By Pablo Remón
Translated from Castilian Spanish by Sandra Kingery
Volume 9, Issue 3 (Spring 2023)
I recently had the immense pleasure of seeing my translation of Pablo Remón’s The Treatment performed by the Theatre Department at Lycoming College. Dr. Biliana Stoytcheva-Horissian directed the 8 students who played 25 characters: https://www.lycoming.edu/news/stories/2022/04/the-treatment.aspx. (The play can be performed with as few as 5 actors.) My regular attendance at rehearsals and production design meetings greatly increased my understanding of the creative vision and the decision-making processes that go into bringing a play to life on the stage.
This play, by Pablo Remón, who won Spain’s National Prize for Dramatic Literature last year (2021), was a smash hit in Spain when it debuted in 2018. The protagonist, Martín, wants to write a movie that captures his grandfather’s experiences during the Spanish Civil War, but Martín’s interactions with various members of the film industry lead to a very different movie than originally intended. This laugh-out-loud romp through Spanish history is also deeply poignant and nostalgic.
In order to understand why Martin came to the point where he would allow the film industry to corrupt his grandfather’s story in order to make his movie more marketable, the play hopscotches through the most impactful moments of Martin’s life, beginning at the moment of his conception. In addition to this hyper-focus on the vagaries of Martin’s life, the play is also filled with tangential moments that expand the theatrical universe: we see a television ad, view faulty memories, watch snippets of Martín’s movie, and hear side stories of other people who enter and exit the play like singular brushstrokes on a pointillist mosaic of life. For example, the narrator offers a brief soliloquy about a Spanish Civil War soldier who died after a grenade exploded on the very spot Martín was sitting, but the narrator quickly dismisses that story as a distraction: “It doesn’t matter. There’s no place for him [the soldier] in this story.” In the end, we see that capturing any one story necessitates the temporary silencing of all the other stories that are swarming about, vying for our attention.
While I have been a Spanish to English translator for 20-some years now, Pablo Remón’s “The Treatment” is my first translation of drama. It was so much fun to recreate the dialogue in this play, which is filled with stuttering and stammering and endless repetitions that suggest the characters’ inability to communicate. In contrast, there are times when the characters and the narrator are full of devastating existential wisdom about life and death and love and loss. In the end, the play celebrates the life-affirming power of artists who capture and preserve memories from our fleeting lives that last “just a second.”
Pablo Remón is a playwright, scriptwriter, and director. He has written and directed plays such as “The Treatment,” “The Mariachis,” and “Doña Rosita, Annotated.” He won Spain’s National Prize for Dramatic Literature in 2021. He has also received the Lope de Vega Playwrighting Award and the SGAE Jardiel Poncela Theatre Award, among others. His plays have been published by La uÑa RoTa, in two volumes: Abducciones (2018) includes all the plays he completed with the company La_Abducción until 2018. Fantasmas (2020) gathers his later work.
As a scriptwriter, Remón has co-written six full-length movies, including “Casual Day,” “No sé decir adiós,” and “Intemperie.” He received the 2020 Goya Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, the Biznaga de Plata for Best Screenplay at the Málaga Film Festival two times, Best Screenplay from the Círculo de Escritores Cinematográficos (Cinema Writers Circle), and the Premio Julio Alejandro de Guion Iberoamericano.
Sandra Kingery is the Logan A. Richmond Professor of Spanish at Lycoming College and has translated around 30 books, including fiction (Julia and Of My Real Life I Know Nothing by Ana María Moix); poetry (Lips of Stone and Perching by Xánath Caraza); and political science monographs (Politics in the Times of Indignation and Governance in the New Global Disorder by Daniel Innerarity). Kingery’s translation of Lawrence Schimel’s A Beard Paradox and 99 Other Erotic Micro-Stories is forthcoming.
For rights, contact Sandra Kingery: firstname.lastname@example.org
By Pablo Remón
Translated from Castilian Spanish by Sandra Kingery
This translation was supported by a Lycoming College Professional Development Grant.
This play can be performed by 5 actors. Any role can be played by an actor of any gender expression or identity.
Cloe (Martín’s ex-girlfriend)
Charly (a student in Martín’s class)
Presenter 1, from a TV ad
Presenter 2, from a TV ad
Marcelo (a movie producer)
Álex Casamor (the director of Martín’s movie)
Rosario (Álex’s housekeeper)
Adriana Vergara (the producer of Martín’s movie)
Cousin (Martín’s cousin)
Mercedes (wife of Cousin)
Nuria (Cloe’s sister)
Antoñito (One of the soldiers in Martín’s movie)
Rafael (Another soldier in Martín’s movie)
Actor (in Martín’s movie)
Lucas (Martín’s 13-year-old brother)
World Premiere: Teatro Palacio Valdés (Avilés): March 9, 2018
El Pavón Teatro Kamikaze (Madrid): March 14-April 8, 2018 and June 19-July 15, 2018
Director: Pablo Remón.
Actors: Ana Alonso, Francesco Carril, Aura Garrido, Fran Reyes, Emilio Tomé
United States National College Premiere: Mary L. Welch Theatre, Lycoming College, April 20-23, 2022 (Williamsport PA)
Director: Biliana Stoytcheva-Horissian
In the Madrid production, the role of NARRATOR rotated between actors. The other characters were played by:
Actor 1: MARTÍN
Actor 2: MALE STUDENT, PRESENTER 1, ÁLEX CASAMOR, DOCTOR 1, ANTOÑITO, DRIVER
Actor 3: CHARLY, MARCELO, COUSIN, DOCTOR 2, RAFAEL, ACTOR, LUCAS
Actor 4: CLOE, ADRIANA VERGARA, MERCEDES
Actor 5: FEMALE STUDENT, PRESENTER 2, PSYCHOLOGIST, ROSARIO, REPORTER, NURIA
The actors also played these minor or non-speaking parts:
Actor 1: MICKEY MOUSE
Actor 2: GIANCARLO, MARTÍN’S DAD, CAPTAIN OF THE TITANIC
Actor 3: MEMORY OF GIANCARLO, BOYFRIEND OF MARTÍN’S MOM, PANHANDLER
Actor 4: MARTÍN’S WIFE
Actor 5: LAURA, MARTÍN’S MOM
The place where Cloe writes.
A light over an open box, with souvenirs and old letters. Cloe sits down at the computer. She opens it. She plays some music.
Enter Laura and Giancarlo, two teenagers. They’re in a disco, slow dancing arm in arm.
CLOE: Laura is a fourteen-year-old Spanish girl, and she’s dancing with an Italian boy.
It’s evening, and they’re in a disco called Always, in Ireland.
Laura has come to a summer camp, to learn English.
She hasn’t learned any English, but she doesn’t care.
This guy’s adorable, she thinks.
With those bangs of his and that hair that falls like a waterfall.
That’s what she always says: “That hair that falls like a waterfall.”
OK, maybe that’s what I always say, but why’s that my fault, thinks Laura.
That’s how it falls: like a waterfall of smoothness and shininess and blackness.
Laura is obviously in love.
Her first love.
Giancarlo, that’s the Italian boy’s name.
Laura’s father’s name is Juan Carlos, but she won’t make that connection until, many years later, the psychologist who she sees for post-partum depression after the birth of her first child tells her.
But that’s a long way off.
Right now, Laura’s in heaven.
In reality, they didn’t dance to this song.
This song didn’t even exist back then, but it helps us get the idea.
All of a sudden, without knowing why, she’s going to have a revelation.
This will all come to an end in just a second, she’s going to think.
Like when I was little and I would go to the doctor’s to get a shot. They’d say: “This’ll just take a second,” to distract me.
Life just takes a second too, Laura.
That’s the revelation. It makes her very sad, and at the same time, it makes her want to grab hold of the Italian, very tight.
She wants to take a mental picture.
I’m going to hold onto this. No one can take it from me.
I’m going to remember everything.
In another location, simultaneously:
Grown-up Laura at Eurodisney. She takes a photo with Mickey Mouse. They look at it, talk about it, take another one. They leave.
What’s going to happen now:
The song will end. He’ll say to her:
Sono dipendente dei baci tuoi,
a phrase he heard in a song by Eros Ramazzotti.
They’ll kiss in the doorway of the disco, under a light rain coming from the North Sea.
In two days, in the bus that takes them to the airport, they’ll exchange addresses, and they’ll write each other letters for a year.
Letters that are half in English, half in Italian. Letters full of hearts, peace signs.
Letters with ripped coasters, from bars where they’ve gone with friends.
Afterwards, they won’t see each other again.
They’ll only be on the verge of running into each other one time, without knowing it.
It’ll be at Eurodisney, many years later.
They’re going to pass by the same spot, and they’ll take a photo with the same Mickey Mouse.
Just a few minutes will keep them from seeing each other.
In another location, simultaneously:
Grown-up Laura looking at old photos and letters, saved in an open box.
Years later, while moving, Laura will find Giancarlo’s letters, and she’ll skim through them.
They’ll strike her as strange and distant, as if they were written for another person.
And they are, because Laura is another person.
She tries to remember that moment, but she can’t.
She recalls separate, unconnected details:
The floor, sticky with sawdust.
The smell of his aftershave.
The jacket he was wearing, with the drawing of a smiley face.
But the image she has of him is very different.
He looks like someone else.
In another location, simultaneously:
Giancarlo, in Laura’s memory. He’s different from the original. But he’s doing the same thing: he’s dancing in the same disco. He’s wearing a t-shirt with a smiley face too.
It doesn’t matter, Laura.
That’s the way it always goes.
It just takes a second.
Giancarlo, dancing alone.
Mickey Mouse, motioning for us to take a photo with him.
Grown-up Laura reading a letter.
The memory of Giancarlo, dancing alone.
End of music.
THE FUTURE OF SPANISH CINEMA
Martín, a professor in a writing class. A student, Charly, is explaining the plot of his movie. A group of students, listening. Martín pretends to be interested.
CHARLY: OK, it goes like this:
It’s the end of the world, at least this iteration of it. A nuclear explosion has destroyed civilization. North Korea dropped the bomb, Russia dropped the bomb… The radiation has created zombies. Zombies populate the cities, which are theme parks, all of them. Animals wandering freely down the streets. Giraffes… The malls are burning; the ozone layer is like a memory, something people talk about. People live in sewers. They eat rats, fat ones, like this, from the radiation. Sexual intercourse is forbidden, and the entire planet is like a grocery store parking lot… with loudspeakers, trap music… A desolate place, where cruising for sex is all the rage. This post-apocalyptic scenario is where our film takes place. …
NARRATOR: Why?, thinks Martín.
Why do I have to listen to this crap?
Part One: “The Future of Spanish Cinema.”
We’re in a classroom in a downtown academy.
Outside, children playing. Couples making out. All the bells and whistles of dusk.
Here inside, half a dozen grown-ups. Full-fledged adults.
Why aren’t they outside, in a park, where the autumn air is starting to feel crisp?
What makes them close themselves in here, in this poorly ventilated classroom on the third floor?
Oh, that’s why.
They want to make movies.
CHARLY: … Our protagonist is a human, an old soldier of fortune, who keeps going until he recovers his freedom and, while he’s at it, gets revenge for the death of his wife, who was killed by a group of unscrupulous terrorists. I mean, none of them are scrupulous, but this group is especially bloodthirsty. So then, …
NARRATOR: Let’s observe Martín, the professor.
