Heaven (Part I)
A Screenplay Based on Arthur Schnitzler’s Die Fremde
Nameless Male Protagonist (MP)
The scene is set in contemporary London
Outside. The wee hours of a Sunday morning. An English suburb, identical semidetached houses with carefully tended front lawns in the half-light. Close up of a house with a black door and a golden knocker. Birds begin to call in the background, no music. The door opens slightly, a woman, Cathy, slips out, suitcase in hand. She moves down the garden path, careful not to make a noise, when she’s at the gate she turns and looks back for a moment. A cab pulls up behind her – blackout – the doors of the car slam shut.
Inside. Dim light. The birds make a racket in front of the window. A phone vibrates. Once, twice. Shuffling noise of MP half-asleep grabbing for the phone without looking. Movement. Eyes open. The camera looks through them at a dark ceiling. Then the display of the phone flashes up above:
New message from Cathy.
Soft groan. The phone vanishes out of sight, MP stares at the ceiling: shadows move, light gathers, time passes. The phone vibrates again:
Two new messages from Cathy.
Press read. Flashback.
Blackout. The voice of Fred Astaire starts singing:
– Heaven, I'm in heaven And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak And I seem to find the happiness I seek When we're out together dancing cheek to cheek.
The orchestra sets in, the music speeds up, and the lights turn on. There is a wild party going on. People are dancing. Tap, swing, waltz. The men are wearing suits in muted colours, shining black or brown shoes and their hair is parted at the side. The women wear more colourful half-long dresses, patterned and with wide skirts that twirl about them when they turn. People drink champagne from tall glasses, talk and laugh, take photos with their phones. Close up on two dancers, Cathy and MP, dancing cheek to cheek. He whispers into her ear:
She laughs. He spins her around. Cathy laughs even more. They turn and turn and turn:
– Heaven, I’m in heaven…
MP and a second young man (Vincent) in a 1930s suit sit opposite each other in the tube. Both stare at their phones. Displays flash, fingers move:
what do u know about cathy?
that grl is trouble!!!
her dads an army guy and the sister too
killed herself the sister did… smt to do with money
but c seems alright!
a year ago she fell for a guy called ballet or smt a musician and when he left for Cornwll to find a ltl inspiration she dreamed hed fall of a cliff and…
she became strange after that, real mental… didnt talk for a whl year just sang children songs @ times
but she seems alright now!!!
but u nvr now…
thats my stop coming up
The tube comes to a stop. Both look up. They look a little dishevelled, as if they’d just had a heated argument. The door opens:
– Please mind the gap!
Male voiceover (MP):
- One year later.
MP is sitting in a café, coffee cup next to him. Maroon 5 plays silently in the background. The café is decorated in the style of a Wiener Kaffeehaus, dark wood, small windows, a smoky atmosphere, Sachertorte on the counter. In front of the young man sits an open laptop, he is working on a calculation. MP takes out his phone, opens Facebook and looks at Cathy’s profile picture. She wears only a little makeup, her style is simple but elegant. Her posture has something royal about it, erect and unyielding – a little proud. Cathy’s smile is sad, it doesn’t reach her eyes. Her gaze is not directed at the camera; her eyes look into a far away distance, seeing something nobody else can see.
In the background voices get louder:
– (a male voice, rather loud and emotional) Oh, come on Cathy!
– (a female voice, mocking, but in a lower much more controlled tone) Oh, come on Cathy! Is that all you have to say? Do you really think I don’t care? It’s bloody dangerous and you know it!
– It’s my job…
– …to report on every stupid war you can find?
– People have a right to know!
– (sarcastically) Do they now? (pause; then in a small voice) I need you.
– I’m sorry, Cathy. I really am.
The door falls shut. Cathy sits down on the table next to her – which just happens to be MP’s. She doesn’t look at him. A single tear runs down her cheek and her bottom lip trembles. She wipes the tear away, determinately, looks around and realises that she’s not alone. As she looks at MP, recognition slowly dawns on her face.
– You’re Vincent’s friend…
– I am. (awkward pause) Do you think some tea would help?
A small smile.
– Actually I do.
The volume of the music turns up. The couple continues talking and laughing. Outside it's raining:
– Beauty queen of only eighteen She had some trouble with herself He was always there to help her She always belonged to someone else I drove for miles and miles And wound up at your door I've had you so many times But somehow I want more I don't mind spending every day Out on your corner in the pourin' rain Look for the girl with the broken smile Ask her if she wants to stay a while And she will be loved, and she will be loved...
MP and Cathy sit at a table in a fancy restaurant, they are about to have dessert. Cathy checks her phone while MP keeps staring at her as if he couldn’t quite believe that she’s really there and then suddenly asks:
– Do you want to move in with me?
– I know it’s… okay?
Close up of MP’s face: he is smiling broadly, eyes shining, in bliss.