11c 1964 THREE HUSBANDS
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WALTER My dear friends, thank you for coming. Would you like something to drink?
FRANZ No thanks.
GUSTAV Have you got anything to eat?
WALTER I fear it is my sad duty to inform you of a tragic event that struck the world at 5.42 a.m. yesterday, Eastern Standard Time.
FRANZ Alma is dead.
WALTER Yes. She has just left the world of the living, and passed away to the realm of the Dead. She died peacefully in her sleep in her house in Manhattan, New York. We have lost her.
FRANZ You have lost her, Walter. Speak for yourself. You have lost her, because you are still alive. We, the Dead, we have won her back . Now she is finally ours for ever! Isn't that right, Gustav?
GUSTAV This is not the moment to crack your tasteless jokes, Franz. Her body is still warm and you're already mouthing off about her.
FRANZ Jokes? Who was joking? I was simply stating facts. Alma is going to join the two of us, while Mr. Walter Gropius will have to wait another five years before he can have the pleasure of resting a few moments in peace at her side, if she will allow him to do so .
WALTER Relax, Franz, will you?! I wonder if she'll allow you to rest even a few seconds at her side.
FRANZ I will bet a case of Cognac Napoleon XO that I'll be the first one she embraces when she arrives.
WALTER If I were you, I wouldn't make that bet.
GUSTAV Please, stop it! When's the funeral going to take place? I want to prepare the Angel's choir for the occasion.
WALTER I think the funeral procession will start off at four o'clock.
FRANZ Hold on, hold on, why did you say if you were me you wouldn't make that bet?
WALTER Do you want me to tell you what Alma said about you?
FRANZ When did you meet her?
WALTER Oh, February 1919, It was shortly after the end of World War I.
FRANZ You mean, when she was still married to you.
WALTER Yes. But we were living separately already. It was two years or so after the beginning of your love affair.
FRANZ Don't call it an affair. It was the beginning of a great love that lasted more than twenty-five years, until my death.
WALTER Come on, Franz, you're a poet, but don't get carried away by big words. We're talking about real life. We're talking turkey, as you lot like to say.
GUSTAV What did she tell you about him? I can't wait to hear it.
WALTER Yeah, yeah. Just no Jewish impetuosity.
GUSTAV What does he mean by that?
FRANZ I never understood that...
GUSTAV Well, it probably means the opposite of Arian boredom ...
WALTER She came to ask me for a divorce. We met in a tiny, romantic wine-cellar in Vienna.
FRANZ A tiny, romantic wine-cellar? What rubbish...
GUSTAV There are no tiny, romantic wine-cellars in Vienna. what was it called ?
FRANZ She never met you to ask you for a divorce.
FRANZ No. She sent you a letter. I helped her write it. I used to do all her correspondence back then, you know? And you sent her a divorce by mail. .
WALTER Well, if you refuse to hear what she said about you, you probably know why. But that's your business.
GUSTAV Can we finally hear what she said about you without interruptions, Franz?
FRANZ If it makes you feel good to listen to a piece of gossip, in which every line is a pack of lies - enjoy.
GUSTAV Thank you. (To Walter) What did she say about him?
WALTER We set there in a dark corner of the tavern. Alma was sipping her Benedictine.
GUSTAV Benedictine in a wine cellar...?!
WALTER She was getting drunker and drunker. And in the dim magical light of the tavern she whispered to me that I was probably wondering what she had been doing with you all the years when you had been her lover, when you had been constantly
GUSTAV What? What?!
WALTER Hmm, I don't want to go into too much detail just now.
GUSTAV Why not?
WALTER Anyway, she admitted that, if truth be told, she herself didn't know, besides the fact that you had the advantage of being much younger, the aura of an aspiring poet, and the great need to be loved, admired
FRANZ That's enough.
adored, respected, idolized
FRANZ Walter, cut the shit! I'm warning you!
that you had a grandiose, sweeping ambition to achieve some status you had not yet achieved .
FRANZ I'm won't listen to this rubbish anymore.
