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U.S. Alma in a beauty-saloon in Vienna in 1947. The ghosts of her former suitors, Gustav Klimt, Alexander Zemlinsky and Max Burckhard, are giving her a cosmetic treatment. Lili Leiser, her former friend, is giving her a manicure treatment, while her personal servant, August Hess, is singing from her Lieder »Der Erkennende« - or some silly operetta song.

TV NEWS   Just in from New York, Alma Mahler-Werfel, the widow of poet Franz Werfel, who died in 1945, landed at Tulln airfield near Vienna. Before her marriage to Franz Werfel, she was married to composer Gustav Mahler. Alma Werfel is the daughter of landscape painter Emil Jakob Schindler. During her stay in the USA, she acquired American citizenship. Representatives from the Ministry of Education and the City Council attended her reception.

LILI LIESER   Are you just in Vienna for a visit?

ALMA   Yes, and it's definitely going to be my last visit to this goddamn city!

LILI LIESER   Why? What do you find so unpleasant here?

ALMA   »Unpleasant«? Is that some kind of euphemism?

LILI LIESER   I'm sorry?

AUGUST   Madam means »optimism«. Madame Alma has always been very optimistic -

ALMA   August, will you shut up! - He is a very lovely object, my August, as you can see, but he didn't exactly invent the wheel. I don't think he could even have invented a toothpick. - When I say »euphemism« I mean »euphemism«! Got it, you lovely beast?!

AUGUST   Yes, Madam. But of course.

ALMA   Come here, August. Let me smack you on your buttocks. (August offers Alma his buttocks. She smacks him.) Oh, what a stiff little buttocks you have! Oh yes! Oh yes! - Come now! Give your Alma a sweet little kiss. (August does so.) There's nice little August! And never open your mouth to say anything, unless you're ordered to! Got that?

AUGUST   Certainly, Madam.

ALMA   I should never have set foot in this goddamn Austria so soon after the war. My visit to Vienna was a pure disaster. A nightmare. My famous villa in Grinzing was hit by an American bomb of all things ! Gustav's and later Franzl's precious desk was completely destroyed. All their manuscripts are lost forever! Ashes to ashes! Dust to dust! My two Wunderkinder! And on top of it one has to endure being blamed for marrying two Jews. Those Austrian authorities! Nothing has changed here. It's all so sad, so terribly sad!

LILI LIESER   It's good you have this lovely object to console you! What did you say his name was - Dumb August -

ALMA   Oh no! Nice August, we call him Nice August, though Dumb August could fit him just as well. (She caresses his head) Don't you think so, August? Isn't he the loveliest thing on earth?

LILI LIESER   I hope you don't allow him to tie you up forever just because he may be the last August that still happens to be at your disposal.

ALMA   The “last August”…?

LILI LIESER   There's always a last August. Didn't you know that? But why should the last August make you give up all the potential Septembers, Octobers, Novembers and Decembers that may still be waiting for you?

U.S. ALMA   I don't quite understand you...

LILI LIESER   You were embracing August as if he were the last man on earth. Or have you taken up fidelity all of a sudden?

ALMA   Well... We're growing used to one another, aren't we, August?

LILI LIESER   Or maybe the fact that a new object draws your attention, doesn't mean you have to throw the old one into the garbage.

ALMA   That makes sense.

LILI LIESER   One day you could use him or even desire him again.

ALMA   Who knows... Who knows...

LILI LIESER   Women who are proud of being faithful all their life to only one man, can't really be interested in men's overall intelligence, they are dead to all other men who might wake up their spirit.

ALMA   Just a minute ...

LILI LIESER   Such women are dead long before they die.

ALMA   Wait a minute! Wait a minute! You remind me of someone I knew...

LILI LIESER   You also remind me of someone I knew, but who could that be?

U.S. ALMA   But you must know who I am!

LILI LIESER   Sorry, I've no idea!

ALMA   Everybody in Vienna knew me back then !

LILI LIESER   Can you give me a hint?

ALMA   When I entered a parlour full of people, everyone would fall silent. Deadly silent! People would hold their breath! You could hear a pin drop! The atmosphere in the room would change at once...! - Well??!!

LILI LIESER   Sorry, I've no idea.

