Makhmalbaf Family Official Website - وبسایت رسمی خانه فیلم مخملباف

Script: Scream Of The Ants

Fri, 23/07/2004 - 13:00

Mohsen Makhmalbaf
Summer 2004

This is the initial script. The final film differs in parts from this text.
Scream of The Ants
“Truth was a mirror in God’s hand that fell upon earth from the sky and broke. Every one picked up a piece, looked himself in it and thought that truth rested with him. But truth was scattered among all.”
A mirror whirls down from the sky onto earth and breaks. Small and large hands, black and white, young and old pick up the scattered pieces. Each piece reflects faces of different races and nationalities. The last piece reflects an image of a fetus in rotation thinking like the Buddha. The fetus dissolves into an image of an apple. (Titles roll on previous scenes.) A hand holds two apples. One with a stem the other without.
A man’s voice: (in English with an Indian accent) want a boy or a girl?
The woman is doubtful as to which apple to choose. Finally she picks the one with a stem and bites. The half eaten apple in frame.
Woman’s voice: (in Persian) I feel you growing within me. You father doesn’t want you but you will be born.
2-By the railroad, day:
A man and a woman with backpacks, one wearing a rimmed hat and the other a straw hat are walking along the railway. A boy walks a few cows in their opposite direction. When the boy and the cows get far the couple hug each other in the middle of the railway and kiss. While engaged in kissing the woman’s mobile rings. The man’s hand that was so far caressing the woman’s backpack as part of her body reaches for the mobile. He brings out the mobile and puts it on the woman’s ear. Throughout the film the couple speaks in Persian to each other but in English with others.
Woman: Hello…who’s this?
Man shuts her mouth with a long kiss and doesn’t let her speak. Woman is only listening to the mobile and can not answer. Gradually her face changes and she bursts into tears. Man wipes her tears with his lips. Woman takes her hands off the man’s shoulder and takes the mobile, looks at it, then turns it off and throws it away. She continues to walk along the railway with the man. This time a young girl passes their opposite direction with a herd of sheep.
Man: (continues his way along the railway) was it your father? (Woman keeps silent and continues to walk) Did he insist again that we go to a Muslim pastor to get married? (woman remains silent) Did he ask whether or not I found faith in Islam in order to marry you?
Woman: It’s not important any more. I’ve thrown away my mobile and I’ve disconnected myself from my past.
Man: What about your mother?
Woman: She called when you were asleep. I told her that love legitimizes our marriage not the words of a monk. I told her that birds don’t go to a priest to get approval for their choice of a mate.
The girl with the sheep is now at a distance and the couple who kept their eyes on her hug each other again and kiss.
Man: Our marriage is one of divinity and atheism. It is the union of capitalism and communism. I with my communist past and you with your wealthy religious father. What a combination! You know our marriage is something like the European socialism. We may even suggest to the director to name the film ‘European Socialism’.
Woman: (who so far kept the man’s mouth shut by kissing him) No, no I like Honeymoon in India better.
Man stops the woman from talking with a kiss. A long romantic kiss accompanied by the nearing train’s whistle.
3-Passenger train, day:
Train passes through dry lands. Man and the woman are in it watching the landscapes from the window. A tourist is standing by the next window taking pictures. The woman also takes pictures of the man and the landscapes with her digital camera. For a moment her eyes catch the tourist.
Woman: (in English to the tourist) Are you a tourist like we are?
Tourist: Yes.
Woman: Are you also going to visit Perfect Man?
Tourist: You mean the man who stops the train with his eyes?
Woman: I don’t know. Our meditation teacher gave us an address of a man called Perfect Man and we have to visit him.
She takes out a marked map from her pocket and shows it to the tourist.
Tourist: I don’t understand anything from India’s map but nearby there is a strange man who stops the train with his eyes. I got permission to view this from the locomotive engineer’s room. (he looks at his watch.) It’s time. You can join me too if you wish.
Woman: Really?
Man and woman follow the tourist through the train corridor. Whistling and steaming the train passes through deserts covered with thorns and dry shrubs.
4- Locomotive engineer’s cabin, day:
Man and woman along with the tourist are standing in the train engineer’s cabin.