GUSTAV Franz, Franz, Franz! I know, the truth is hard to bear. But it's the same for all of us, isn't it? What's the matter with you, Franz? After all, we're all in the same boat. We all had that grandiose, sweeping ambition to achieve some status we hadn't yet achieved . This is what made us so desirable to Alma. That is what attracted her to you as too, Walter, isn't it?
WALTER It's the truth. The naked truth. You've seen through it exactly, my friend. It wasn't us as Men, but simply as creative events. As shots of art.
FRANZ And that means nothing?
WALTER It was our drive, our driving ambition that turned her on and set her ablaze. That got her worked up. We were energy donors. And sperm donors too, of course (laughs).
GUSTAV You know that she said almost the same thing about you, Walter.
WALTER What the hell do you mean? Are you crazy?!
GUSTAV No. After I discovered your little, unimportant love affair with her - which wasn't hard, after all - (to Franz:) You know, he sent his declaration of love to me instead to her, that Arian smart-ass. - She swore to me that it wasn't you that made you so irresistible to her, but that pushy streak, that pulsing desire for advancement. That made you irresistible, nothing else. I couldn't believe it, and asked her what else was it you had which made her respond to your overtures, and she didn't know what to say. She didn't have an answer. She didn't have an answer! She asked herself time and again - and in my presence - : "What the hell made me love Walter Gropius, follow him like a puppy dog when he called suddenly at inconvenient times, asking me to come to see him at some third rate hotel, syphilitic hotels with rooms to rent by the hour, public toilets, or in some tiny cramped sleeping car, on a train from Munich to Paris? Shameless, with no dignity. Humiliating, disgraceful and primitive.
WALTER Are you crazy?! She never told you that, never! She'd have known the answer, believe me!
GUSTAV Yes, she knew the answer. Her answer was quite clear: " I don't know. Frankly, I don't know. I don't know. I don't know."
WALTER The bloody bitch, the goddamned liar! That evil spirit of hers!
GUSTAV (repeating:) I don't know. I don't know. I don't know
WALTER I knew it. I should never have gotten involved with her!
FRANZ What's wrong, Walter? I thought it was so beautiful and wild and passionate! What makes you so mad all of a sudden? So furious? Is that little grain of truth that so unbearable to you?
WALTER What truth? What truth? Alma and Truth! Oh! These are two parallel lines that will never intersect .
FRANZ Parallel lines cannot intersect one .
GUSTAV Never say never again!
WALTER Alma is a born liar. It's her religion! If she happens to say a word of truth, it's either accidental or a mistake. The few years I lived with her polluted my life with so many lies! It's like a cancer gnawing away at the most intimate tissues of my soul.
FRANZ What exactly are you talking about?
WALTER I'm talking about her deceptions, her subterfuges, her eternal bargaining, her frivolity, the tears she shed too easily, her capriciousness, her impudence, her verbosity, , her forgetfulness, her unkindness, her ingratitude, her ability to say two contradictory things in the same breath, her shifting moods, her pretensions and arrogance, her pride and false modesty, her base submission, her garrulousness and love of gossip, her readiness to exploit all possible means in order to achieve her aims. Her irrationality , lack of remorse, ability to pamper and delight you in intimate moments and than to slander you in public.
All the lies and half-truths, all the tricks and intrigues this woman concocted to bind us to her, all the horse-trading she engaged in to keep us for herself, until her rose had lost all its petals and the thorns fell out of her mouth like rotten teeth! Her ruthlessness, her scrupulousness, her amorality, the tears she shed oh so easily, her impudence and love of gossip, her thoughtlessness whenever she wounded anyone, her resentment of all other members of her sex, her joy in evil, her ingratitude, her gift of talking so smoothly when she meant something different, and all that in one sentence, in one breath!
FRANZ Bravo, bravo Walter!
WALTER Her sordid craving for all that is filthy and forbidden, her vulgarity, her willingness to devote all her energies to reaching any goal she was fixated on , , coupled with a complete absence of logic and reason, infused with a complete absence of any trace of regret over her misdeeds, and yet she could hug and caress us, spoil and pamper us for that one precious moment, for that tiniest instant of eternity - before emasculating us, disowning us and utterly betraying us in public.