He’s not doing well.
It’s getting harder and harder for him to conceal the boredom his students’ movies provoke.
Impossible movies, movies he knows will never get made.
Well, he thinks they’ll never get made, because his movies have never gotten made.
Martín’s an unsuccessful screenwriter.
Right now, he’s thinking:
MARTÍN: This must be what hell is like.
Listening to stories like this one on an endless loop.
Zombies, rebels, post-apocalyptic worlds.
I should have taken the exams and become a notary, like my mom always said. I could be living in some unassuming city. Signing papers at an oak table, monogrammed shirts.
I’d be happy as a notary.
CHARLY: … So there’s this group of ex-cons, and they’re forced to work together to survive and, while they’re at it, save all of humanity. …
NARRATOR: Martín studied film. He wanted to write movies.
But little by little, he starts to settle for whatever comes along.
He works for some years on a series about on-call nurses that’s called, well,
He writes a hundred and eighty chapters.
He has nightmares about those nurses.
The stress gives him eczema in one eye, and he has to wear an eyepatch.
His son sees him in the hallway one night, pale, with the patch on, talking to himself, improvising the nurses’ dialogues, and he starts to cry.
CHARLY: … That’s where the love story begins, an impossible love story, of course, between the protagonist and Emma, the half-human half-zombie girl. They meet, they fall in love. In short, things develop.
MARTÍN: What is he talking about? Who’s Emma?
This poor kid has lost it.
He must not have any friends. That’s why he spends his afternoons here.
Just look at him going on and on and on about the zombies.
It’s too bad, it’s really just too bad.
NARRATOR: That’s when Martín leaves the series. They were going to fire him anyway, because of the audience share.
He decides to write HIS MASTERPIECE.
It’s a movie. A real movie, like the ones they used to make.
A story about the Spanish Civil War. A very personal story, which his grandfather used to tell him and his brother, when they were little.
When he was done, his brother would always say: “Again. Tell it again.”
He gets to work and writes a treatment, a type of summary of the script.
He sends it to all the production companies. One of them buys it.
He’s very excited.
His wife gives him a bottle of champagne, with a little ribbon and a card that says:
So we can celebrate when we see your movie.
CHARLY: … So then what? The group of rebels gets kidnapped, and they’re stuck in a giant tower. Which isn’t really a tower, no, it’s, it’s an artificial intelligence––more powerful than we can imagine. And then we see that everything, everything that’s taken place until that moment was being like projected by that intelligence…. Which also has feelings, right?
NARRATOR: It’s been seven years since that moment. The movie still hasn’t been made.
They open the bottle one Sunday to celebrate some birthday.
I’ll buy you another one, his wife says.
But she doesn’t. In fact, they get separated.
Now, Martín lives in a studio apartment. He owes two months’ rent.
MARTÍN: Sorry, how about we move on to the resolution?
CHARLY: The ending, you mean?
MARTÍN: The ending. The ending would be good. The climax… all that.
CHARLY: The climax is the part I just said.
MALE STUDENT: The climax, that’s the part he just said.
MARTÍN: OK, after the climax, then.
CHARLY: After the climax, an explosion, just, enormous.
MARTÍN: Another one?
CHARLY: What do you mean another one?
MARTÍN: There was one already, right? I mean, I think.
CHARLY: Well, yeah, but, a while ago.
MALE STUDENT: Yeah, that one was a while ago.
MARTÍN: So, another explosion?
CHARLY: Another explosion. The ending… I see an open ending.
NARRATOR: On his arm, Martín has a tattoo he got last summer, in Berlin, during his pre-midlife crisis.
It says: I would prefer not to.
MARTÍN: OK, well I think one could say that what we have here is one of the… the most immature, impoverished, sterile, ineffective, shameful pieces of writing I’ve ever heard. I don’t know––I can’t tell you right now––if perhaps in other classes, other people… have heard something like this. I don’t know. We’d have to look into it. We’d have to… maybe some university. In any case, from everything I’ve seen, this is… it’s appalling. It made me want to… not only to hit you, which, obviously, but also to hit myself, OK? Slam my skull, really hard––against that wall right there––to not listen, to to to stop hearing that… pigswillof clichés that you made us swallow and that made life during these few moments… How can I even describe it?
MARTÍN: Unlivable. Any other opinions?
NARRATOR: He doesn’t say that, of course. How’s he going to say that?
In reality what he says is:
MARTÍN: OK, well that’s quite good. Let’s see, there’s one thing with the inciting incident…
NARRATOR: That, that’s what he does. He fills everything up with technical words, jargon from American textbooks.
MARTÍN: … Blah blah blah turning point. Blah blah blah fatal flaw. Blah blah blah catalyst.
CHARLY: Everything you’re telling me is really interesting. I’m totally listening, but for me, what I want to know is whether I can send it yet.
MARTÍN: Send it?
CHARLY: Send it to the production companies… To make it, so they can make the movie.
MARTÍN: Well… yeah, sure, send it.
CHARLY: So I can send it?
CHARLY: I’ve got nothing to lose.
MARTÍN: That’s right… You’ve got nothing to lose. That’s the truth.
MALE STUDENT: Hey, I… there’s problems in the second act, right?
CHARLY: No, I… I don’t see any problem in the second act. I mean, forgive me, but, the second act… My girlfriend just read it, actually, and we were talking about that, about how well the second act hangs together.
MALE STUDENT: OK, but, I mean, your girlfriend…
CHARLY: What about my girlfriend?
MALE STUDENT: Come on. First off, I don’t really think she knows a whole lot about this.
CHARLY: The same as everyone else, because she’s here. (Referring to FEMALE STUDENT)
MALE STUDENT: Oh, you guys are together?
FEMALE STUDENT: Yes. No, I… I mean. Since we’re just starting out, it’s just… what am I going to do? I lie to him systematically. I lie to you. I lie to you.
NARRATOR: What else is there to say about Martín?
Sometimes he thinks about a brother he had, Lucas, who died when he was thirteen.
He fell out of a carnival ride.
The galactic octopus, that was the name of the ride.
It’s stayed with him, that idea of death like an octopus: with tentacles and that rubbery consistency.
Since he doesn’t earn enough from his classes to make it to the end of the month, he also writes ads for TV.
The last one is about a non-stick pressure cooker.
It’s true, right? It’s totally non-stick?
Two presenters from a TV ad.
PRESENTER 1: Totally.
PRESENTER 2: Because, there’s a lot of times when I go shopping, and then I spend a few days away from home. And when I come back, everything’s gone bad.
PRESENTER 1: Exactly. Our lives are so hectic that we never know when we’re going to get to stay home, enjoying some homecooked meal, right?
PRESENTER 2: Right. It’s hard to stay organized.
PRESENTER 1: And, this is important, we have to talk about the technology, Ion-ward®. It’s an active ionizer that neutralizes the bacteria and particles that get into the pressure cooker.
PRESENTER 2: And aren’t there times when you feel like this pressure cooker protects you from other things as well?
PRESENTER 1: What other things?
PRESENTER 2: I mean, the passing of time, even our ancestral fear of death, because, when it comes right down to it, we’re all going to die, right?
PRESENTER 1: That’s true, we’re all going to die. There won’t be anything left of us, except for scattered atoms. It won’t be long until we all return to the void that we came out of, which covers everything.
PRESENTER 2: In other words, you’re saying that this non-stick pressure cooker with Ion-ward® technology might even mitigate our existential loneliness?
PRESENTER 1: Exactly.
PRESENTER 2: Are you saying it’ll allow us to reach the state that the stoics call ataraxia?
PRESENTER 1: Haha, I wouldn’t go that far. But let me tell you one thing: ever since I’ve been able to program my cooking temperatures, what do I care about death? My vegetables don’t lose any nutrients.
NARRATOR: He’s so bored with writing these TV ads that he has to slip this kind of stuff into them to make it bearable. Then he erases them.
This one is an exercise his psychologist gave him.
It’s called: What would TV ads look like in my ideal world?
Martín and his psychologist, in her office.
MARTÍN: Don’t you think these roles we’re playing are… obsolete?
PSYCHOLOGIST: What do you mean?
MARTÍN: I mean, there’s something so artificial in this… I talk, you listen…
PSYCHOLOGIST: That’s the way it works. Plus, I talk too.
MARTÍN: You talk about me.
PSYCHOLOGIST: What do you want to talk about? We’re in your session, we talk about you.
MARTÍN: I don’t know, I mean… I don’t know, I need something more. This relationship, it isn’t working for me.
PSYCHOLOGIST: What relationship?
MARTÍN: This one. It isn’t working for me.
PSYCHOLOGIST: This isn’t a relationship, Martín.
MARTÍN: Something’s missing for me. I’m sorry, ok? It’s not you. It’s that I, what I need… I just need something different. Something more human, I guess. Not so much just talking and talking… I see you, I see me, I see a glass of wine. Dinner, perhaps…
NARRATOR: Martín tries to pick up his therapist every couple of months.
She always says no, but he doesn’t lose hope.
The thing is that there’s something about her that really reminds him of his first girlfriend, Cloe.
Cloe is important in Martín’s life.
She’ll show up later, in a little bit.
PSYCHOLOGIST: Martín, we’ve talked about this. I’m not going to go out with you.
MARTÍN: Go out? Who’s talking about going out? But this strikes me, truly, as close-mindedness and… What are you always telling me? That I should look at things, think about them…
PSYCHOLOGIST: I’ve never said that in my life.
MARTÍN: Well, I’m saying it, it doesn’t matter. I know you: you need a change, you should admit it.
PSYCHOLOGIST: Me? Look, forgive me, but the person who’s in therapy here is you.
MARTÍN: And what does it mean to be in therapy? Aren’t we all in therapy?
PSYCHOLOGIST: No, we’re not all in therapy. Right now, the person who’s in therapy here is you. And I’m your therapist. That’s why we can’t go out, and because, because… because I don’t feel like it, first of all.
MARTÍN: Fine, you’re within your rights not to, but I… I don’t think I’m going to keep coming here anymore.
PSYCHOLOGIST: So, in other words, if I don’t go out with you, you stop coming? Do you really think that’s very mature?
MARTÍN: Mature, I don’t know, but come on, aren’t there vibrations here? Am I crazy or what?
PSYCHOLOGIST: There are no vibrations, Martín. There are no vibrations.
MARTÍN: The fact that you don’t realize it, and you’re a psychologist, I mean…
MARTÍN: Well, it makes me doubt your abilities in all actuality.
PSYCHOLOGIST: Martín, you need a change. How long have you been working on that movie of yours?
MARTÍN: I already told you. The producer is sending it around.
PSYCHOLOGIST: Look, it’s obvious he doesn’t have any intention of making it, right? You need to talk to him.
MARTÍN: That’s not actually very easy.
PSYCHOLOGIST: What do you mean it’s not easy?
MARTÍN: He doesn’t pick up when I call him.
PSYCHOLOGIST: OK, so then you need to go see him.
Martín stops Marcelo, the producer, on the street.
MARCELO: Hey, what’s up? How’s things?
MARTÍN: Well… I can’t get through to you.
MARCELO: What are you talking about?
MARTÍN: I leave you messages, and you don’t… You don’t answer.
MARCELO: What do you mean I don’t answer?
MARTÍN: You don’t call back.
MARCELO: Well that’s really strange.
MARTÍN: No, it’s not really strange. Listen, I want to tell you: the… the treatment.