Tourist: (in English) Does someone really stop the train with his eyes or is this a rumor?
Engineer: This incidence happens to me every day.
Woman: What do you do then?
Engineer: Nothing. People honor him and pull him away from the railway and we continue in our direction. Some locals and foreign tourists like yourselves who come to see him get off the train to see him up close.
Man: I don’t believe it unless I see it with my own eyes.
Woman: (turns her digital camera on and holds it towards the engineer) When did this first happen?
Engineer: I think it was 7 years ago. It was nighttime. Suddenly I felt that something was in the middle of the railway. But before I pushed the brakes some kind of energy worked instead of the brakes and stopped the train. I was frightened.  It was not fear. Some kind of astonishment. Slowly we got off the train with my assistant and we saw a yogi whose eyes were wide open towards the train. When we got close some kind of energy stopped us from getting closer to him. We couldn’t go near him until he closed his eyelids. Then we carefully pulled him away from the railway and passed. But before leaving we left him all the food and water we had.
Woman: Had this ever happened before?
Engineer: Not to me.
Woman takes shots of the railway in front of the train. Engineer gradually falls in a state of trance and stares at the railway. He then closes his eyes.
Man: (to the woman) Forget the railway. Film the engineer.
Moments later the shadow of the yogi appears on the track. Woman pans the camera from the engineer’s stunned face to what she can not see. Train becomes slow and stops near the yogi staring at it. A large crowd of poor beggars and birds gather around the yogi. Some get off the train among them the tourist man and the couple. The rest of the passengers throw seeds and give water to the yogi, the poor people and the birds. The yogi’s companions pull him away from the railway and the train whistles away and passes by them. Passengers pay respect with their hands. The tourist and the couple get off the train.
5- Locomotive engineer’s cabin, by the railway, continued:
Man and woman are in the engineer’s cabin. At a distance we see the birds and the beggars feeding on what the people have left them and the yogi has become a source of food for his followers. Woman is filming the locomotive engineer.
Woman: (to engineer) What do you think of this man?
Engineer: He is a charlatan. This is how he makes a living. People become excited and shower him with money and he uses the money to support his son studying in America.
Man, woman and the tourist go to the railway and the tourist asks questions from the yogi. But he does not understand English. One of his companions translates the tourist’s words in Hindi for him. Woman keeps filming.
Tourist: Do you really stop the train with your eyes?
Yogi: It is the train engineer who sees me and stops the train. (translator explains that in English.)
Woman: How long have you lived on this railway?
Yogi: I don’t keep account of the time but long ago when I was so desperately hungry and hopeless I came to this railway and waited for the train so I could commit suicide. It was hot and everything looked like mirages to me. Few days passed and no train showed up and I had fainted of hunger and thirst for several times and saw everything as mirages. Suddenly I felt that the railway was shaking and I heard the train whistle from afar but my eyes couldn’t see anything any more. I started regretting that I would get smashed under the train and wanted to run away but I had no energy to move. I had sat here for so long that my knees were stiff. Then I decided to move and show myself to the engineer. But I had no power. My eyes were open but I saw nothing. Frightfully I listened to the nearing train. The train was getting rapidly closer every minute but it suddenly stopped. People got off the train, took my clothes off and said that a miracle had happened. They gave me food and water and said that I had stopped the train with my eyes. The news was spread and the poor gathered around me. All trains passing by here were stopped every time and people gave me and the poor food and water until I gradually regained my sight. But each time I wanted to go after my own life people stopped me and said: “Master, don’t leave us alone.” And they brought me back to the railway until the next train came. Now I miss my wife and child but the people have confined me to here and won’t let me go away.
Tourist: It is said that you advise the people who visit you. I came from Europe to listen to your advice.
Yogi: I only know one sentence. This is what I tell every one.
Tourist: Say it to me too.
Yogi: Try to have grandeur and beauty in your outlook not in what you see. Look for beauty with your eyes. The train’s brakes will promptly stop it.
Tourist: How did you arrive at this beautiful sentence?
Yogi: A tourist like you taught me that.
Tourist: (to the woman) Did you also come to see this man?
