“This circle is the divine feminine left out of the world of order and logic. In the earth, death returns to life”.
In recent past issues of Scene4, I presented scenes from my screenplay THE GODDESS IN EXILE, a fictionalized account of the brief life of Cuban born artist Ana Mendieta that deals with themes of wife murder, the natural versus the man-made world and the mythic feminine. Ana Mendieta’s death at age 36 became a scandal that rocked the art world at its zenith making headlines. My screenplay adapts the basic story of her alleged murder by her husband, prominent minimalist artist Carl Andre, who was acquitted by a judge without a jury and explores the premise ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’. My character Elvira creates art that celebrates the divine feminine while Hans arranges geometric forms in abstract spaces. The action takes place in the vivid milieu of the New York City art scene in the 1970's, capturing the excitement of the elite intelligentsia with character vignettes from the
highest echelons of American artists and art world doyennes.
In these scenes Hans proposes marriage to ELVIRA who is reluctant but agrees and they get married in a local Italian restaurant. On their honeymoon they take Hans friend’s van cross-country to Kansas where Hans introduces Elvira to his mother. On the driveway to her ranch Elvira looks at a tree and asks, “Is the tree a he or a she?” Hans answers, “How would I know? A tree is a tree.” Elvira “This tree is a woman.” Hans, “Then she's yours to sculpt. I'll take her down tomorrow.” Hans’ mother, a simple religious woman warns her son “Hans, she's so dark. Do you want to have "mixed" children?” This presents a new doubt in Hans he had never considered. His attitude towards Elvira is based on a sense of superiority and when this is shattered later in their marriage he turns on her.
THE GODDESS IN EXILE
74 - INT. ELVIRA'S TENEMENT APT., STAIRWELL – SPRING DAY
TONY and ELVIRA descend the narrow steps of her walkup tenement, each holding the end of a large wooden trousseau trunk. ELVIRA is moving from her apartment to HANS' Tribeca loft. ELVIRA holds the bottom of the trunk.
ELVIRA (out of breath)
It is very old. Don't drop it.
TONY carries his end more carefully.
It was my mothers' and her mothers' before her.
75 - EXT. STREET, ELVIRA’S TENEMENT- SPRING DAY
A white van is double parked outside ELVIRA's tenement building. DAVE GOLD (a straight looking artist in his late 30's, with balding red hair and copper mustache) stands guarding the van's rear doors, which are open to display ELVIRA'S belongings and art. DAVE arrogantly smokes a joint, leaning on the van with his legs crossed in front of him. HANS, at the wheel, honks the horn. DAVE turns to view HANS.
HANS puts his face out the driver's seat window.
What's taking them so fuckin long?
DAVE shrugs his shoulders. A neighborhood kid on a skateboard kicks past DAVE and gets a whiff of smoke. He kicks quickly backwards and gestures he wants a drag. DAVE gives him a drag.
Thai Stick - great - Uhh!
The kid skates happily off.
76 - INT. ELVIRA'S TENEMENT APT., STAIRWELL - SPRING DAY
TONY and ELVIRA are still struggling with the heavy trunk.
Why doesn't Dave give us a hand?
Oh, he never lifts a finger to help anyone except Hans. He's too busy thinking. He's got so much stuff going on in his head, he never says hello to me.
ELVIRA smiles and starts to lose her grip on the trunk.
Each of his legs has a different opinion. So, they're so busy insulting each other, it's a wonder he can walk.
ELVIRA laughs and collapses on the stairs.
SISSY wearing a Chinese robe leans over the third floor balcony.
Go, girl! I'm gonna miss you. Remember to invite me to your wedding. I'd love to be the "flower girl."
ELVIRA (yells up)
Go, girl. I'll miss you too.
HANS bolts up the steps and lifts ELVIRA off. He and TONY carry the trunk down the next two flights. ELVIRA walks in front of HANS.
I'm so happy to leave this dump and go live in your glamorous studio.
Anything for you babe! Don't forget when I first came to New York, no one gave me a break. Step by step - kiss this ass and that ass and I got to the top, right, Tony?
Yes, so why don't you pay homage. Make your work out of ass.
HANS looks at ELVIRA'S rear.
Oh Tony. Where's your respect.
77 – EXT. LOWER EAST SIDE STREET - SPRING AFTERNOON
ELVIRA, TONY and HANS carry the trunk to the van. DAVE cordially opens the van door and watches as they up it in. ELVIRA, TONY and HANS get in the van and DAVE closes the side doors.