MARCELO: Yes. What? What?
MARTÍN: The treatment of my movie.
MARCELO: It’s wonderful. That treatment of yours? It’s just wonderful. That has to get made.
MARTÍN: That’s… how’s it going? Because, I mean, time’s passing.
MARCELO: Look, you caught me just, but I mean just… when I was going to send it to, to… to Álex.
MARTÍN: Álex Casamor?
MARCELO: He’s got to be the one to do it. It seems obvious to me.
MARTÍN: I’d be thrilled, but, send it to him. Because we already talked about sending it to him… I don’t know, we talked about it like six months ago.
MARCELO: Yes, yes, yes. Six months?
MARTÍN: At least.
MARCELO: Wow, time flies… So I should send it to him?
MARTÍN: Of course, send it to him.
MARCELO: I’m going to send it to him.
MARTÍN: Of course, yes. Send it. Send it to him now.
MARCELO: No, of course, but here… I’m going to do something: as soon as I get home, the first thing I’m going to do, before I take off my coat, I’m going to send it to him.
MARTÍN: But the thing is, later you forget, you start doing something else… and in the end… you don’t send it.
MARCELO: No? I mean… look: I’ll write it down, and that way I won’t forget.
MARTÍN: Or call him. Why don’t you just call him?
MARCELO: Or maybe I should call him.
MARTÍN: But call him now.
MARCELO: Yeah, yeah. I’m going to call him now.
MARTÍN: OK, go ahead, call him, fantastic. Then you’re done with it.
MARCELO: Yeah, or I’ll call him later, more relaxed, at home.
MARTÍN: No, just… No. Call him now.
MARCELO: OK. Or tomorrow.
MARTÍN: Yes. Now. Please.
Or, let’s do this: you call and remind me
MARTÍN: But you don’t answer when I call.
MARCELO: Right, I see, it’s a…
(he makes a circle with his hands).
A circle. We’re back where we started, right?
NARRATOR: In the end, Martín gets the number of the director and sends him the treatment.
Álex Casamor is a commercially successful director, who works in both Hollywood and Spain.
His last production was a horror film, with American actors, about a satanic cult in Utah.
Martín with the director, Álex, in a bar.
ÁLEX: The treatment… The treatment is fantastic.
MARTÍN: Great. Thanks so much.
ÁLEX: No, no. Really good. The professor from the Spanish Republic, the boy… It’s like he teaches him stuff, right?
MARTÍN: Yes, values.
ÁLEX: The bird thing…?
MARTÍN: Yes, because, birds migrate, right? They, they leave.
ÁLEX: What is it? A metaphor, is that it?
MARTÍN: It’s a way of talking about… about escaping, you know? About escaping from that region… from the central meseta… from the war… That’s why: “Birds on the Meseta.”
ÁLEX: Yes, OK, OK. Be careful with that though.
MARTÍN: With…? With what?
ÁLEX: With metaphors like that. Look, there’s something about this movie… And forgive me, I probably wouldn’t say this to anyone else, but I’m going to tell you. Out of respect.
MARTÍN: OK, right, of course…
ÁLEX: Do you know the story about Polanski?
ÁLEX: The director. You know he survived the Nazis, right? World War Two, in Poland, in the ghetto… His parents died. They gas them both, but he manages to escape… Then he goes to the US, he marries that beautiful woman…
MARTÍN: Sharon Tate.
MARTÍN: Sharon… Sharon Tate.
ÁLEX: But they kill her too, right? Some members of this cult show up and they… they stab her. She’s pregnant too, with the baby inside her, just imagine. And then he falls into this spiral of drugs and craziness… and he ends up with that girl he rapes, right?
So then, of course, you, you put yourself… into that man’s head… when it comes to writing a script. Whether it’s… “Nothing matters to me anymore, OK? I could care less. Because some cult killed my kid…” So for me then…
MARTÍN: Right, right, of course.
ÁLEX: So, here… that’s what’s missing. We’re missing that… flourish. Someone reads it, it’s really good, but the… “You mean, this guy, the author…”
MARTÍN: Yeah, me.
ÁLEX: “… He didn’t escape from the Nazis, no cult came and killed his kid, he’s not a child rapist…” There’s none of that, not at all.
MARTÍN: Right, right. So it’s lacking… vigor, maybe, or…
ÁLEX: Power. It’s lacking power.
He shows him his forearm.
Look, you see that?
MARTÍN: Yeah. What…?
ÁLEX: The burn.
MARTÍN: Yeah, oh. That’s quite the wound. Did you burn yourself on something?
ÁLEX: A cigar.
ÁLEX: No, I did it myself.
ÁLEX: The first day of the shoot. On every shoot, I do a… a… I do some self-harm. That’s the way I understand movies, like self-harm. I don’t know, Martín, I’m searching. Look, I… I mean, so we understand each other. I’m going to confess something, something you’re going to understand. I always, always go to shootswith a pistol.
MARTÍN: Oh, you carry a…?
ÁLEX: A pistol. I carry it in my pocket, and I don’t take it out or anything, but I… I have it, right? And I’m struck sometimes by this desire to… to… to kill the whole lot of them. Actors, assistant director, soundman, production assistant… All dead, in order of importance. A massacre, right? But of course, I don’t do it. I control myself. And out of that, out of that tension, out of the restraint that I exhibit, that’s where the movie comes from.
I’m really looking forward to working with you.
MARTÍN: Yeah, me too.
ÁLEX: We’re going to have so much fun.
MARTÍN: For sure, for sure.
ÁLEX: No, if you use cocaine.
MARTÍN: Now, you mean?
ÁLEX: In general. So we get to know each other. You, for example, when you masturbate, what do you think about? No, I’m asking because… I masturbate a lot. And it’s a really interesting terrain because it’s a space of personal freedom, right? And there are almost no spaces like that anymore.
MARTÍN: No, no, no….
ÁLEX: Yeah, look, films. Movies…
(He’s quiet a moment)
Sorry, I was just… pheww. I get lost in my own world.
MARTÍN: So what’s the next step?
ÁLEX: This… material… is it yours?
MARTÍN: Yes, yes. Because there was a producer, but he pulled out so it’s… it’s mine.
ÁLEX: Well then, I’m going to send it to Adriana.
MARTÍN: To Adriana Vergara?
ÁLEX: Yes, yes. I’ve got a good relationship with her. I’m going to send it to her, today, with a midget.
MARTÍN: A midget?
ÁLEX: You’ve got to stand out. Do you know how many scripts that woman receives? I send her things with this messenger midget I work with, and that way she’ll remember. The script from the midget. Then we have to make some corrections.
MARTÍN: Of course.
ÁLEX: Hot damn, you know what would be really great?
ÁLEX: Changing the entire movie.
MARTÍN: I mean, there’s work that’s been done that I wouldn’t just throw out.
ÁLEX: Well the treatment is fantastic. I mean it, just the way it is, it’s ready to shoot tomorrow. But what I’m asking is: “What if we change it, you know?”
An after party. Techno music. Martín, the director, and other people. They dance, drink, laugh. From time to time, the director whispers something in Martín’s ear, and Martín writes in a little notebook.
NARRATOR: That’s how Martín begins to change his movie.
The director takes him to cocktail bars, karaoke bars. He always works in places like that. It helps him concentrate.
Martín carries a little notebook around with him everywhere he goes, and he writes down everything the director comes up with. Any type of idea.
He looks like the secretary to some African dictator.
But he doesn’t care, because he knows he’s in the best hands.
He knows this man directed Possession in Utah and sold it internationally to more than fourteen countries.
That’s why he doesn’t care that he calls him at any time, from any place, to tell him any thing:
The director, hiking, at the top of a mountain. On the phone.
ÁLEX: Martín? What’s up? Álex here. Look, I’m at the top of a mountain, on a hike, and I was thinking, that chase scene we’ve got?, it would be great on a mountain. That would mean getting rid of the whole meseta thing, and switching it to mountaintops, precipices, pinnacles, goats. I think it’s an improvement. Right? OK?
The director, at a pool, meeting with others. On the phone.
ÁLEX: Martín, I’m in a meeting right now, at the pool, with the Canary Island Film Commission, and… it would be great to film part of it here, on the Canaries, because there’s tax deductions… so, then, some scene where you see the ocean, I don’t know, volcanoes, Canary Island things…
The director, at his house. By his side, Rosario, his housekeeper. On the phone.
ÁLEX: Martín, what’s up? Álex. Look, I’m calling because I’m here with Rosario, the girl who cleans my house, she’s been here forever, like a part of the family, but of course, I hadn’t realized that if we’re looking for someone who has a lot of experience with the war, that’s her.
What was it, your town, the thing with…?
ROSARIO: The village. They destroyed our village.
ÁLEX: Imagine that, the soldiers burned down her village. I’m going to put her on, let her tell you, I think we can use it. You, ask her about it and, and… we’ll stick some scene in there.
Back at the after party.
NARRATOR: He says “we,” but it’s Martín who makes the changes, of course.
Now they’re at an after party.
This is good, he thinks. It’s important to relax a bit.
But this is also work.
To hell with classes. To hell with TV ads.
They’re like one of Stephen Hawkings’ black holes. They suck up all my energy.
Now I’m going to tell my story. I’m going to make my movie.
Yes, Martín. Why not?
In Martín’s narrative, everything is starting to fit together.
Weeks later, Adriana Vergara finally responds.
Martín, with Álex Casamor and Adriana Vergara, in an office at the TV station.
ADRIANA: Martín. Martín. Your treatment: we’re talking about your treatment, that’s true. But first, don’t you think this is one of those moments where little by little, and in front of our very eyes, a catastrophe is being unleashed?
Melting glaciers, tsunamis, terrorism, gluten. Do you know what’s going on with me? No, but deep down, truly truly. Everything makes me sad. Everything. Olive trees, they cut them down, thousands of years old, and they transplant them, do you realize, Martín, they transplant them… and the big multinationals, and Swiss banks, and investment holdings. And especially, especially, Martín, what we’re talking about here: the cultural situation of this country. The cinema, if we can still say that––if it still makes sense to talk about cinema––, the movies we make in this country. That we’re all making. Where, right now, where––I’m asking you––this is what I’m asking––where is the future of Spanish cinema? For me… I mean, for me? For me it’s about a movie I approved this morning about a dog that talks. It solves mysteries. It’s a detective dog. Do I like it, personally? Do I like the dog that talks? I don’t like it, Martín, I do not like it. But. What about the distributors? What about the majors? They do like it. They love it. They’re pissing themselves over the detective dog. That’s what they want. It’s what we all want. My kids––I don’t have kids, it’s a manner of speaking––but if I had kids, where would they go? Do you have kids? Don’t answer me, because whether you do or not, you know where they go on weekends, it’s raining, it starts raining, and what, what do you do with them?, Martín, what do you do? Do you kill them? Do we kill them? No, we have to take them to things. We have to stimulate them. So, what do we have? The detective dog. Because with the detective dog, what else do we get? Action figures. Action figures of the dog, the police that work with the dog, the girlfriend of the dog…
(Referring to the director)
He calls me. And he knows, he knows that I, ever since the movie about Utah, I’m with him to the death. I’d kill for it. I ask him: “What’ve you got? What’ve you got?” Because we’re junkies, Martín, story junkies. We’re waiting for talent, waiting for the future of Spanish cinema, like spiders, on a web, waiting, waiting for you. Because you are the talent. Is it him or is it not him? It’s him. He tells me: “We’ve got a treatment that’s gold.” That’s what he says: “Gold.” He gives it to me. The midget brings it to me, which Álex knows is a detail that I eat up. I read it. And I tell you, Martín, darling: it’s, it’s gold. The treatment is amazing. Just the way it is. I would film it tomorrow. So what’s the issue?