Woman brings out the map, spreads it on the ground and places stones on its four corners. A soft breeze blows dust over the map.
Woman: (to the translator) Where are we now? Please show on the map. (translator marks a place on the map) But my meditation teacher has marked this area. I am looking for Perfect Man not the one who is not clear whether he stops the train with his eyes or not.
Translator: Are you looking for Sayeh Baba?
Woman: No his name is not Sayeh Baba.
Translator: If you are looking for Dalai Lama he is in the Himalayas. You have to go there. (points to an area on the map)
Woman: No my Perfect Man is not famous.
Tourist: The man I was looking for was him right here so I am going back.
Woman: we have to get to this part of India.
The tourist leaves and the people around the yogi follow him to beg for money. Women and children pull his clothes and point to their mouths and stomachs to let him know they are hungry.
6-Sand dunes, hours later:
Weather is sweltering. Man and woman walk on sand dunes spread before them as far as the eyes could see. Once in a while they stop and look around but the dunes extend to eternity.
Man: Let’s stop this trip. Even in India you can’t find the truth. Why did you and I fall in love anyway? Being the communist I am I should have been killed by your religious father and you should have married a rich monk instead of an atheist.
Woman: My kind of atheism is the product of a theocratic government’s victory in Iran. A government who in order to sustain religion became violent and I became an atheist because I despise violence. If the Marxists however had won in Iran they would become fascists like Stalin in the Soviet Union to preserve communism. I would’ve then turned to religion because I hate fascism. (wind blows the sands away) Then if you were a member of the communist government what would you have done with a religious girl like me? Would you have executed me on charge of being a reactionary? (sand storm gets stronger)
Man: (grabs the woman and takes refuge on a hillside and kisses her hands with shame.) I apologize for what I would have done if Marxism had taken over.
Woman: (pulls her hands back) The unwritten Marxist dictation scores ‘A’ in Iran. Tarkovski, the renowned Russian filmmaker became religious because the Russian sovereignty was communist.
Man: (kisses the woman’s cheek with shame.) I apologize for Tarkovski.
Woman: I suppose though if he had been born in the Islamic Iran he would have become history’s most atheist filmmaker.
Man pulls the woman towards himself. Woman pulls herself out of the man’s arms and leaves. Man goes after her. Storm has picked up and man speaks with difficulty.

Man: I used to be religious at first but my brother opposed religious government violence. He believed that the world’s most tragic incidences happened under God’s name. With all my mother’s love for her children she let the theocratic government to execute my brother so she would burn less in hell.
Woman: (turns and hugs the man and holds his hand up and kisses it) I apologize for my previous faith in a theocratic government. I am equally guilty of that crime because of my belief.
Man: (pulls his hand away) So when I saw that religious faith can mesmerize a mother to the point that she could forego her maternal instincts, I became a pagan, a communist.
Woman: (kisses his lips) I apologize on behalf of God.
Storm engulfs them both and from now on their fuzzy images that seem to be kissing each other in apology turns into passionate lovemaking. The wind though sometimes blows one away to bring them back together again in another scene as if they are dust particles caught up in storm.
7-An old city, day:
Man and woman are riding in a rickshaw and the driver is cycling hard to pull it. The man’s viewpoint, poor people and trash and the woman’s, city’s colorful scenes.
Man: (to woman) India is also meaningless like the rest of the world. Even Gandhi didn’t change anything. Here too like everywhere there are thousands of reasons for the world’s lack of faith in God and lawlessness. Thousands of reasons for contemporary man’s indifference. Nowhere is the Mecca of wisdom.
The cyclist is exhausted at the effort he puts into riding the rickshaw. He stops and gets off.
Rickshaw owner: Get off. You have no idea where you want to go.
Woman: We want to go to Perfect Man’s house.
Man: We’ll pay you whatever you want.
Rickshaw owner: I don’t want any money.  I am tired. Go with someone else. I’ve been going around the city all day for three times but you guys just kept talking about whether God exists or not.
The couple gets off and man pays the angry and exhausted rickshaw owner refuses to take the money. Upon man’s insistence he finally accepts the money. Man is standing behind looking at the woman. Woman is showing the map to other rickshaw owners.