ZOOM from the white van door to the white walls of ELVIRA's empty studio.
78 - INT. ELVIRA'S NEW STUDIO - LATE AFTERNOON
[Note: HANS LIVING LOFT - encompasses the entire 7th floor of a manufacturing building in Tribeca. It has been remodeled to include a living, dining, and kitchen areas. An inside door leads to ELVIRA's studio which has about 500 sq. ft. In her studio is a window with ledge starting 4 feet off the floor. The window faces a corner street. Five flights below the window is the black tar roof over a liquor store.]
ELVIRA, alone, studies the studio with her belongings on the floor. ELVIRA examines the loft window, walks over to it and looks down.
ELVIRA'S (voice over)
Hans gave me my beautiful studio - not so big - but big enough for me to do my work. How could I resist. But for some reason the window in the studio frightens me. I hate the view and the black tar roof below.
CLOSE on the black tar roof.
79 - INT. HANS LIVING LOFT - LATE SUMMER AFTERNOON
CAMERA ZOOMS from the black roof to ELVIRA'S black dress as she dances playfully on a square pile of yellow blocks. HANS watches her dance to a rock and roll tune (i.e., "Baby, Baby Sweet Baby"). HANS lies on the floor with a tape deck and bottle of champagne and pours continuous glasses for himself and ELVIRA.
HANS (sings with music)
"Baby, Baby Sweet Baby..."
HANS turns the music low.
What would you say if I proposed?
That we get married.
ELVIRA jumps off the blocks and sits next to HANS on the floor.
You have your work - I have mine. We share a bed then we do what we want. A very good arrangement for now, don't you think?
I take good care of you Babe. You can work and not worry about rent – bills - a green card...
Sure. You take wonderful care of me. Who said I don't appreciate it?
Well for me, in the back of my mind
I always feel better when I'm with you.
You just finished your divorce. Why do you want to start over again so soon?
Nancy never meant as much to me as you do Babe. I'm used to it - it's part of the construction.
We need more time - from my Catholic past, a marriage is forever.
HANS takes her face in his hands and gently kisses her.
80 - INT. NYC ITALIAN RESTAURANT – FALL NIGHT
HANS, dressed in tucks and cowboy boots, and ELVIRA dressed in a white suit, celebrate their marriage in a local Italian restaurant. ELVIRA's friends, MIKE, SISSY carrying flowers and JOANNE sit at a long table with HANS' friend, TONY, his wife SUE, DAVE and LARRY. Instead of cutting the cake immediately, ELVIRA holds a nail while HANS mockingly bangs it into the cake. A snapshot is taken - FREEZE FRAME. Their friends clap, hiss and toast them as they cut the cake for real.
81 - EXT. NYC ITALIAN RESTAURANT - FALL NIGHT
As HANS and ELVIRA leave the restaurant and enter DAVE's van, the - friends throw rice at them.
DAVE hands HANS the keys to his van.
Be careful with the van. Kansas is far away. The tank's full.
Thanks Dave. My heart is filled with gratitude.
HANS and ELVIRA pull out and start on their journey.
82 - AERIAL SHOTS, CROSS COUNTRY - FALL DAY
HANS is driving ELVIRA cross country to Kansas on their honeymoon in DAVE's white van. Outside the car window, ELVIRA views the never changing, never ceasing American industrascape.
It all looks the same. Is it always the same?
Oh, you'll get used to it.
83 - EXT. KANSAS RANCH HOUSE - FALL DAY
HANS and ELVIRA reach a dirt road that leads to HANS' mother's house. HANS drives about 100 yards then stops near at woodpile. They get out of the car and walk, passing the wood.
That's my wood stash. Good ol oak.
HANS takes an axe whose head is embedded in the tree stump. He expertly chops off a piece of wood and slams the axe back in the trunk.
HANS and ELVIRA walk through the woods until they reach a big pile of leaves in front of a tree. They throw the leaves playfully at each other and knock each other down in front of a tree.
Is the tree a he or a she?
How would I know? A tree is a tree.
This tree is a woman.
Then she's yours to sculpt. I'll take her down tomorrow.
HANS and ELVIRA walk towards a hill that looks over 5 acres of land and small one level ranch house.
This is where I grew up, with simplicity and order.
ELVIRA picks up a stick and draws a circle in the ground.
