the most, actors carry fragile ships on their heads and move inside perfectly empty spaces, watched, from above (a scaffolding?) by the rest of the cast. (I had made a little wood figurine with a ship attached to its head for that talk, but when the time came to reveal it, I hesitated too long, and the moment passed, and I felt foolish. I still have it - the figurine, not the foolishness - hanging from my chandelier, in punishment.

The Tempest. Later, John Gielgud (Craig's nephew, it turns out), played Prospero in Greenaway's exasperatingly beautiful Prospero's Books: "We split, we split, we split."

I split, I split, I'm splitting: between landscapes that seduce, and landscapes that kill; between endless and disappearing landscapes; between people who attract me, like the desert, and their treacherous side (the waters); between a desire to live forever, and a colossal fear of old age.

This is what this piece is about. My mistakes, my hesitations, my permanent status as an internal émigré. Somehow, mermaids are also involved. "Here by the rocks, in the foreground, a mermaid is to lie, half-dead."

And so the experiment begins: writing a script that is not a play, the story of a woman trapped between two landscapes, a film-and-reading spectacle of sorts whose nature will reveal itself to me later, because form follows content and has a responsibility to it, the way we have a responsibility for form.

Here, by the rocks, in the foreground…