The issue is, they’re going to ask me: “Where’s the detective dog?” And we don’t have one. There isn’t one. They’re going to say: “This, what you brought me is a, a… a flounder menuière, cooked to perfection, marvelous, but, what is it that we do here?” That’s what my boss is going to say. We don’t make flounder menuière, no, we don’t. We make, I don’t know, we make fish sticks. Fish sticks, enjoyable, packaged, with drawings, with a pirate. That’s what we do, we all know it, we’re hypocrites, Martín, we are hypocrites. I want to tell you that there’s an opportunity, we’re going to take it to committee, we’re going to pitch it, but but what we cannot do, under any circumstances, is to cut off our noses to spite our face. This, it’s very artsy, the way it is right now, it’s very artsy, we need to expand the film, we need to make some corrections.
ADRIANA: What do you mean more?
MARTÍN: Because we’ve already made corrections. Why do we need to make more?
Pause. Álex and Adriana look at each other.
ADRIANA: I’m going to answer that question with another question: why do gorillas pick lice off each other? Huh? The, the… gorillas, in the zoo. Have you seen them? You’ve seen them pick lice off each another? Why do they do it?
Because they bite them, Martín. The lice bite them. I don’t need to say anything else, right?
Martín doesn’t understand.
MARTÍN: No, yes, yes you do, because if you think I under…
ÁLEX: (Interrupting) Your treatment, OK? It all begins with your treatment.
ADRIANA: Let’s focus on the treatment, that’s it.
ÁLEX: Civil War, ok?
ADRIANA: No, no. Don’t think about the Civil War. He shouldn’t think about the Civil War.
ÁLEX: Think about… what should I tell him to think about?
ÁLEX: Post-apocalypse. Do you see it, the post-apocalypse?
ADRIANA: Of course he sees it, it’s super easy to see.
ÁLEX: Are you interested in the post-apocalypse?
ADRIANA: How’s he not going to be interested in it, Álex, when it’s amazing?
ÁLEX: Small city on the front line. It’s being bombed by the Nationalist army.
ADRIANA: Shooting, ratatatata.
ÁLEX: People, fleeing through the streets. Shouting, destruction.
ADRIANA: And a boy running away. Alone? No, with a girl, his cousin.
ÁLEX: A cousin, his same age, she’s from the village.
ADRIANA: His little cousin, Martín: innocence, paradise lost…
ÁLEX: What do they want?
ADRIANA: What we all want: an opportunity, a future.
ÁLEX: Look at them. They managed to escape, right?
ADRIANA: “Good thing.” The ladies: “Good thing.”
ÁLEX: But, what’s that?
ADRIANA: What is it? Shots?
ÁLEX: Henkel 51. Light bomber.
ADRIANA: And what’s it doing?
ÁLEX: Landing in the middle of this massacre.
ADRIANA: And who’s flying it?
ÁLEX: A General. A General from Franco’s side. This General from the dictator’s army is chasing the boy.
MARTÍN: Like in the treatment.
ÁLEX: Everything’s just like the treatment.
ADRIANA: Yeah, well, the treatment’s fantastic.
ÁLEX: He gets out of the plane and walks through all this… destruction.
ADRIANA: Because the city has been destroyed.
Buildings, ruins, everything flattened.
We’ll do it in post-production.
ÁLEX: And he looks at the ground, because he hears a noise.
ADRIANA: A noise?
ÁLEX: A little noise. By his feet.
ADRIANA: Cree, cree. Martín: cree, cree, cree.
This is new.
ÁLEX: This is new, yes, you’ll see. The General bends down.
ADRIANA: The camara, Martín. The camara, going down with him.
ÁLEX: And he, very slowly, he grabs onto…
ADRIANA: Cree, cree.
ÁLEX: … a rat.
ADRIANA: “What is it? Is that a rat?”
ÁLEX: A. Rat.
ADRIANA: “Ew, that’s gross.” The ladies: “Ew, that’s gross.”
ÁLEX: He grabs onto the rat, by the tail.
ADRIANA: Cree, cree. That’s what the rat does: cree, cree.
ÁLEX: Nightfall––behind him––fuchsia red.
ADRIANA: An antinatural red, we’ll do the red in post-production.
ÁLEX: And the General from Franco’s army…
ADRIANA: Pay attention here please, Martín.
ÁLEX: He opens his mouth…
ADRIANA: He opens his mouth, Martín. With the rat in his hand.
ÁLEX: And in one gulp… he eats the rat.
ADRIANA: HE EATS THE RAT, MARTÍN. HE ATE THE RAT.
ADRIANA: But. That’s the word.
ÁLEX: What the fuck?
ADRIANA: The ladies, Martín: “what the fuck?” Because you saw it, you saw how he eats the rat. You’re like this. Your eyes, like this.
ÁLEX: Who is this General? Huh?
ADRIANA: Who is this General who eats rats?
ÁLEX: Is he just any old General from Franco’s army?
ADRIANA: No, no, no.
ÁLEX: Who is it?
ADRIANA: And here, Martín, hold on tight because this is the most radical high-concept concept you’re going to hear in your life.
ÁLEX: The General, Martín, he isn’t human. He’s. An. Alien.
ADRIANA: And what’s up with Franco, you’re wondering.
ÁLEX: Franco knows. In order to save Spain, he’s determined to join forces with whoever he needs to.
ADRIANA: Nazis. Fascists. Extraterrestrials.
ÁLEX: This is the high-concept concept, Martín. This is the power: Spanish Civil War. Aliens.
Guys, I’m very pleased. I’m going to ask them to bring me a Kir Royal. Martín, are you pleased?
NARRATOR: This is the moment when Martín could get up, and leave.
Run away from here like someone who’s seen a ghost.
But what he does is remember a movie he saw when he was little, with his brother. When his brother was still alive.
They rented it from a video store. Herbie Goes Bananas, it was called.
That was the last movie his brother ever saw, although they didn’t know it at the time.
Since then, Martín makes a list of all the movies he sees.
The only thing he wants is to add a movie of his own to that list.
That’s why, instead of running away, he says:
MARTÍN: So, should we sign the contract?
ADRIANA: We can sign whenever you want. Look, I’ve signed contracts on, on… Where did you and I sign the Utah one?
ÁLEX: On the back of a flyer.
ADRIANA: On the back of a flyer. That’s how we do things, Martín.
NARRATOR: They sign a contract to do another treatment, with the changes.
In the elevator, Martín runs into the student with the zombies.
Martín, in an elevator, leaving the offices. The doors open and Charly enters.
CHARLY: Hey, Prof. How’s it going?
MARTÍN: (doesn’t recognize him) Hello…
MARTÍN: Charly, how you doing? What a coincidence…
CHARLY: Yeah well, I work here now. I sent them my manuscript, like you told me… and here I am, reading scripts, writing reports…
MARTÍN: Good deal.
CHARLY: Yeah, I’m really happy, the thing is that, for now… it looks like my movie’s not going to get made.
MARTÍN: Yeah, well, I mean, maybe it’s not what they’re looking for.
CHARLY: No, no. They love it. The thing is that it exceeds the budget.
Silence. Charly looks at him.
CHARLY: How’d it go?
MARTÍN: How’d what go?
CHARLY: You had that Civil War thing, right?
MARTÍN: (surprised that he knows) Oh, yeah, yeah… Well, really good. We’re… rethinking some things, but good.
CHARLY: And the UFOs?
MARTÍN: Wait, you… Did they tell you that, or…?
CHARLY: Did they tell me…? I was the one who told them. The UFOs? I was the one who told them.
MARTÍN: You were the one who told what to who?
CHARLY: So the thing is… you’re not going to believe how it happened. They gave me the treatment… Which is good, right? But it, obviously, in the end it’s a little bit of the same old thing: the Civil war, the boy, the good-guy professor who supports the Republic… and kicking it around in my head, just kicking it around… Amazing the way ideas come to us, isn’t it? Like you used to say, right? Suddenly. I was playing on the PlayStation with one of my buddies, and he was wearing a Space Invaders sweatshirt, so I’m looking at him, and I say: “Hey, that treatment, if you put some aliens into it, it’s the same thing, but better.”
And from that, which I wasn’t going to say anything about, because I was embarrassed, but since you encouraged me so much, I go, well I’ll just mention it to my boss and see what happens. I tell him and he flips over it. The ball starts rolling, they tell that Adriana chick… and she flips too. And so, you’re taking it to committee, right?
NARRATOR: Martín refuses to let any of that info gain access to his brain.
He can’t, because he already signed a contract to make another version.
Martín, writing at home, early morning. He goes out onto the balcony and from there he sees an old guy running.
NARRATOR: He rereads the treatment and tries to make the changes, but he can’t do it.
Deep down, the whole UFO thing strikes him as ridiculous.
After spending the whole night trying, in the early morning, he goes out on the balcony to smoke a cigarette.
The sun’s coming up, and he can see a park from there.
Among them, some old man, this guy must be two hundred years old. He’s running very slowly, but he’s running.
He looks like one of those turtles that walk through India, all alone, while people move out of the way.
Seeing the old guy, Martín is transformed.
What a role model, he thinks. If he can do it, so can I.
What Martín doesn’t know is that the old turtle guy is actually an actor, and he’s filming an ad for Nike.
The ad is called: No limits. It’s old people doing impossible things: marathons, bungee jumping.
No limits, Martín.
Martín, at a wedding. His cousin approaches him.
NARRATOR: Now he’s at a wedding, a family commitment, and he’s still taking notes, because he agreed to turn in the corrections in a week, on Monday.
It’s always on Mondays.
A distant cousin who he hasn’t seen in years approaches him.
COUSIN: Are you the scriptwriter?
MARTÍN: No, no…
COUSIN: Yes, you’re the scriptwriter. You write scripts?
COUSIN: What scripts do you write?
MARTÍN: All kinds.
COUSIN: Any movies?
MARTÍN: I’m working on a movie right now.
COUSIN: Have I seen it?
MARTÍN: No, I’m still writing it.
COUSIN: What actors?
MARTÍN: No, no. I’m writing… Putting the finishing touches on a treatment.
COUSIN: A treatment?
MARTÍN: Yeah, it’s something you do before the script.
COUSIN: And you write it?
MARTÍN: Yeah, exactly. I write it.
COUSIN: And the actors?
MARTÍN: What about the actors?
COUSIN: Then they change it, or…?
MARTÍN: No, normally they don’t change it.
MARTÍN: No, no.
COUSIN: Are you writing now?
MARTÍN: Taking notes. It’s just, I’m a little short on time.
COUSIN: So I’m bothering you.
MARTÍN: No, no. Not at all.
COUSIN: It seems super hard to me. I couldn’t do it.
MARTÍN: It’s like everything. I’m sure I couldn’t do what you do…
What do you do?
COUSIN: Me? I’m a service technician. For phones. I go into people’s homes… and I make sure they’re working.
So then, yes. Maybe yes… yes I could. Other jobs, no, but yours…
COUSIN: The person you’ve got to meet is my wife. She’s a real character… If she told you what she’s been through… then you’d really have something to write about.