This circle is the divine feminine left out of the world of order and logic. In the earth, death returns to life.
HANS picks up another stick and draws a circle that intertwines with hers.
The circle is a perfect shape.
Neither of us sees the circle. We see ideal forms.
Forms we put our name on. My forms are in galleries worth thousands of dollars.
HANS and ELVIRA walk down the hill towards the ranch house.
84 - EXT. KANSAS RANCH HOUSE - FALL DAY
MRS. WHIT, HANS' mother, [a tall simple woman] stands at the open ranch house door. She embraces HANS. HANS and ELVIRA enter.
85 - INT. KANSAS RANCH HOUSE - FALL DAY
[HANS' mother's ranch house is furnished simply reflecting MRS. WHIT's lower middle class income. All the rooms face the back of the house and have large windows looking out at the wild wooded landscape.]
Ma - this is Elvira.
Hans has told me so much about you.
MRS. WHIT (with a stiff smile)
You must want to freshen up after your trip.
MRS. WHIT points the way to the bathroom. ELVIRA walks down the hall. HANS and his mother walk towards the kitchen. MRS. WHIT takes HANS by the arm and leads him to the far end of the kitchen.
Hans, she's so dark. Do you want to have "mixed" children?
You and Dad were "mixed."
English and Scott. Nancy was such a nice girl.
Nice and dull. Elvira has fire, spirit.
ELVIRA comes out of the bathroom and doesn't see HANS or his mother. She wanders into the den.
86 - INT. RANCH HOUSE DEN - LATE DAY
[NOTE: The den is a small room with baize sofa, brown leather armchair, coffee table, fireplace, a wall of books and large window.]
While HANS is in the kitchen arguing with his mother, ELVIRA walks to the mantle of the fireplace on top of which are family photographs and small early pieces of HANS work, sculpted blocks of varying sizes stacked on top of each other. In the center is a wedding picture of HANS and NANCY. HANS is dressed in tucs with his arm around NANCY, a pretty blonde in a wedding dress with floral veil. ELVIRA studies the photographs sadly realizing the contrast of her casual marriage with what must have been the traditional celebration of HANS' first marriage.
She turns to look at the den and picks up a "Good Housekeeping" magazine from the coffee table in front of the baize sofa. She leafs through the magazine, thinking about the contemporary expectations it reflects. She closes her eyes and doses in the chair.
MS. WHIT enters the room and sees ELVIRA sleeping. She reluctantly nudges her.
I'm so sorry to wake you. Are you hungry?
ELVIRA nods yes.
87 - INT. DINING AREA - EVENING
[NOTE: The dining room has an over sized dining table and large oak cabinet.]
MRS. WHIT sits at the head of the table with HANS to her right ELVIRA on the left. She has made a dinner of roast chicken, mashed potatoes and peas. On the table is a decanter of ice tea.
MRS. WHIT puts her hands in prayer position and whispers Grace. HANS mimics her exactly. ELVIRA, never seeing this before, imitates them awkwardly.
I cook very simply ever since Hans' father died. He understood Hans' art. I certainly don't. I'm grateful Hans is successful but I don't regret his going to college. Did you have a degree?
Yes. I went to a university in Peru. But what my maid Maria taught me has
more meaning to my art than what I learned at school.
And what was that?
To love mother earth and Mary who heals us.
MRS. WHIT smiles, happy at ELVIRA'S answer.
The three eat quietly as the sky out the window behind them darkens.
88 - INT. RANCH HOUSE DEN - LATE EVENING
HANS and ELVIRA stand in front of the fireplace.
My father was a builder. That's where I learned my respect for the square form.
HANS takes a book off the shelf and blows the dust OFF.
He loved to read. Said you didn't have to go to school to have a good education.
CLOSE SHOT of the book HANS has pulled off the shelf - "Cantos" by Ezra Pound. (Note: check copyright)
ELVIRA goes to the window to look out. HANS reads a section of the poem to himself, then leaves the book on the shelf.
“That love be the cause of hate,
Something is twisted,
bare trees walk on the skyline
but that one valley reach the four seas,
mountain sunset inverted.”
(KALLIASTRAGALO- from CANTOS by Ezra Pound)
ELVIRA takes a baby photo of HANS off the fireplace shelf and studies it.
Do you want to have children?
Not so soon. I protect myself naturally. You'll never have to worry.
Good. I'll be ready when I change my mind about this world.
HANS puts the book under his arm.