Derived from Emma Zunz by Jorge Luis Borges
Millenium Film Workshop
B. B. Opticals-Bill Brand
Juan Julian Caicedo
Sound transfer and mix:
Nancy Meshkoff. Merc.
Film by Leandro Katz©1978
16mm, 25 minutes, color, sound
VHS and DVD
text is a transcription of the sound track and inter titles. The designations
'E' and 'M' refer to two aspects or voices of the single character EMMA
(or M, MURIEL) ZUNZ. When the two are written in parallel columns, they
speak simultaneously in the film.
INSIDE THE RUINS
E & M: A line of trees ... fog ... the time when history liquidates the masters ... a ship ... a row of windows ... a bubbling substance ... the picture of Saturn ... a figurehead ... a figurehead ... a letter from far away.
E: Returning home from the fabric mills that evening, she discovered in the rear of the entrance hall a letter, posted in a distant country.
M: The stamp and the envelope deceived her at first, then the unfamiliar handwriting made her uneasy.
Someone I did not know had written the letter ...
in prison… in another country... it was someone
else's gun… it was borrowed ...
M: I climbed the stairs to my room. My first impression was of a weak feeling in my stomach and in my knees. I wished that it already were the next day. The plan had come to me completely developed, as in one flash. There were no considerations to con-sider, nor were there alternative choices to be made. I realized I wasn't thinking. I was obsessed, but if I could have been asked, I wouldn't have been able to say what my obsession was.
E: It was clear in her mind that there was no distinc-tion between her personal loneliness and her political loneliness, between her day after day life and her ideas about being used by everyone, as a token, with no sense at all, other than negating every attempt at her assertion.
M: Angered and defeated, M decides, after receiving a revealing letter ... Furtively I hid the letter as if somehow I already knew the ulterior facts - I had already begun to suspect them. I remembered ... I had guarded a secret, revealed it to no one, a secret which was the link between myself and my absent father.
E: She made the phone call. Her voice. trembled but the tremor was suitable for the role. She lay down and reviewed the plan with her eyes closed.
A LUNAR POSTFIX
A shot broke the stillness, and drawn to the win-dow she saw a group of
people running silently across the yard. They jumped a dividing wall and
disappeared behind the trees. One of them, a young woman, left a photographic
impression on her mind as she climbed the wall and jumped over. A few minutes
later another group in uniforms and led by dogs came to the wall and after
deliberating briefly in a conversation that seemed to be compos-ed of orders,
returned to the street. A silence ...
M: The thoughts before dawn were charged with lost gestures.
|THE SHIFTING RULES||(We see a crowded square, people running, policemen on horses cross the frame. We hear through this whole section a crescendo of voices yelling, whistles, whispers, howling wind, drums. A sinking ship, a woman swimming in a rough sea, the crowd cheers, a view of a flooded city. Men run-ning down streets, tear gas smoke, noise of march-ing troops, street violence continues to build up. Scuffles break up among civilians and with uniformed police, we hear a voice screaming 'Is this America? Is this freedom? Is this democracy?' The crowd responds 'No, no, no'. The ship continues to sink, the swimmer struggles with the sea, troops, their rifles raised, cross a river. Flooded streets again, with statues. A hand opens a case and ex-tracts a gun. Shots, crowds cheering. Screams. An Asian cameraman in battle uniform, raises a wind-up camera and starts shooting. We see a group of women and children with their hands stretched out, begging. Flooded streets again, the swimmer goes on, Men with clubs run breaking windows of a factory building, cheers, more street fights; in an inverted street scene, the world is upside down.)|
I could have felt textures beneath my hands that morning but I was listening
very intently to numbers that made sense. I saw everything through a window.
The window didn't have a shell-like view as it did most mornings, rather it was a lifeless reflection of a room as if the set were waiting for a movement, some careless gesture that would subvert its order. Three cats are mute in the view from the window, as if I was deaf.
E: Her plan was already perfected. The day seemed interminable, like any other. At the factory the strike was going on. Suddenly, alarmed by a thought, she got up and ran to the desk, and opened the drawer.
M: Near a picture, where I had left it the night before, was the letter. I began reading it again and tore it up. On the night table was the money the man had sent. I sat down and crumpled it ... a vacuum ... zero ... notes on the debt of existence. I thought of the moment when history liquidates the masters.
There was fire in the dish and the matter became invisible ... his lips move in a square ... the red brick and the yellow paper became part of the same sign.
(Can she be a terrorist?) the land is harvested by corridors of drawers the knob turns and the hand slips erotically, synched with a male eye. E: She can only believe in what is safe: revenge ... Authority can be understood but not shaken.
M: Suddenly alarmed she got up and ran to the desk drawer where she had hidden the gun. It was there near the picture of Saturn, by the letter. How could one make credible an action which is scarcely believed by the person who executed it? She entered two or three times.
E: Arduous events are outside of time and the immediate past is disconnected from the future: the parts forming these events do not seem to be consecutive. During that time outside of time, she didn't think. It was a dance. She took refuge in a sort of vertigo.