Woman: Perfect Man’s house.
Rickshaw owners speak to each other in Hindi and ask woman questions that the man is unable to hear. Finally one of them points to the woman to get on. Woman calls man and together they start going around the old city.
Rickshaw owner: (while cycling) Are you going to the mirror fortune teller’s house?
Woman: To Perfect Man’s house.
Rickshaw owner: Ok, ok.
And they disappear in the noisy city.
8- Mirror fortune teller’s house, continued:
Man, woman and the rickshaw owner are inside mirror teller’s house. Woman is angry and argues with the rickshaw owner as to why he has brought them here instead of Perfect Man’s house.
Mirror fortune teller: Don’t be upset. I’ll help you locate your favorite Perfect Man. (he crashes a mirror on the ground and holds a piece of it towards the woman) This piece of mirror is your share of the truth. (and he hands a piece to the man too) This piece is also your share of the truth. Now both of you close your eyes and stand by the window. Hold the mirror towards outside and at my command open your eyes one by one and tell me what you see.
Man: (towards woman in Persian): See how you have engaged me into such superstitious games!
At the mirror fortune teller’s command they each close their eyes and walk to the window.
Mirror fortune teller: First the gentleman.
Man opens his eyes in the mirror and reflects on what he sees in it first. Then he turns around to see if the images he saw in the mirror are reflections of what’s out side. But he becomes stunned that what he saw in the mirror he did not see from the window. He looks in the mirror again but fails to find what he first saw.
Mirror fortuneteller: What did you see?
Man: For just a moment I saw an image of a river with stairs that reached the sky from it and many people were washing themselves in ablutions in the water.
With closed eyes woman listens to the conversation between the man and the mirror fortune teller and waits holding the mirror.
Mirror fortuneteller: Your Perfect Man is around the Holy City. You have to go there.
Now it’s the lady’s turn to open her eyes.
Woman opens her eyes and becomes amazed at the mirror.
Mirror fortuneteller: (takes an apple with a stem and one without one from the bowl and holds them before the woman like in the film’s first scene.) Want a girl or a boy?
Woman doubts as to which apple to pick but she finally goes for the one with stem.
Mirror fortuneteller: Eat this apple together when you make love. Half for each of you.
Seeming to have faced with a miracle woman holds her palms together in the manner Indians do when paying respect and walks backward to exit the door.
Mirror fortuneteller: My reading charge is 200 dollars.
Man: 200 dollars?
Woman takes 200 dollars from her backpack and respectfully puts it besides the fruit bowl.
Woman: (brings her map out) Please mark the location of the Holy City on this map.
The fortuneteller marks a spot on the map with the woman’s marker and the man disappointed at the charge takes a hundred dollars from the 200.
Mirror fortuneteller: (holds marker to the woman) This is your pen.
Woman: Not at all you can keep it.
Holding her palms together in respect she walks backwards again and exits the door.
9-Old city, continued:
Man and woman are riding a rickshaw and sweaty all over the rickshaw owner pulls the bike.
Man: (gives woman back the 100 dollar bill) If you pay everyone what they ask for then we’ll never get to see Perfect Man.
Woman: Excuse me. (she takes the money and puts it back in her backpack)
Man: No problem.
Rickshaw owner: Would you like to go shopping in the bazaar?
Man: No.
Woman: We want to go to the Holy City.
Rickshaw owner: It’s late now. Cars leave early in the morning. Do you want to go to a hotel?
Man: A cheap hotel.
Rickshaw owner speeds away.
Woman: (to man) Remember you said you liked to get married in the street like the Indian poor people?
Man: Yes this is the best form of wedding for an ex-communist.
Woman: (to rickshaw owner) Excuse me we want to get married in the street like poor people. Can you help us?
Man: One of my relatives is getting married in the street tonight. Do you want to get married there?
Man and woman look at each other with joy.
Woman: Yes we do.
Rickshaw owner: Then give me hundred dollars.
Man: Why a hundred?
Rickshaw owner: Your wedding expenses. You have to get a massage and the lady has to buy a sari. We have to buy sweets for the people.