KLIMT   Just a moment! I've got an idea! Do you mind, Madame? May I look under your skirt?

ALMA   Please, help yourself!
Klimt looks under Alma's skirt.

ZEMLINSKY   What are you doing?

KLIMT   (exclaims with great astonishment:) Ahh! My god! I can't believe it!

ZEMLINSKY   What is it?

KLIMT   See for yourself!

ZEMLINSKY   (also under Alma's skirt:) Oh my God! Oh my God!

KLIMT   Do you see what I saw?

ZEMLINSKY   Of course!

BURCKHARD   What's the matter, for Christ's sake? What do you see?!

ZEMLINSKY & KLIMT   She's not wearing any underwear!

BURCKHARD   What?!! (He also looks under Alma's skirt:) It's true! It's true! It's her!! It's her!! She's come back!!

ZEMLINSKY   It's her!! It's her!!

KLIMT   Look at her chin! Is that the arrogant chin that made all men in Vienna drool? Is this the mouth that made every Viennese man's mouth water?

ZEMLINSKY   Are these the lips I know not how oft? Where be your jibes now? Your gambols? Your songs? Your flashes of merriment that were wont to set the table on a roar?

BURCKHARD   What happened to her skin?

KLIMT   The siren with the blue eyes!

ALL   The siren with the blue eyes!

ALMA   It's him! It's him! I knew it! He's come back! The Crown Prince of Austria! I can see him! Standing there on the mountain top. Looking at me with his yearning eyes! Poor thing! Poor crown prince! My man-child! He's fallen in love with me! I can feel it! I can sense it! He wants to have a child with me! I know it! I feel it! - Quick, quick, quick, young lady! Hurry up! Hurry up! My lips! My lips! My lips! Paint them red! Dark red, blood red! Make them look like they used to ! And powder! Powder! Powder! Quick! Quick! Don't hesitate! And rouge! Put rouge on my cheeks! More! More! We have to restore my youth!

LILI LIESER   »The crown prince of Austria«?

ALMA   Of course! He wants to marry me!

LILI LIESER   Is that the only person you recognize here?

ALMA   Oh no! He's brought his entourage! The court musicians with their bandleader, the great composer Alban Berg! He dedicated his Wozzek to me!

LILI LIESER   Really! He dedicated his Wozzek to you?

ALMA   Yes! I inspired him! I was his muse!

LILI LIESER   And why are you telling this all to me, of all people?

ALMA   Why not?!

LILI LIESER   Don't you recognize me?

ALMA   Helene! Helene!! August! Do you know this woman?

AUGUST   No, who is she?

ALMA   This is Helene Berg! You moron! You ignoramus! Alban's wife! The natural daughter of emperor Franz Joseph! Bow to her! Kiss her hand! She was one of my best and most important friends. I invited her and Alban to spend vacations with me and Franzl on the Italian Riviera. That's where I introduced him to Gerhart Hauptmann - (She discovers Burckhard) Gerhart! There you are! Gerhart himself in body and spirit!

BURCKHART   Alma... I'm not Gerhart... I'm Burckhart...

ALMA   Yes, yes Gerhart! Now you're playing the shy one. But back then you lost your self control, didn't you? Hard to believe, isn't it ? In the presence of his wife he told me: »Alma«, in my next life I will be yours!« And you know what she answered? »Don't bother, Gerhart, Alma won't wait for you. She'll have a thousand young men before you. «

LILI LIESER   My God! You haven't changed a bit!

ALMA   What is it? What's she muttering, August?

LILI LIESER   How can a person be so blind, so deaf, so vain? This woman drives me crazy! (to the men:) Why don't you say something ? Have you lost your tongue? When you stand before this woman you lose your balls. Tell her who you are! - All right. I'll do it. Alma! This is not the crown prince, this is not Alban Berg, this is not Gerhart Hauptmann and I am not Helene Berg, the natural daughter of emperor Franz Joseph!

ALMA   No?


ALMA   Who are you then?

LILI LIESER   I am the silly creature who was stupid enough to use her good money to help finance the printing of Alban Berg's Wozzek.

ALMA   I knew you had something to do with Alban .

LILI LIESER   Yes, I did. If it were not for my money, he wouldn't have been able to dedicate his opera to you.