MARTÍN: I’m sure. I’ve going to head out for a minute, I have to get the… the…
COUSIN: He’s the scriptwriter.
MERCEDES: Are you the scriptwriter?
MARTÍN: Yes, hello. I’m, I’m…
MERCEDES: Good. Well if I told you what I’ve been through… then you’d really have something to write about.
MARTÍN: Yeah, he told me…
NARRATOR: Martín has heard this exact phrase at every wedding he’s gone to. Every one of them. He’s sick of it.
MARTÍN: OK, let’s hear it, go ahead. I’m sure it’ll inspire me. I’m sure. I don’t have anything to do, other than listening… What’s your story?
MERCEDES: Really? Are you sure?
MERCEDES: OK, the thing is I’ve been with the National Intelligence Agency for years now, and the truth is I’ve seen all sort of things. I did my training in Lebanon, right when Hezbollah was getting involved in the Civil War. I’m sure you know that Hezbollah is a Lebanese Shia Islamist organization which is difficult to deal with, and the thing is that it was a miracle, a miracle that I got out of there alive. You have no idea what it was like. …
NARRATOR: Martín never could have anticipated what’s happening here, because the story this cousin is telling him is fascinating.
MERCEDES: … And I go and tell Hassan Nasrallah––because we had a good relationship––I tell him: “Hassan, sending the militia to the Black Sea, things being the way they are, it’s a huge mistake.” And him: “No, not at all.” He was obsessed with the Black Sea. The situation made him question everything, until he ends up putting an arrest warrant out for me. I go: “An arrest warrant again, really?”…
NARRATOR: She talks more than forty minutes.
Martín can’t believe it.
This woman’s life is a thousand times more interesting than his treatment.
COUSIN: What about ETA? Tell him about those terrorists from ETA.
MERCEDES: Well, so, I was infiltrated in the group for seven years, not as one of the hitmen, but as a driver for the upper echelon. I took Mikel Antza and the others from meeting to meeting. I mean, we even ended up planning the escape from the prison in San Sebastián together, I don’t know if you remember but it was big news, because we went in as if we were just some lighting technicians working for Imanol, that singer who was all the rage back then, and we snuck two prisoners out by hiding them in some loudspeakers.
NARRATOR: As he’s listening to her, Martín feels like a con man.
He feels like he doesn’t have anything to say.
This is truly interesting, he thinks. My little movie isn’t.
MERCEDES: So in the end, they discover me, there’s a shoot-out in Lasarte, shooting, shooting, people killed, weeks hiding out in the mountains, eating roots, little birds, drinking my own urine, I mean, what’re you going to do?
NARRATOR: He decides he’s going to take some of the things his cousin is telling him, and he’s going to stick them right into the treatment.
He needs to change the whole thing, but he doesn’t have time.
He doesn’t have time.
MERCEDES: And because I had a hunting knife that my dad gave me, it was only because of the knife, I cut out the bullet, because it went into my shoulder, clean, thank god it was clean, I mean that’s how I saved my life, because otherwise… But of course, sensitivity in that arm… it’s totally gone. Look, touch it, touch it. Hey, what’s wrong? Why are you scratching yourself?
NARRATOR: His whole body has started to itch.
Martín, at the doctor’s office, with two doctors.
NARRATOR: He goes to the doctor thinking it’s hives, psoriasis, dermatitis.
No: it’s the eczema from the nurses, it’s returned.
DOCTOR 1: Are you under any stress lately?
MARTÍN: Yes. I mean I’m writing a movie and I have to make some corrections.
OCTOR 2: How are you doing with eating?
DOCTOR 1: Exercise?
DOCTOR 2: Personal hygiene?
MARTÍN: Also bad.
DOCTOR 1: Bowel movements?
MARTÍN: Don’t ask.
DOCTOR 2: Tremors?
DOCTOR 1: Feelings of anxiety?
DOCTOR 2: Sensation of the futility of life and the passing of time?
MARTÍN: Yes, yes, exactly.
Pause. The doctors debate amongst themselves.
DOCTOR 1: It’s logical. After all… eczema comes and goes, but what is certain, and we’re telling you this as doctors, is that we’re all going to die. There won’t be anything left of us, except for scattered atoms. It won’t be long until we all return to the void that we came out of, which covers everything.
MARTÍN: That phrase… I’ve heard it somewhere.
NARRATOR: Relax, Martín, you’re very tense.
The doctors send him to a spa, to get an urgent treatment for his skin.
Martín, at a spa. Lying on a wooden bench, in a bathrobe, in the steam. In his hand, his notebook.
NARRATOR: They cover him with mud, they shower him in natural spring water, they douse him in coal tar.
They give him calendula, aloe vera, coconut oil. But it doesn’t subside.
It’s psychosomatic, they tell him.
It is whatever it is, but he has to submit the corrections all the same.
He feels like his head is spinning.
He feels like he’s sinking, like a crack has opened up in his outer shell.
And he thinks… about the Titanic.
It’s strange, because it’s been years since he thought about the Titanic.
But now he does: he’s thinking about a ship… a gigantic ship… sinking… very slowly… hopelessly… with a cracking sound.
It’s a sound that says: What am I doing here?
What am I doing here?
He asks himself this question in an existential fashion. Not only here, in this spa, but in general, in the world.
What made me think I wanted to write movies?
It’s not an easy question to answer.
We’d have to go back to June 15, 1977.
THE SINKNG OF THE TITANIC
Martín’s parents are making love on a sofa. A TV news program with the results of the 1977 elections can be heard.
NARRATOR: Part Two: “The Sinking of the Titanic.”
These are Martín’s parents.
They met through a friend, at a Julio Iglesias concert.
He works in the Treasury Department.
She owns a clothing store called Contrasts.
Right now, they’re celebrating the first general election since Spain became a democracy.
They’ve been going out a couple of years, and they just moved to this neighborhood on the outskirts of the city.
They’re surrounded by open fields. They’re the only people with dogs.
You can see the city in the distance. It looks like someone painted it.
Shortly, there will be a race. A ferocious race, with pushing and shoving, like the chariot races in the movie Ben-Hur.
It’s 250 million sperm trying to reach the egg.
They have to cross different barriers: vaginal, cervical, uterine. It’s like an expedition to the North Pole.
Out of all of them, only one of them makes it. Martín will come from that one.
The Democratic Center Party wins the elections.
Martín’s parents, with baby Martín in a crib. They pick him up, they talk to him, they give him the bottle. The mother leaves and the baby cries.
NARRATOR: March 4th, 1978.
Martín was just born. He weighed 7 ½ pounds.
His father, even though he’s really happy right now, will abandon them in a few years for a stewardess he’ll meet on a work trip to Stuttgart.
From that point on, Martín will feel an aversion toward stewardesses, and at the same time, he’ll feel a very strong erotic attraction toward them.
But he doesn’t know any of that right now.
When his mother leaves the room, he cries in terror.
He doesn’t know if she’s going to return.
Things leave, Martín. They go away and you can’t stop them.
If he could talk, he would say:
MARTÍN: Sometimes they give me the bottle after three hours. Other times it’s four.
How can you live like that?
Schopenhauer was right when he said: “Suffering is essential to life.”
In New Guinea, babies are carried in a hanging pouch like a bag of oranges.
They put me in this crib they got from the Corte Inglés department store.
Everything is unpredictable. Everything is change.
In any case, take it easy.
Look. Look at your mamma’s face. It’s like the sun.
If I could, I’d spend my life looking at her.
Martín, 8 years old, and his mother visit an exhibition about the Titanic.
Robots dressed like passengers from that time period, behind a rope.
The whistle from the ship is heard.
NARRATOR: November 12th, 1986.
Martín has turned eight, and he’s obsessed with the Titanic.
How could something like that happen? he wonders.
If that ship sank, then anything can happen, he thinks. We’re not safe.
Now he’s visiting an exhibition about the Titanic, with his mother and her new boyfriend, who’s a dentist.
The exhibition has a children’s zone, and one of the activities is to write a letter to one of the passengers on the Titanic.
Martín writes the captain:
MARTÍN: Dear Captain Edward Smith,
My name is Martín. I’m only eight years old, almost nine, but I would have liked to be there with you guys.
I have a question for you:
Why did you abandon so many people?
The lifeboats could have been filled with kids, because kids, like me, we’re usually small.
Sometimes I imagine that all those kids didn’t die and I invite them to my birthday party.
There’s usually mediasnoches, those little sandwiches my aunt makes.
I’d invite you too, Captain, in spite of your terrible, terrible handling of the catastrophe.
NARRATOR: He underlines those last words: terriblehandling of the catastrophe. Martín already talks like a grown-up sometimes.
When he finds out that fifteen hundred people died, he has an idea:
He decides to write a possible parallel life for each of the victims.
It’s like giving them another chance, he thinks.
They buy him a notebook in the souvenir shop.
A blue notebook, hard cover, with a closing strap that says: Passenger of the Titanic.
He’s very excited about the idea.
He writes the parallel life of the first passenger: Benjamin Guggenheim, a Swiss immigrant, owner of some copper mines.
In his new life, written by Martín, Benjamin is a teacher at his school.
He teaches Physical Education. He has a dog named Cashmere.
He even makes a drawing of a dog, with a bone in its mouth.
It’s the first thing he writes in his life.
He leaves the rest of the notebook blank.
Martín, a teenager, in his room. A corkboard with a poster of Spanish rock band Héroes del Silencio. He has long hair, a black t-shirt. He’s writing in a notebook by the light of a reading lamp. He’s listening to music on a Walkman.
NARRATOR: August 26th, 1992.
The Olympics in Barcelona. Everybody’s going crazy.
Not Martín. He thinks: What is this shit?
What are all these invented sports? Badminton, synchronized swimming.
The thing is that his brother Lucas has died now, on the octopus ride, and he feels really bad.
How do you feel, Martín?
MARTÍN: I feel like one of those balloons that someone releases during a wedding banquet, and it gets stuck on the ceiling, next to a fluorescent bulb.
NARRATOR: That’s how Martín feels.
He’s a bit of a poet already. He’s fourteen years old.
He’s forgotten about the Titanic. Now he’s a goth.
He wears black fingernail polish, black everything.
He’s become a fan of the rock band Héroes del Silencio.
He’s in his room, listening to them, and it feels like the lyrics are talking directly to him.
As if they could name something that’s his.
Very soon, he’ll start a fan club.
He thinks: This is the most important thing I’ll ever do. Being the president of the Héroes del Silencio fan club. I’m never going to forget this.
Now he’s writing a poem, which imitates the group’s baroque style.
It’s called The Scent of the Honeysuckle.
But, do you even know what honeysuckle is, Martín?
MARTÍN: No idea.
NARRATOR: Poor thing. The truth of the matter is that writing makes him feel better.
How do you feel, Martín?
MARTÍN: I feel like reality is at one volume, here… and when I write, I turn the volume down, here.
NARRATOR: He doesn’t know how to explain it any better. The thing is that, because of that, he keeps on writing.
Martín, in the kitchen of his house, gives a panhandler something to eat. Afterwards, he plays him a song on the guitar. The panhandler listens but doesn’t stop eating.
NARRATOR: March 3rd, 1996.
Martín is 18 now.
He wants to study film, but he comes to an agreement with his mother: he’s going to study Law, and after that, he’ll study film.
His mother and her boyfriend, the dentist, are out.