FRANZ Wonderful, Walter, wonderful! Hey, Gustav, I'll put that in verse and you can compose the score.
GUSTAV No thanks...
FRANZ It could make a wonderful aria. I have a name for the Opera: "The Ultimate Woman"! "La Ultima Donna!" We could sing it, the three of us! We could make a second career!
WALTER (starts singing, improvising an operatic aria:)
Her devices, deceptions, ,
Her capricious misconceptions,
Her base submissions,
Her shifting moods
Lack of remorse
Her endless thirst for intercourse---
FRANZ You should have become a poet. Or a singer. Or a composer.
GUSTAV God forbid . (Bangs on a table) Now stop it! You should be ashamed, the two of you.
FRANZ What's the matter? Have we done anything wrong? Have we said anything that is not true?
GUSTAV Listening to you, I was wondering if you were talking about Alma, the real human being, or about some monster that has nothing to do with the Alma I knew and loved.
WALTER Oh! Please, tell us about the Alma you knew and loved! Maybe we missed something.
GUSTAV I found in Alma the opposite of all the qualities you listed. The Alma I knew was a suffering lover.
FRANZ (Ironical) Oh!...
GUSTAV I'm not so surprised by your negative attitude, Walter. After all, first she betrayed you with Kokoschka, then with our dear Franz. It must be very painful for you to discover you were the only one of us Alma never loved.
WALTER What do you know?
GUSTAV Shall I tell you in detail what she had to say about you, Walter?
WALTER I was the first one who made her feel like she was a woman. And that happened when she was still married to you, my good friend.
GUSTAV Yeah? So how come she found you so boring after such a short time ?
WALTER She found me what?
FRANZ Boring. Deadly boring.
GUSTAV So she told you too ?
FRANZ Of course she did. Very often.
GUSTAV What exactly did she say?
FRANZ There wasn't much to say. She said that she found him tiresome, not very stimulating, uninteresting, tedious, dreary, monotonous, repetitive, sometimes even irritating with his obsessive German punctiliousness. You see, she was spoiled by both of us, you have to understand that.
WALTER Are you a complete idiot?!
FRANZ She said that she could barely spend two hours with him without being at a loss for what to say or do.
GUSTAV One and a half ...
FRANZ To put it in a nutshell: as a lover you were no Kokoschka, and as a spirit you were no Gustav Mahler.
WALTER I understand that in you she found a combination of the two.
FRANZ One could say so.
WALTER Tell me, haven't you got a mirror at home?
FRANZ I've got several. But I don't look in them.
WALTER So let me tell you this: she said that as a man, you were far from handsome. She said you were a rat ...
FRANZ ... and a sinking ship combined. I know that. I never tried out for any beauty contests.
WALTER Let me tell you a secret, you incognito Adonis: I was happy to get rid of her. Happy and relieved! It was like a redemption. I was lucky that you came around, and Alma took you for her new pet.
FRANZ I was not her pet.
WALTER Oh boy, you were, and how. Her little Jewish pet.
FRANZ She gave herself to me with total abandon, in a way she never did with any of you! I can prove it. It almost killed her! Let me just say: Baby Martin. We made love, and she cried and yelled: I am yours. Take me and do with me what you want! Kill me! Kill me! My soul is yours! My body is yours!
WALTER And what a soul! And what a body! Believe me Gustav: you should have seen her five years after your death. You wouldn't recognize her. She was no longer a beauty when she took Franz for her next inamorato. Let's admit it. An overloaded frigate, with that permanent sweet feeble smile on her surrogate vagina and those eyes, dull and glassy from constant boozing!
FRANZ That's just the sound jealousy rising from your throat.
WALTER I took a magnifying glass to your latest picture with her, in the newspaper. She is crushing you under her heavy paw. The lower part of her body had grown terribly heavy. With the years her face looked more and more masculine. Excuse me for saying so, but you look like a tadpole being steamrolled by a walrus.