Her fatigue turned into strength. She concentrated on the details, concealing the background and the objective. A gloomy hallway. A sentence repeated. The little fictions of the rearrangement of the room, which took longer than the rest of the dance, were done in a shorter time than anything else. Time was being stretched and condensed in a manner foreign to her usual routine existence.
THE ENTHUSIASTIC CROWD
A MENTAL TEMPLATE
Time was being stretched and condensed in a manner foreign to her usual
routine existence. Finally she was able to leave without anyone seeing her.
E: Possibly she took some comfort to see in the insipid movements along the streets that everything was the same and what had happened had no contaminated things ...
(crescendo of traffic noise, trucks, horns, motors, sonar)
E: She watched the instant unfold into events so common and familiar that she was sure they were imaginary ...
M: I was just doing the only thing I could do. It did not involve a decision to kill. The letter already had no reality. The sexual resentment was real but it was abstract, like a price. I operated methodically.
E: And then she waited in a frozen set for hours, rehearsing lines, inventing new ones, her eyes half open, running in an imaginary war which seemed like a cord connecting her with the world. A single word is enough, sometimes an episode. On the contrary, a violent and unexpected pleasure. The strike ... her shyness ... waiting .... the telephone.
THE PHILOSOPHICAL GREY
The telephone call was the most difficult moment. My voice seemed to come
from somewhere else, almost like 1 didn't have to speak, and while there
was a moment when 1 thought 1 wouldn't be able to speak, the call itself,
once underway, went on without a hitch. She monitored it with the air of
an eavesdropper. She had imagined herself firmly wielding the revolver,
forcing him to confess his guilt. Things did not happen that way. She began
the rehearsed accusation: 'I have avenged my friends, my fathers, and they
will not be able to punish me .. ...' It was not necessary to finish the
E: Although the text somehow reveals her motives
M: She had rehearsed her words like a love poem, so many times, over and over - my heart would jump at the thought of it. She had imagined herself firmly wielding the revolver, forcing him to confess his guilt.
But I could hear the loud generators and the soft sounds of other machines,
and in the next room, male voices were muffled. I hid my eyes when the shots
crashed. There was another take, then another take, ... the lights stay
lit, they are rare in a vacuum of gaseous elements ... like sand-filled
E: There were no dramatic speeches, there was no real truth in the moment. It was all perfect. She had ...
E: Things did not happen as I had predicted.
Do they know that I could be them?
M: ... have little use for realism ...
E: Everything was pre-arranged. It was difficult for her to give herself to a stranger, more difficult than pulling the trigger. But she did so with abandon, as someone out of
Throughout the ordeal, her father loomed in her mind like a blizzard, obliterating everything in the uniformities of snow and wind. I didn't experience his image or any location, but I was constantly aware of him.
He threw some words around - he managed to adjust the objects on the table
so they looked ordered. She stared at him unforgiveably and announced that
she had taken care of him for good. He had no idea he'd never see another
soul again. 'Emma ... the workers ... do they know that I could be them?'
E: Angered and defeated, M decides after receiving a revealing letter ...
M: I lose sleep on danger. I loose sleep on danger. But it's comforting just to hear you.
|E: Time went quickly, it seemed to have no existence. On the other hand, some very brief moments extended eter-nally. Especially the moment when she picked up the gun.||E: At several points I thought of my mother herself, seeing her as in a dream, very clearly but denuded of formal reality. But these images were not connected with thoughts. Details such as actual relationships, past or present, eluded her.|
'We take care of those that care.'
E: The moment of the shot was strangely anticlimatic.
There was no time
for theatrics, uttered words, cutting verdicts. She squeezed the trigger twice, a mirror. The large body collapsed, as if the noise and the smoke had shattered it.
|M: Be in favour of beauty.|
She remembered she could not rest yet. She picked up the phone and repeated
what she would repeat so many times again. It was an incredible story because
it was substantially true, only the circumstances, the order of things,
the time perhaps.
E: Although the text somehow reveals her motives...
E: Her footsteps crumbled into reason, a glass fell and broke as she stood up and began running down the stairs.
M; The lights went out.
E: A claw. Claw. Muriel! The lights! she said to herself.
M: She searched for the floor. Justice! she mumbled. Justice!
E: The shot echoed in her memory.
M: Bang. She thought of a magazine called Tomahawk.
E: A balcony door to the street opened and under the outside light a breeze moved the curtains. Splendid grace, she thought, looking for her purse and the revolver.
M: Nobody had seen her.
E: Beyond suspicion, she said; brushing off her clothes, sure now it was over.
M: Certainly unbound but always there, in the corner of the eye, a glass bowl, a revolving door ...
E: After the shot she knew he was already outside his role, the villain, the oppressor, certainly unbound but always there in the corner of her eye, a dissociated self, the keel of a view navigating a circumscribed space, exactly like herself, a mask, a figurehead ... a figurehead.
Locked in a strange figure...
M: It was during this time, when coming down from her natural elevation that she had her first thought. She wasn't particularly glad it was over and suffered no elation from having accomplished her goal. She gradually returned to normal and fell asleep wherever she was. Her dreams were very restful that day and there was no terror in her soul.
E: It was a seminal death, an homage to the death of the imagination, to the dead cinema of cinema death ... a rapture ... a rupture.