They’ve gone to Génova Street, to celebrate the election of José María Aznar after fourteen years of Socialist governments.
At this moment, Martín is feeding a panhandlerhe ran into at an ATM.
He plans on setting up the fold-up bed his brother used to sleep on, so the panhandler can spend the night there.
He thinks they have more than enough space and it’s absurd that people have to sleep on the street.
Martín’s a very sensitive young man, he does strange things.
He serves the panhandlercereal and milk and shows him some songs he wrote.
MARTÍN: Should I make you…? I don’t know, do you want anything else? Something to snack on maybe?
NARRATOR: The panhandlerworked in the stock market for years. Then he got addicted to gambling and lost everything.
He has a daughter who’s Martín’s age, who he never sees.
The panhandlersays: Some memories are like turtles.
You flip them over and they just start walking. Alone.
He also tells him that he comes from the planet Uranus, but the turtle thing sticks with Martín.
They’re going to watch the sunrise on the balcony, drinking wine, talking about Rabelais.
Neither of them has read Rabelais, but that doesn’t matter. Martín feels like it’s a very special moment.
When he wakes up, the man will have stolen some tins of foie-gras, a horrible wall hanging showing different types of boating knots, and his PlayStation.
Martín, in the bathroom, next to Cloe, in pajamas. They’re brushing their teeth, talking about something. Cloe’s sister, Nuria, walks by.
NARRATOR: February 3rd, 2001.
Martín has stopped studying Law. Now he only studies film. He wants to be a screenwriter.
Here’s Cloe, finally. They meet in class and start going out.
Right now they’re at her house. Her mother has left her on her own, and they spend the weekend here, like a married couple.
They even take care of her little sister.
Classical music filters through the window.
A neighbor who everyone thinks is blind plays it.
In the end, it turns out she isn’t, she’s a performance artist, famous in Europe: she’s spending three months pretending to be blind, that’s what the performance consists of.
They gave her a scholarship from Copenhagen, where they clearly have too much money.
They really like the music the blind lady plays, and they imagine she plays it for them.
Martín is enthralled by the routine:
Wake up with Cloe, make breakfast. Ordinary things seem to have a different shine.
When he sees her take her nail polish off with a pink Q-tip, he thinks:
How do people handle all this?
It’s a thought he’s going to have very often in his life.
From time to time, Cloe swears to things that are absurd.
CLOE: I swear I’m never eating in a Chinese restaurant again.
NARRATOR: They write a short film about a couple together.
He writes the part of Him; she does the part of Her.
They love this idea.
They’re happy together right now, but they’re going to separate in a few months.
In September, the Twin Towers fall.
Martín experiences it like a huge objective correlative, a literary technique he’s just learned.
He thinks seriously that if skyscrapers are collapsing in the world, it’s because he got separated.
Shortly thereafter, he falls in love with a publicist.
Martín, in a hospital, in a robe. They bring him a baby, his son, in a bassinet. The baby’s crying. He tries to calm him. He gives him the bottle.
NARRATOR: April 23rd, 2009.
Martín is now working on the series about the nurses. He’s very stressed.
He marries the publicist, and they have a son.
Here they are bringing him the baby in a bassinet.
He thinks: It looks like they’re dropping off an order from the fruit stand.
But no, no. It’s a newborn. And it’s very strange, because he looks just like him.
He feels like the baby’s a new and improved version of himself.
How odd, he thinks.
I thought that when I saw my son I would learn something. I don’t know, something important that I would finally understand.
And Martín understands it, but he doesn’t know what it is. He doesn’t know how to put it into words.
And what good is it if you don’t know how to put it into words?
While they do the skin-to-skin contact, the baby cries inconsolably, like this: bwahhhh. Bwahhhh.
Suddenly, he realizes that his son is like a survivor from the Titanic.
This doesn’t make any sense, but for him it does.
He imagines him in a rescue boat, with an orange life vest.
It’s as if he had a second chance, like a parallel life.
And, while he gives him his first bottle, he remembers the panhandler, he remembers Cloe, he remembers his dead brother.
And he feels like they’re all in this baby, crying.
And he feels like they’re crying for the same reason his son is: because everything is strange and alien.
Bwahhhh. Bwahhhh. Bwahhhh.
Back at the spa, where we left Martín.
He thinks he sees someone through the steam.
Hi… Is that you?
MARTÍN: How’s it going?
CLOE: How’re you?
MARTÍN: What a surprise, right? What…?
CLOE: Yeah, it sure is.
Sorry, it’s just that I feel a little… It’s been so long since…
MARTÍN: So long.
CLOE: … Since we’ve seen each other. When was…?
CLOE: No, the…
MARTÍN: That dinner, you mean? Ages. Years.
CLOE: Yeah, god.
And how’s…? I don’t know. How are you?
CLOE: (surprised that he asks her that) How…? How am I?
MARTÍN: Yeah, well no, I mean… What’re you up to?
CLOE: Ah. Nothing, good. Very good. And… you? What’re you doing here?
MARTÍN: Well, um… as you can see, a treatment I’m getting.
CLOE: A treatment?
MARTÍN: Yeah, for my skin, that… a problem with my skin. But it’s nothing, really… It’s not… I mean, from nerves, the stress…
CLOE: You got a lot of stress?
MARTÍN: No, just, normal.
MARTÍN: It’s because I’m working on a film…
CLOE: A film?
MARTÍN: Yeah, a… we’re still developing it, but… it looks good.
CLOE: Well, that’s good.
MARTÍN: Yeah, it has… It’s, it’s about the Civil War. One of my grandfather’s stories.
CLOE: Your grandfather… the one about the bird you always told me.
MARTÍN: Yeah, exactly. In fact, that’s what it’s called. “Birds on the Meseta.” I’m tweaking it now, because… we’ve got a pitch and…
CLOE: A what?
MARTÍN: A pitch, where… where, you know, we present the movie. We say what it’s about… It’s with a director who’s worked a lot in the U.S….
CLOE: Oh, good. That’s important.
MARTÍN: … In Hollywood.
MARTÍN: In Hollywood. He made a couple of movies there.
CLOE: I don’t know what that is.
MARTÍN: You don’t know what what is…?
CLOE: What you said. I don’t know.
CLOE: No clue.
Pause. He believes her.
MARTÍN: How can you not know? Hollywood, California. With the movies.
CLOE: Never heard of it. I’m not sure…
MARTÍN: You’re pulling my leg.
What an idiot, I mean, really…
CLOE: And what’s his name, the director?
MARTÍN: You wouldn’t know him. He made a movie, a commercial one… It was good, you know. But you… you haven’t seen it.
It’s called “Possession in Utah.”
MARTÍN: “Possession in Utah.” Your favorite, right?
CLOE: It might be good.
MARTÍN: It’s not bad, really.
CLOE: No, that’s why I said it.
That title, though…
MARTÍN: (laughing) I know.
CLOE: It’s pretty clear-cut, isn’t it?
MARTÍN: Yeah, right. There’s a possession, and it’s in Utah.
And you? What do you do?
MARTÍN: Are you writing anything?
CLOE: No, nothing.
MARTÍN: Nothing? But…
CLOE: I don’t write anymore.
MARTÍN: Come on.
CLOE: No, I don’t…
MARTÍN: You don’t write?
CLOE: No. It’s been years.
MARTÍN: Why not?
CLOE: I don’t know. I stopped writing.
MARTÍN: But you stopped… just like that?
CLOE: Yeah, I stopped.
MARTÍN: But you were the best writer in the class.
CLOE: I was not.
MARTÍN: You were too. I remember that story you did about a girl…
CLOE: No, what story?
MARTÍN: You don’t remember? The one about the girl in the disco?
MARTÍN: An exercise you did at school, the first day? A girl… she’s in a disco… dancing with some guy. She’s very happy and… she realizes… How’d it go? She realizes that the moment is going to come to an end. And she doesn’t want it to stop. She wants… to capture it. She tries to take like a mental picture…
She doesn’t remember.
No? Mickey Mouse was in it.
CLOE: Mickey? No, all right, it sounds familiar, but…
MARTÍN: It was amazing. We all loved it. I must still have it somewhere, because I save everything… You must have it too.
CLOE: No, I threw everything out. I moved a few times and…
MARTÍN: You threw it out?
CLOE: Yeah, I don’t know. It’s a different time…
CLOE: That’s it. Enough already. I threw it out.
MARTÍN: And what do you do now? Professionally.
CLOE: I’m a gardener.
CLOE: Yes, a gardener.
MARTÍN: You’re pulling my leg again.
CLOE: No, really. I do gardening.
MARTÍN: What do you mean gardening? You water plants? You prune them…?
CLOE: No, I design gardens.
MARTÍN: No you don’t.
CLOE: I do. I just did one around here, in a plaza.
MARTÍN: What’s it called?
CLOE: Park of the Two Waters.
MARTÍN: Come on. I don’t believe you.
MARTÍN: Tell me the names of trees.
MARTÍN: If you’re a gardener. Tell me the names of trees.
CLOE: I don’t feel like it.
CLOE: What is this? An exam?
CLOE: Olive. Cypress. Elm. Poplar. Oak. Maple.
MARTÍN: Everybody knows those.
CLOE: Oh, really? OK: Atlas cedar. Red eucalyptus. Black locust. Mimosa. Corsican Pine. Rosewood. Yew. Elder. Chinese Parasol.
MARTÍN: Chinese Parasol?
CLOE: Chinese Parasol, what’s the problem?
MARTÍN: You’re making them up.
What’s your movie about?
MARTÍN: Well, it’s not your typical Civil War flick. It’s a type of… of… dystopia. We added something… I mean, something different. Like there are… hidden forces… You know that whole thing about Nazis and the occult? Well, going off that a little bit, we came up with the idea of UFOs…
MARTÍN: Yeah, UFOs. Aliens… That’s what we’re working on.
I have to make some corrections, but I can’t do it.
CLOE: Why do you have to?
MARTÍN: Well, it’s more the producer’s thing, and the director’s… you know.
CLOE: And you have to do it.
MARTÍN: If I want them to make the movie, yes.
CLOE: So do it and be done with it, right?
MARTÍN: Just like that?
CLOE: Just like that.
MARTÍN: You think it’s crap, don’t you?
CLOE: Your movie? No, not at all. I’ll have to see it.
I saw a UFO once.
MARTÍN: What are you talking about?
CLOE: In Greece. One night, in the middle of the ocean.
MARTÍN: But that would be… a light, an illusion…
CLOE: No. It was a UFO.
MARTÍN: But how’s it going to be a UFO?
CLOE: Were you there? I was there. I saw it. It was a UFO.
Pause. She continues to look at him.
CLOE: No, it’s just that… you used to have a thing in your eyes… that you don’t have anymore, right?
MARTÍN: I don’t know.
CLOE: Your eyes were two different colors, weren’t they? Or am I making that up?
MARTÍN: I have a son.
CLOE: Yeah, I know. I heard. What’s his name?
CLOE: Ah, of course.
MARTÍN: Do you have kids?
CLOE: No. I wanted to, you know? But…
MARTÍN: Well, you’ve got time.
CLOE: Yes, of course. I’ve got time.
MARTÍN: Can I ask you something?
Do you ever have the feeling––like as if you lost something––something very important, very valuable––like if it was the keys to your house––but it’s not the keys to your house––it’s not anything in reality––but at the same time––it’s everything?