Woman brings out the 100 dollar bill again and hands it to rickshaw man.
Man: If Marx knew that street people’s wedding costs 100 dollars he would have rewritten the Capital.
10-Street corner, day:
Man is naked and someone is massaging him with oil.
11-Tin cabin, day:
Woman is being dressed a sari and her hair braided with flowers. She is wearing ankle bracelets.
12-Street corner, night:
A wedding in the street. Brides and grooms are sitting on tin cans. Several rickshaws surround the area. Children sing and dance. Complete Indian wedding ritual is being performed. They mark both women’s foreheads as married. The other bride is very young.  The wooden stick with small bells swinging back and forth on its base gets lit by the bride and groom’s candles. Two dark skinned men fan the brides and the grooms with large fans.
Woman: (to man) The most beautiful way we could marry. World’s most un-aristocratic wedding. I love you forever. What about you?
Man: Forever? Eternity is those people’s dream that live a 100 years at the most.
Woman: If you think Indian and believe in reincarnation we will be reborn after death. If reincarnation is true will you be willing to marry me again in your new life?
Man: Even if reincarnation exists when you don’t remember your past life and you can’t make a memory of it in your new life what difference does it make if you are reborn or someone else is being born for the first time?
Woman: Wouldn’t you like to be born again even if you didn’t know you lived before?
Man: No.
Woman: Why not?
Man: Because of injustice and violence in the world.
Woman: But I like to be born again because of love.
Rickshaw owner: (comes forward and tells the couple that he got a room in the hotel above for them and returns a 20 dollar bill) This is the rest of you money.
Man: (hands back the money) Keep this for yourself.
13-Hotel, night:
Woman with sari on is lying on the bed and the apple is on a plate lit by a lantern on the wall. Man is sitting by the window looking out the street. Down there in the street it is quiet and men, women and children are sleep under blankets. Soft breeze is blowing moving cloths that are either people’s blankets or mosquito nets. Later although the wind stops blowing but blankets covering men and women start to move by their lovemaking. Sound of a baby crying is heard.
Man: Either throw the apple in the street or if you really insist on becoming a mother I’ll go walk in the street until the morning and you can get pregnant by someone else.
Woman: If every husband and wife think like you do and people stop reproducing for the next 100 years the whole mankind species will become extinct.
Man: If he doesn’t like to be born and one day when he grows up he screams at you as to why you gave birth to him, what will you tell him? Perhaps we will say sorry you were the product of an accidental union between your dad’s sperm and your mom’s ovule. You know no one is created out of love. Every one is created out of their parents’ negligence at the moment of orgasm. Every one is the product of ignorance or not wanting to stop the ecstasy of sexual climax. I am fearful of the child that will be born a victim or a murderer and I as half of that creation will not know what to tell him. Do you hear that baby’s cry? He is objecting to his own situation. He complains why he had to be invited to a world that lacked enough justice or accommodations for him. This is while his mother thinks her baby is hungry and she feeds him with her dry breasts.
In the street a woman pulls her baby under the blanket and tries to quiet him down.
Woman: We have been together for months but only once we had an incomplete lovemaking in the sandstorm.
Man: My becoming a father means that I declare to the world that I was born. That I tasted life and thought it was so good that I find it my duty to reproduce.
Woman: Do you know what I want from you? A baby and your faith in God. I don’t mean to be religious and believe in some religion. Just have faith in God.
Man leaves the room. Anxiously woman raises half way up and waits for him to return but he doesn’t. Woman comes to the window. Man is in the street. Baby is crying and his mother tries to quiet him. Woman also goes out.
14-Street, midnight:
Woman reaches the street. No sight of man. Men, women and children with or without covers are asleep in the sidewalks. Woman has gotten scared of the darkness and loneliness. She calls out for her man a couple of times but only barking dogs answer back. A sound is heard for a moment. She turns around. A monkey holding her baby screams and crawls up the wall. Woman is frightened and calls her husband again. Again a dog barks back at her in the distance. Woman returns to the hotel.
15-Desert, at dawn:
The sun rises. Man is sitting alone meditating with eyes closed. He produces a deep low pitch voice.
