11b 1947 SEX AND CARICATURE
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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!
LILI LIESER 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.
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!!