MARTÍN: But do you know what I’m talking about?
Things leave, Martín. They go away and you can’t stop them.
Pause. She gets emotional.
MARTÍN: You OK?
CLOE: Yeah. It’s… the air in here, it irritates my eyes…
MARTÍN: Should we go outside?
Martín and Cloe, outside the spa. Nightfall.
We hear the music that was playing years earlier, in the bathroom.
NARRATOR: They go out onto a glass-enclosed porch, above a lake.
A lake with hot springs.
There are some cabins with chipped paint that used to be dressing rooms.
The spa is very old. It needs to be renovated.
During the war, at the time Martín’s movie takes place, it was a field hospital.
And here, close to where they are, a young man died when a grenade exploded.
His name was Fermín Casares. He was nineteen years old. He wanted to be a mechanic.
It doesn’t matter. There’s no place for him in this story.
They don’t know anything about that. They’ve got enough to deal with, just talking, here, after so many years, as if it were no big deal.
Meeting up with someone who was important in your life is like meeting up with a dead person.
Now I understand the whole thing about the post-apocalypse, the zombies… thinks Martín.
We are the zombies.
Zombies of ourselves.
What does that mean?
MARTÍN: I remember he was Italian. The girl, in your story, she was dancing with an Italian guy. I remember because I imagined it was me. You know when you read something and you imagine you’re one of the characters? Well I imagined it was me.
(Pause. He speaks in Italian.)
I imagined I spoke fluent Italian. That I was in one of those black and white Italian movies. With you, I don’t know. Fantasies. I’ve always wanted to learn Italian. I signed up for some classes, but I only lasted three days.
CLOE: You can still learn, right?
MARTÍN: (in Italian) Now my thing is that my son should learn, but obviously, what good is Italian? Right? What good is it?
NARRATOR: Night is falling. The sun sets in the lake.
It shines among the cabins like a rusty coin, and it makes them remember something: the opposite moment, a sunrise.
Both of them? Yes. There are less memories than people.
This is why I started to write, thinks Martín. To remember.
The moment is this:
The two of them lying at the foot of a statue
watching a sunrise in Rome
her head resting on his thigh
his right hand caressing her gold-tinged hair
on the steps of a statue in the Gianicolo, the eighth hill of Rome
watching how the sun rises
above cupolas raised to honor Emperors and Popes
with the murky breath of several Perotti beers and stomachs full of balls of fried rice
after spending the night walking down dimly lit narrow streets
turning their backs on the equestrian monument erected in bronze to Garibaldi
the side of the monument painted with slogans supporting the Lazio football club
him noticing the coldness and hardness of the marble on his back
her closing her eyes to feel the warmth of the sun on her eyelids
alone in Piazza Garibaldi except for a group of Japanese tourists
his left hand resting against the step forming an acute angle
an ant climbing her bare ankle
him, his eyes open, watching a flock of birds that zigzag toward the Tiber
her, a map in her back pocket, its corners faded
sunlight landing on the marble and warming it
marble on which you can read ROME OR DEATH and which was covered with fascist symbols during the War
both of them tired, but knowing they’ll sleep until noon in the Eur neighborhood apartment that they’re sharing with a slightly cross-eyed German girl
they’re young, twenty-three, without any worries
traveling through Italy by Interrail
young lovers who just got their degrees in film studies
dreaming about writing
sharing a cigarette
sharing a Winston-brand cigarette
at 7:05 AM on July 20th, 2001.
(Martín looks at the Narrator)
“It happened. It won’t happen again. Remember it.”
POSTCARDS FROM THE AEGEAN SEA
Divided into two locations:
Night. Two soldiers on the front lines. Antoñito and Rafael. Rafael is lying on the ground, a life-threatening wound on his leg.
In a radio studio, Martín, Adriana, and a newspaper reporter. They listen with their headsets on.
Rafael lets out a heartrending scream. The other soldier tries to console him.
ANTOÑITO: Hang in there! They’re going to come get us, Rafael.
RAFAEL: You used to be a better liar, kid.
ANTOÑITO: Who’s lying? Our guys have got to be right around the corner.
RAFAEL: Our guys are busy enough just saving their own asses. No, Antoñito, you and I are on our own. This ends here. Give me a cigarette, would you?
Antoñito lights a cigarette for him.
Listen to me: you need to leave. Go on, leave, save yourself! Catch a train and cross over into France. I’ve got friends there who can help you. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you. You’ve got to live for the both of us.
ANTOÑITO: Desert? Never.
RAFAEL: We can’t win this war.
ANTOÑITO: Don’t say that.
RAFAEL: No? They’ve got lasers, Antoñito. They’ve got motherships, they can read our minds. Their technology is millions of years more advanced than ours. What’ve we got?
ANTOÑITO: We’ve got justice on our side.
RAFAEL: And that justice of yours, will it feed us? Can we touch it? Will it work as ammunition when we run out of bullets? No. There’s no point in fooling ourselves: they’re going to win the war.
ANTOÑITO: You might be right, but maybe someone, somewhere on the planet, is watching us. Or maybe other people, many years from now.
RAFAEL: Then they won’t be able to do anything for us.
ANTOÑITO: You’re wrong: they’ll be able to tell our story.
Sound of an approaching siren.
In the radio studio.
REPORTER: “They’ll be able to tell our story”…
ADRIANA: Amazing. Amazing scene.
REPORTER: Adriana, Martín… Welcome to you both.
ADRIANA: Thank you, how’s it going?
REPORTER: We’ve been listening to a clip from a film that’ll be out in theatres soon. It’s about the Civil War, but it’s not your typical Civil War movie, is it?
MARTÍN: No, no.
ADRIANA: Not at all.
REPORTER: You could say it has a lot of elements we don’t often find in movies about the Civil War. In the first place: UFOs. So how did that idea occur to you?
ADRIANA: Martín, that was Martín, he has an exceptional mind…
MARTÍN: No, not at all… It kind of came from all of us.
ADRIANA: I think it was Álex… Wasn’t it?
REPORTER: Álex Casamor, the director, He’s entering the studio as we speak, accompanied by one of the actors.
Álex and an actor enter, without making a sound, as if asking for forgiveness for arriving late. They wave. They put headsets on.
REPORTER: As we were saying… the idea of extraterrestrials fighting on Franco’s side. Who comes up with something like that, and how is it that it works so well?
ÁLEX: I know, right? Ideas, sometimes…
ADRIANA: They don’t come from anything concrete. It’s very mysterious.
ACTOR: They float.
ÁLEX: They float, that’s it. They’re in the air, as people say, right?
ACTOR: Kind of like the radio, isn’t it? Radio waves. There’s something… like magic.
ADRIANA: Magic, how lovely. What a team we had, amazing, really.
ACTOR: And, I mean… What is an idea? We could spend hours debating, couldn’t we?
They continue talking.
MARTÍN: Autumn. A year has gone by.
It seems incredible, but I finally wrote the movie, and they shot it.
The premiere is this week.
It’s no longer called “Birds on the Meseta.” It’s called “Abduction on the Meseta.”
The strange thing is that I’ve made peace with the idea of the UFOs.
It feels like it’s totally mine, even though I know other people will have to appear in the credits: my student, my cousin’s wife.
Even Cloe. Seeing Cloe helped me make the corrections.
Maybe that’s what fiction is: it’s like a soup made out of the leftovers you find in the fridge.
Things from here and there. That’s how I made this movie.
REPORTER: We’re going to take advantage of having the screenwriter here, which doesn’t happen very often: Martín, what’s it like to see what they did with your movie? It must be very strange, right? Is it how you imagined it?
Pause. He doesn’t answer. It doesn’t seem like he heard.
MARTÍN: It’s exactly how I imagined it. Every shot is the way I always dreamt it. Every actor is exactly what I had in mind, and he or she says the dialogues, bit by bit, the way I’ve always heard them in my head. In fact, the movie is so similar to what I imagined that, when I saw it, it frightened me. No, really.
I thought: “How can it be so, I mean so similar to what I had in my head?”
What is this, a miracle?
Laughter from everyone while he’s talking.
ADRIANA: What he means is that making a film is a team effort and that what’s important is not the movie one imagines, but the one you find along the way. Right, Martín?
MARTÍN: Exactly. That’s exactly what I mean.
REPORTER: “Abduction on the Meseta.” Opening in theatres this Friday. Let’s keep listening:
On the front lines, they return to the same position.
Rafael sits up and takes him by the lapels.
RAFAEL: Come on, leave, you’ve got to leave, now, before those rat-eating fascists find us!
Antoñito stands up, crying.
ANTOÑITO: (to himself) This goddamn war…
RAFAEL: Don’t think about it, son. Run. Run!
Antoñito is just about to obey him, when the sound of sirens from up above floods everything.
ANTOÑITO: They’re here, Rafael! Our guys!
NARRATOR: Both of them look toward the sky. They wave their arms in the air.
But little by little, their faces change: it’s not the air force; it’s not their guys.
It’s a very strong light: above them, imposing, a gigantic spaceship darkens the sky.
They remain frozen, looking up, right into the light.
Martín, in a car the producer provided, with a driver.
DRIVER: The temperature all right?
MARTÍN: Yes, fine. Thank you.
DRIVER: Music? The radio?
MARTÍN: Yeah, it’s good.
NARRATOR: Martín is returning home in a car the producer arranged for him.
When he leaves the interview, he has a missed call from Cloe.
He hasn’t talked with her in months.
When he sees the call, it occurs to him that he could invite her to the premiere.
He’s struck by the idea that, if she sees the movie, it’ll prove something to her.
What it has to prove to her and why, he couldn’t say.
But he thinks they might even get back together.
MARTÍN: (on the phone) Cloe? (…) Hi, Nuria, what’s up? It’s been so long.
NARRATOR: It’s Nuria, Cloe’s sister.
MARTÍN: (on the phone) But… What are you…? What are you saying? Are you serious?
NARRATOR: She’s telling him that Cloe died.
MARTÍN: Are you serious? Why would you say that?
NARRATOR:: She was sick. She didn’t want to tell him.
MARTÍN: This can’t be happening.
NARRATOR: This is how people die in the real world, Martín.
Not with explosions or with extraterrestrial shoot-outs.
They die with words. Words that someone says to you.
MARTÍN: (on the phone) I’m devastated, I really am. (…) Yes, yes, of course. Well, I don’t know… Take care of yourself, Nuria…
He hangs up. Silence.
NARRATOR: Martín looks out the window.
He’s on a bridge, on the highway that goes into the city.
Beneath him, cars go by with their red taillights on, like brushstrokes of light.
When someone dies, the strangest thing is that nothing around you changes.
The driver realized that something was going on, and he stopped the car on the shoulder.
He looks at Martín in the rearview mirror, in silence.
DRIVER: You all right?
MARTÍN: Yes, no. A…
DRIVER: I stopped, in case…
MARTÍN: Yes, good, good idea.
There was a death… a person I knew.
DRIVER: Oh my goodness.
I figured it was something like that.
DRIVER: No, just, it seemed like it was something like that. Christ Almighty.
Everything else has a solution, but this…
MARTÍN: OK, well, let’s go… I guess let’s go to the funeral parlor.
DRIVER: The funeral parlor?
MARTÍN: Yes, to the… to the La Paz Funeral Parlor. That’s where she is.
DRIVER: That’s where she is?
MARTÍN: Yes, this person… That’s where she is.