16-In front of the hotel, next day:
The same rickshaw owner who threw their wedding comes out of the hotel carrying the couple’s backpacks. Man and woman follow him out of the hotel and all three get on the rickshaw. The rickshaw starts moving and passes the city that just began the day.
17-Car station, day:
Rickshaw brings man and woman to the desert. They get off at some point. Man pays the driver and also hands him the apple that the mirror fortuneteller had given the couple.
Man: This apple stopped us from having a good time last night.
Rickshaw driver takes the apple and leaves. Man and woman walk towards the sign of a car station located on a three way road. Two cars are in the station. One takes off immediately and they go to the other car.
Woman: (to driver) We want to go to the Holy City or its vicinity to visit Perfect Man.
Driver: I have never seen anyone go on a pilgrimage to visit Perfect Man by car.
Woman: We don’t know the way and we may get lost. How long does it take by foot?
Driver: A couple of days but one hour by car.
Woman: Please be kind enough to take us there.
Driver: Whatever you wish. Get in the car. I will take you to the Holy City but if you want to see Perfect Man I advise you to go on foot.
They get in the car and leave.
18-Car on the way to the Holy City, continued:
The road is narrow and remote.
Driver: (to man in front) Fasten your seat belt please.
Man: (tries to fasten the broken seatbelt) But is there police in this remote road to give you a ticket?
Driver: No policemen but there is God.
Man: (to his wife) See I was right to tell you that God was created by governments to scare people. So anywhere that didn’t have a police presence would have a spiritual police which would cost the government nothing.
Finally with the woman’s help man succeeds at fastening the seatbelt.
Man: (to driver) So what kind of a person is this Perfect Man?
Driver: I have never seen him myself but people say he radiates a spiritual halo especially behind his head there is some kind of metaphysical energy. Now that you are going to visit Perfect Man, do you believe in God?
Man: Not me.
Driver: Then you won’t see him.
Woman: I do.
Driver: Perhaps you will see him.
Man: We are going together. How can one of us see but not the other?
Sound of a fly is heard. Woman gets annoyed and waves her hand to push the fly away.
Man: Roll the window down the wind will blow him away.
Driver: No this fly probably got in the car in the station. (he steps on the brakes and looks back to make sure no car is coming from behind and then he makes a u-turn) I have to go back and drop off the fly where it got in the car.
Man: What for?
Driver: Because if this fly is female she may have a husband and children and if it is a baby it is worse. If we let him out here he will lose his family and will end up alone.
Driver bends and rolls the window up on man’s side.
Man: What about you? Do you believe in God or have doubts?
Driver: I do.
Man: What is your reason?
Driver: Because if we remove God then every action will be legitimate. The minimum morality that’s left on earth is because of God otherwise only jungle rules would be executed on earth. If I didn’t have faith in God I would let this poor fly right in this desert and go after my own business and I wouldn’t care that it lost its family and lost its way and had to fly 10 kilometers.
Man: The things you say are no reasons for God’s existence. There are reasons for people to behave more morally if they fear God.
They arrive at the station. Driver opens his seatbelt and goes out and opens all four doors for the fly to go out of the car. A moment later the fly buzzes away. Driver follows the fly’s direction. Fly sits next to other flies in the station. Driver closes the door and starts driving.
Driver: (to the man) Suppose if you die and meet God, won’t you get ashamed that you didn’t believe in him?
Man: No why would I be ashamed?
Driver: What will you tell him?
Man: I’ll raise my hat in respect. (he takes his hat off) I’ll say: “Excuse me your highness but you did not present enough reasons in the world for your existence. I thought it would be an insult to your divinity if I said you existed but were indifferent towards injustice and violence in the world. So I thought you probably didn’t exist that there is so much injustice and oppression in the world. So much distance between the poor and the rich and men and women.”
Again a buzzing sound is heard. Man and woman and driver listen. This time a bee is buzzing. Driver steps on the brakes, looks back and returns.
Man: If you didn’t have faith in God all insects would lose their families.
Woman: Also no passenger would reach their destination.
Man: Stop let us off.