FRANZ You can say what you want. It doesn't bother me. But there's one thing you won't deny: When she loves you, she makes you love yourself. She turns you into a different person. She makes you believe in yourself. And all of a sudden your life feels so full, so justified. She gives you the feeling that you can achieve greatness.
WALTER So you think you have achieved greatness.
FRANZ Yes, I do.
FRANZ It is Alma who turned me into a famous artist! the only thing missing was the Nobel Prize. If I hadn't met her, I would have written another few poems, and then sunk into oblivion. It is Alma who made me discover my inner resources . She made me.
WALTER She made you? Made you what?
FRANZ It's thanks to her that I've become a world-renowned novelist, a popular playwright and a very successful script-writer in Hollywood.
WALTER For a brief moment possibly. But your fame didn't last very long.
FRANZ What do you mean?
WALTER Your fame didn't outlive you, Franz. Let's face reality. You wrote two or three best-sellers. You were a decent writer. But you were never a poet. Never. Except maybe in your early poetry. And she knocked all that out of you, didn't she?
GUSTAV Not before murdering another piece of you with her music.
WALTER Der Erkennende, I know. A dreadful piece. - But best-sellers are no more than products of fashion. They fade away with the changing trends, like worn-out shoes that were stylish yesterday but already ridiculous today. Maybe Dante's "Divine Comedy" didn't sell as well as "The Song of Bernadette", but everyone's still reading it.
FRANZ Who the hell reads Dante?! Who?! And none of your ridiculous houses are left standing either.
WALTER But the factories are still there.
GUSTAV they're just not producing anything any more ..
WALTER Anyway: Of the three of us, the only one to attain greatness has been Gustav Mahler. And he doesn't owe it to Alma.
GUSTAV Let me disagree with you. If you knew what my first years in Vienna felt like... I arrived from a small town in Bohemia... A young Jewish aspiring musician... when I landed in Vienna, I felt buffeted in the wind like a leaf ripped off a huge tree in a dense forest... I was three times a stranger: as a Bohemian among Austrians, as an Austrian among Germans, and as a Jew everywhere in the world. That was how I came to settle here, in Vienna, a displaced individual who didn't know whether he belonged there or here, starting over again from scratch, alien to my country, even as I yearned to be one of the builders of its culture. its strong people and their gentile customs, dances and songs remained alien to me. And when I went for long walks in the countryside, and saw its young peasants working in the fields, shedding their shoes and shirts, exposing their chests and linking their strong arms with the arms of girls who rolled up their skirts over their thighs up to the curves of their buttocks , and they stamped their bare feet in their dances, I stood there abashed, observing this outburst of youth, not daring to remove my shoes and expose my pink feet... my soul longed for this freedom and release, but I lacked the courage to cast myself into the turbulent waters of another race . Yet my soul knew it belonged there, it wanted to belong there, it had to belong there! - And then one day there was Alma. Alma with her prominent cheekbones under her slanting, green eyes, her thick hair flowing in waves over her shoulders, and that flame burning inside her, and the life bursting out of her, and her love of life, lust for life, and the curves of her muscular calves and the shapely marble pillars of her thighs revealed for a moment as she twirled around in the dance--- ecco femina! This is Life! This is the young, everlasting life, wild and daring, seductive and dangerous, that I yearned for with all my being! She was Life for me. Through her beautiful, supple body, but even more through her fierce soul and noble free spirit, I finally succeeded in establishing a connection with the place and the time I lived in, and each time I made love to her I was making love to the universe! And that was my salvation, my key, my connection to this strange, unattainable, dangerous and fascinating world.
The Alma motif of Mahler's 6th Symphony explodes from the sound system and its strains fill the air. Gustav sings the melody with great enthusiasm. Franz and Walter observe him with amazement and awe.
WALTER Sorry to interrupt you, Gustav, but I think it's time. We have to go. Otherwise we'll miss the best part. I don't want to end up standing in the third row! Let's go!