DRIVER: I want you to know that, at this moment, I am…, I’m your driver. That’s first and foremost. I’m your driver, and I’ll take you wherever you tell me to go. If you tell me “La Paz Funeral Parlor,” I’ll put it into the GPS and we’ll be at the La Paz Funeral Parlor momentarily. But, before I was a driver, I was a person, do you understand what I mean? And I want to think that what’s happening here, in this trajectory, is not simply a business transaction. I want to think that there’s a relationship between two people, a give-and-take. And that there’s a spark, a little spark, which is the basis, the very basis for what makes us human. This little spark is something we have to take care of. And this spark is what makes me tell you: “I’ll take you to that funeral parlor if you want, but you’re not going to find what you’re looking for.” Because I’ve been to funeral parlors, unfortunately. And there’s nothing there. It’s an amusement park of death. And so if you tell me: “It’s because that’s where she is. That’s where she is,” I’ll tell you: “No, actually, she’s not.” Your friend, your lover, whatever she was, she’s not there. She’s in… in the moments you spent together. In your memory. In the cosmos, even. But in the La Paz Funeral Parlor, let me tell you: she’s not there.
Now, if you want, I’ll turn on the GPS, and we’ll be at La Paz in just a second.
MARTÍN: … In just a second…?
DRIVER: Just a second, that’s right.
MARTÍN: It all just takes a second, all of this, doesn’t it?
Pause. The driver looks at him.
DRIVER: Do you want to smoke a joint?
Pause. Martín looks at him.
MARTÍN: Well, OK, yeah.
DRIVER: OK, coming right up, your wish is my command. I’ve got one right here.
The driver takes a joint out of the glove box. He lights it and hands it to Martín.
The two of them smoke in silence. Music plays on the radio. A long silence.
MARTÍN: I know where I want you to take me.
MARTÍN: To the Park of the Two Waters. If it exists, which I’m not sure about.
A park. Martín sits on a bench. Some kids are playing the game of statues. Some older people are playing petanca.
NARRATOR: It exists. It’s on the outskirts, in an area that’s just been built.
It’s a typical park, with swings and a place for adults to work out.
Martín sits on a bench.
The park strikes him as a little sad and kind of ordinary.
This is what you left behind, he thinks.
If he knew anything about parks, he would realize it’s not ordinary.
Its layout is based on the gridiron concept of urban agglutination. That means it has a series of plazas, which are meant to be meeting places.
And that’s what it is now, a meeting place.
There are some older folks rolling petanca balls.
Some kids playing the game of statues in another area, which has a sand pit.
And this little lake?, it’s stocked with fish.
The plants we see are conifers: this isn’t a coincidence. They attract Eurasian blue tits, the birds we’re hearing.
The whole thing looks very similar to the mock-up Cloe made when she designed it.
But Martín doesn’t know anything about all that.
He thinks: This girl wrote a hundred times better than me, and it did her no good.
And then he thinks: I don’t get any of this: petanca balls, playing statues.
Who are these people? What are they doing with their lives?
He sits on the bench, and night is about to fall.
Right now. Immediately. Everyone has left.
Before long, the streetlamps will come on and neighbors will make their way down to walk their dogs, but first, there’s an instant when Martín is completely alone, in what is almost the dark, as if he were a little doll in Cloe’s mock-up.
He realizes that, if anyone saw him, they could easily think:
Who is that? What is he doing with his life?
Martín, at home, looking through a box of souvenirs. He pulls out a few objects. Finally, a letter. He reads it.
NARRATOR: Later, at home, he opens a box. It’s a metallic box, which he bought in Ikea.
It’s jampacked with souvenirs. He doesn’t find Cloe’s writing exercise, but he does find the notebook from the Titanic. And some postcards.
They’re postcards she wrote him from the Greek islands, when they were going out.
He’s impressed by her curvy handwriting, with a felt-tip pen.
The handwriting of someone who’s no longer alive.
Divided into two locations:
Martín at home, reading the letter.
A tacky bar on one of the decks of a cruise ship. 1990s. Red light. Background music. You can hear the sea.
At one of the tables, two sisters: Cloe, twenty-three, and Nuria, nineteen. Cloe is writing. Nuria watches her, bored.
CLOE: Martín, I’m writing you from an enormous boat, the Celestyal Olympia, crossing the Aegean Sea.
Sorry, it’s not the Aegean: it’s the Iconic Aegean.
That’s the name of the cruise.
And, listen, it’s true that it’s iconic. It couldn’t be any more iconic.
The waiters are all dressed like the ancient Greeks, in togas. Poor people.
At this moment, I’m in a disgusting bar, on the Platonic Deck.
Every deck is named after someone Greek, someone dead and important, so you don’t forget for a single instant that these places we’re visiting aren’t just any random old ruins. No, they’re rich with history.
I decided to send you a postcard from every island we visit.
That way it’ll be like you’re doing the trip with me.
Cloe. What are you doing?
NURIA: Are you writing your boyfriend?
CLOE: What do you care?
NURIA: It’s a bit ridiculous, isn’t it? You’re here, on a cruise, in the Greek islands, and you’re thinking about your boyfriend.
CLOE: I’m not thinking about my boyfriend.
NURIA: There’s something going on with you. I’m telling you because I’m your sister and I see you from the outside. When we’re in a place… you’re not there. It’s like you showed up late. Like when they connect to a reporter, on TV, and there’s a delay?
CLOE: Why don’t you go to hell?
NURIA: See? It makes you mad because it’s true. If it was a lie, it wouldn’t make you mad.
Pause. Cloe thinks. She continues writing.
CLOE: I went to the Oracle of Delphi.
Did you know that the oracle lets you talk to the dead?
There was an older lady there, some type of gypsy. She asked me if I had any dead people I wanted to talk to.
I told her no, but then I regretted it.
I realized I could have told her I wanted to talk with Lucas.
I know you don’t like to discuss him, but that’s why, I thought, I could talk to him myself.
I would have liked to meet him.
NURIA: Because that’s the other thing. The whole thing about lies, I mean. Because that’s what you writers spend the whole day doing: lying like drunken sailors. You’re all world-class liars.
CLOE: But, why would you say that?
NURIA: Do you know that thing Plato said? That poets should be exiled from the city because everything they say is a lie? Seems totally logical to me.
CLOE: He didn’t say that.
NURIA: Oh no?
CLOE: What he said is that people like you who study business are the ones who need to be exiled.
NURIA: (she smiles) What an idiot…
Pause. Cloe thinks. She continues writing.
CLOE: From where I’m sitting, I can see the wake we leave behind us in the sea: two lines of white foam, in the shape of a V.
I’m at the apex of the V, drinking a Mythos beer (which is terrible), thinking about you.
Aren’t you lucky.
Today is June 24th, 2001. I’ll see you in Rome in less than a month.
What’s the thing with time? Sometimes it goes by slowly and sometimes it doesn’t go by at all.
A seagull is following us around everywhere, as if we owed it money. Could it be you?
Martín, at home, reading the letter.
NARRATOR: She writes: “A seagull is following us around everywhere.” But there’s no seagull following them around. She just imagines it.
Movie theatre. Audience entering to see the movie, at the premiere. People wave at each other. Martín is among them.
They sit down, chatting. The lights go down. It gets quiet. The projection begins.
NARRATOR: [Real date of the performance]
Martín is at the premiere.
He can’t believe he’s finally going to see his movie on the big screen.
He’s accompanied by all of them: the director, the producer, his student, Cloe’s sister…
The scenes go by very quickly, like train cars, and he watches them with the curiosity of a child.
The actors’ heads, in the foreground, are enormous, like those statues on Easter Island.
He immediately stops caring if the movie is good or bad.
Why should he care?
It’s a movie like any other, but it’s his.
He feels something he can only describe as relief.
Like someone who releases a burden.
That was it, he thinks.
He realizes the movie is like the box he has at home.
A box of souvenirs.
A time capsule.
That’s why a thirteen-year-old boy sits by his side:
A thirteen-year-old boy, Martín’s brother, Lucas, sits in an empty seat next to Martín. Lucas watches the screen while he eats popcorn.
LUCAS: What’d I miss?
Pause. Martín looks at him.
LUCAS: (referring to the movie) I wanted to know what I missed.
MARTÍN: They just realized that the general who’s chasing them is an… an extraterrestrial.
LUCAS: Is that guy the general?
LUCAS: He ate the rat?
LUCAS: That’s heavy.
Who’s that girl?
MARTÍN: She’s the boy’s cousin. She’s visiting from the village.
LUCAS: What’re they doing?
MARTÍN: They’re hiding.
Now they’re going to go down into the sewers.
LUCAS: The sewers?
MARTÍN: Yeah, through the drainpipes, to escape. But the thing is, they don’t know the sewers are actually the headquarters for the aliens.
MARTÍN: You know, because of the rats.
LUCAS: Oh, of course, because they eat rats.
MARTÍN: Exactly, exactly.
LUCAS: And that bird?
MARTÍN: They find the bird there. It went in to escape from the bombing. And the bird is what allows them to escape. Because they follow it. They hear it chirping, and they follow it. Because the sewers are like a maze.
LUCAS: Right, right.
The movie’s cool.
MARTÍN: You like it?
LUCAS: It’s cool.
MARTÍN: I wrote it.
Lucas looks at him.
LUCAS: Nice try, hotshot, but it’s the story grandpa used to tell us.
MARTÍN: Yeah, but I wrote it. I made it for you.
LUCAS: For me?
MARTÍN: Yeah, so you could see it.
I would have liked for you to have seen it. I also would have liked for you to have met your nephew. He’s named after you.
Pause. Lucas looks at him.
LUCAS: So you write movies?
LUCAS: But weren’t you going to be a notary?
MARTÍN: Me? No way.
LUCAS: (he makes a motion, referring to the movie) Shhh. Quiet, I’m watching.
Lucas, without taking his eyes off the screen, reaches his hand out to offer him popcorn. Martín takes some.
Afterwards, he looks up like everyone else, toward the light that the movie projects.
Divided into two locations:
In one part: everyone continues to watch the movie.
In the other: Martín, in the place where he writes. The same place where Cloe was writing at the beginning of the play.
He sits down at the computer. He opens it. He plays music.
He writes. He reads. He thinks, he leans back, he writes.
MARTÍN: The movie will be in theatres a few weeks, then it’ll disappear.
The critics will give it three stars.
They still play it on TV sometimes, late at night. After the news, before a crazy old lady who says she can predict the future.
This is the song that plays at the end.
I’m going to forget the movie soon.
I’ll keep writing. What else am I going to do?
It’s like a rash: you can’t stop scratching.
I had an idea to make another movie: it begins with Cloe’s story.
It begins with a girl, fourteen years old, dancing in a disco with an Italian guy.
She’s very happy, but she realizes the moment will come to an end. And she doesn’t want it to be over.
She wants to… capture it.
I don’t know what happens next, but I’ll know soon.
I write at night, after the garbage truck passes.
If anyone sees me, talking to myself, they’ll think I’m possessed, like one of those cannibals from the cartoons with a bone in his hair, dancing around a caldron.
The city is empty and silent.
The traffic lights change colors without anyone crossing the streets.
It’s like being at the controls of an enormous ship, crossing the ocean.
Everything has the consistency of a dream, and I write.
He continues until the end, while the lights start going down.
Little by little, until the only light is from the computer screen.
And then Martín closes the computer.