Driver: (stops) Hurry open and close the door so the bee wouldn’t fly out by mistake. It must have been sleep at the station otherwise if it buzzed I would hear him. It didn’t get in the car on the way either because the windows were all closed.
Man: (gets out. From behind the window) How much is the fare?
Driver: (laughing) If I didn’t believe in God I would definitely charge you the fare.
Man: If you didn’t believe in God at least you wouldn’t let people off in the middle of the desert so you could take the bees to their families.
Driver: If you are upset get in and I’ll take you once I drop off the bee.
Man: No thanks.
19-Deserts towards Holy City, continued:
Man and woman start walking and car drives away. Weather is hot and sound of buzzing flies is heard around them. Man and woman drink water from the flask.
Woman: May be the insects are also thirsty flying around us.
Man: If you pity them empty your flask for them. I am not a socialist when it comes to insects.
Woman empties her flask on a plate for the flies and they leave.
Man: Look under your feet and see how many ants get smashed in every step.
Ants run in every direction and the couple slow down to avoid stepping on them.
 Man: You either have to see Perfect Man or be an ant killer. Or you have to stop right here and not go further. (woman stops for a moment and man leaves) If you stand you will be a victim of ants and if you move on you will be their murderer. If God exists it is unclear whether you should forgive him for this victim/murderer situation or be grateful to him.
Woman looks under her feet and walks on. A while passes. They see an old man in the distance leading a few cows. Man and woman go towards him. They now look exhausted.
Man & woman: Hello.
Old man: Hello.
Man: What’s your name?
Old man: My name is cow keeper.
Woman: We want to go to Perfect Man’s house. Do you know where it is?
Cow keeper: Yes I am going that way too.
Woman: Have you seen him?
Cow keeper: I have a few times.
Woman: Have you seen him perform a miracle?
Cow keeper: No.
Man: Then why do people come a long way on pilgrimage to visit him?
Cow keeper: You should ask those people that.
Man: (to his wife) He is an interesting man. (to the cow keeper) Will you take us to Perfect Man’s house?
Cow keeper: Ok I will take you.
Man: Do you believe in God?
Cow keeper: Every one is his own God.
Woman: Who do you seek help from when you are alone and suffering?
Cow keeper: Suffering? Birth is suffering. Death is suffering. Failure is suffering, Victory is suffering. What we have and what we don’t is suffering. What we do not have but want to possess is suffering. It is all suffering. Desire is suffering.
Woman: So who do you confide in about your sufferings?
Cow keeper: No one. Expressing them is a suffering too.
Man: My wife and I have a dispute. Be our judge and tell us who is right.
Cow keeper: God exists and He does not. If you say there’s God then He is. If you say He doesn’t exist then He doesn’t.
Woman: What are you saying then? Does He exist or not?
Cow keeper: (lines up his cows) Once a man asked: “God how do I know you exist? If you do, talk to me.” A bird sang in a pretty voice. Man said to the bird: “Don’t make noise I want to hear God if he speaks to me.” Night fell and he slept facing the sky and said: “Oh God you did not speak to me today. Please show yourself to me tonight.” Stars kept twinkling until he fell asleep. At dawn he got up and washed his face in the stream and said: “Oh God you neither spoke to me nor did you show yourself. At least touch me so I know you exist.” God extended his hand and touched him but he did not feel it and pushed away a butterfly that had sat on his face without realizing that God was that butterfly. God is a star. A bird’s song is that of God’s. I am God. You are God. This woman is God. That stone is God. This cow is God.
Man: Is this cow God too?
Cow keeper: If you say he is not then where this cow begins God ends and He becomes limited to anywhere that has no cows. Anywhere that I or you or she or that stone do not exist. So God is everywhere. If you say he exists he does and if you say he doesn’t then he doesn’t. It is hard to judge.
20-In front of Perfect Man’s house, day:
Cow keeper, man and woman arrive at a house.
Cow keeper: This is it. Knock and wait for him to come. If it takes long for him to answer don’t get discouraged. Keep knocking.
Cow keeper leaves and takes the cows with him. Man and woman knock but no one opens the door. Time and over they knock and right when they lose hope cow-keeper opens the door from inside the house.