ALMA   Oh, really?

LILI LIESER   Yes! Although you failed to mention it in that unbelievable, monstrous pack of lies you dared to call your “autobiography”.

ALMA   August! What is she muttering?

LILI LIESER   I am not muttering, Alma! I am telling you the truth. Once and for all. The entire truth to your face. You think you can cheat the world forever? You can't! All you can do is cheat yourself. (pages in Alma's autobiography) That mysterious Mr. X you met in Tobelbad... You really thought the world wouldn't find out who he was? You silly cow! It was Walter Gropius!

ALMA   You don't say!

LILI LIESER   He not only kept all your letters, filled with your secret appointments with him when Mahler was still alive. He also kept copies of his own letters, which you made the effort to cosmetically censor in your autobiography.

ALMA   How boring! I always said that Walter was insipid!

LILI LIESER   The whole truth is in the open now. And I will add a few more details, about your foul dealings with Kokoschka, your pathetic intrigues with Werfel…

ALMA   Wait a minute! Wait a minute! How can you possibly know all that? You couldn't have been more than a child in those glorious days. You are still just a young chick!

LILI LIESER   No, Alma, I am almost your age.

ALMA   For God's sake! Who are you?

LILI LIESER   I am Lili.

ALMA   Lili?

LILI LIESER   Yes. Lili Leiser.

ALMA   But that can't be true...!

LILI LIESER   It is true, Alma. It is true. The Lili Leiser who worshiped you like a Goddess. Who took you to Paris when you were running away from Kokoschka, who accompanied you to Berlin when you decided to hunt down Gropius. Lili Leiser who was so desperately in love with you that she spent all her money in torrents to finance your extravagances.

ALMA   Oh Lili! Lili! Lili! Lili! How happy I am to see you! You look wonderful! How did you preserve your skin so well?

LILI LIESER   It's not my skin I've preserved, it's my soul.

ALMA   Oh, really? How did you accomplish that miracle?

LILI LIESER   It's very simple. I just didn't allow my mind to become a dunghill for every passing prodigy to unload his spiritual garbage onto. And I didn't allow my belly to become Men's toilet either, a receptacle for the sperm of every fucking genius or semi-genius who happened to cross my path.

U.S. ALMA      I'm full of semen. I'm full of semen! And I'm proud of it. I'm full up to my head. My brain is floating in a sea of sperm! It's dripping from my ears, from my nostrils, it's oozing out all my pores. Whenever I blow my nose, ten thousand little geniuses land on my handkerchief. You want to lick it? You want to swallow it? Yes! I'm coarse, I know. Coarse and disgusting. But I wouldn't trade my life for yours. Not for all the money in the world! You dried up lesbian spinster! You are not a woman at all. Your cunt is nothing but a dried-out, sclerotic piece of shit! A dreary wasteland. A senseless collection of encrusted mucous membranes! You should write on it: »Ladies' toilet. Use only for pissing.« You poor creature! What do you want from me, hmm?! What do you want?! I have lived a full life. I have eaten and I have drunk and I have made love until I couldn't anymore. And now I am on my way ! I'm on my way to eternity. A creamy feast for worms! Take and eat, for this is my body, given unto you! They will burrow through my body, from my inside they will rummage through me, and they will eat and devour me. And I hope there won't be a single female worm in the bunch of them. I hope they are all going to be thick stout male worms. They'll penetrate all my holes, and they will slither and swarm inside me, and bite and tickle me, and tear and crumble me to pieces until I roar with pain and laughter! It will be wonderful! “Oh God! Oh my God, I'm coming! I'm coming! My God, I'm Coming!!” And God will whisper: “Yes, Alma! Finally! Finally!! I love you! I love you, Alma! You're the pride of creation!” “Yes, Father, I know! I've always known! Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done!” - “Alma! Alma! I've always been jealous of all your men, but now you are mine! You're mine! Only mine, my daughter! You are mine for ever!” - “Yes, Father! For now and ever, father! Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil! My kingdom is not of this world! Father, why didst Thou forsake me?! Father! Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do! They know not what they do!! - What's going on there?! What's that?

AUGUST   A funeral, Madam, a funeral!

ALMA   My funeral! My funeral!!