Cow keeper: Sorry I went to put the cows in the stable.
Woman: Do you also live in this house?
Cow keeper: Yes who did you want to see?
Man: You know we are looking for Perfect Man.
Cow keeper: I am he.
Man: But you said your name was cow-keeper.
Cow keeper: Every one calls me differently.
Man: But you said you only saw Perfect Man a few times.
Old man: We have no mirrors in our house. Mirrors bring egotism. I have only seen myself in the water a few times. What can I do for you now?
Woman: (stunned) My friend and me.
Man: Say my lover and I.
Woman: My husband and I have come from Iran to visit you. I am so excited that I don’t know what to ask you.
I had no idea you were so simple and ordinary. Frankly my husband was a communist but not any more. I was very religious and now I only believe in God. But I even doubt Him sometimes. Give me an advice if possible so we can use it as a new faith, a fresh God.
Cow keeper: (ponders) If you have a notebook let me write it for you. Come back in three days to get it.
Woman: (takes out her phonebook from her pocket) Excuse me but I have nothing but my phonebook. There are numbers in this phonebook that connect me to my past. Write something that will connect me to the future.
Cow keeper: For every one I use their own pen to write.
Woman searches her pockets and backpack for a pen.
Cow keeper: (to the man) Don’t you need any advice?
Man: No I don’t have the talent for any faith. If you wish so give me your email address so we can chat about God sometimes.
Woman: (finally finds nothing but her lipstick) I have no pen besides this.
Cow keeper takes the lipstick and looks at it as if he does not know a lipstick can be used as pen. Embarrassed, the woman takes back the lipstick, takes the lid, turns the bottom and once the lipstick tip shows up makes a mark on the phonebook.
Woman: Like this please.
Cow keeper: (takes the lipstick) Come three days later in the early morning before I take my cows to pasture.
Woman: What do we do for the next three days?
Cow keeper: Go see the Holy City.
Cow keeper closes the door and woman remains amazed.
Man: Good that you saw for yourself that he is no perfect man. He is not even an incomplete man. So are you still infatuated?
Woman starts walking backwards towards the door while holding her palms together in respect. And she starts praying and finally turns to the man.
Woman: What are you trying to prove?
Man: (grabs both her shoulders and looks her in the eye) I am not after proving anything. I experiment to negate my prejudgments. I followed you because I go after someone who seeks truth but I run away from those who have found truth.
She who finds the truth becomes a fascist and I’ll break away from you. Given that it is better that we finalize our doubts about God and man and ask the director how this film should end. Then we should ask him how as two Iranians playing in this movie we can go back to our country.
Woman: (bursts into tears and puts her head on man’s shoulder) No, no I don’t want to lose my fantasy and return to reality. (man also hugs her. Woman pushes him back and heavily weeps.) Don’t be so ruthless. I am attached to this story’s ending. If it will have a good ending a lot of my problems will be solved.
Man: Stop crying, let’s go. (and he wipes her tears with his lips.)
Woman: Will you promise not to leave me alone?
Man: I promise.
And they both leave.
21-Some desert on the way to the Holy City, day:
Man and woman keep walking and look ahead in the distance. Everywhere seems to be wastelands with no roads in sight. Only in one direction some black spots are visible. They walk towards there. A bit further they come across an old man looking so feeble and weak and a man covering his mouth and nose with a cloth is trying to take him away.
Woman: He looks so much like my father.
Man: Do you need help?
Man with cloth: He was going with other old men but his feet were too weak so he was left behind.
Man helps the man with cloth to take the old man to his friends.
Man: Where is he going?
Man with cloth: To the Holy City. These old men go to the Holy City to die there.
Old man starts speaking and says something in Hindi and the man with cloth on his face translates sentence by sentence.
Old man: I was born several times. I remember some of them. Once I was a cow. Once I was a shepherd. Once I was a shoemaker, once a yogi and another time a maharaja. This time I was poor and now I am tired. I want to go and die in the Holy City to finally reach God. It is hard to become a perfect man in this world.
Man with cloth: Any one dying in the Holy City turns into a perfect man and he will not need to be born so many times after death to become a perfect man.
Man: (to the man with cloth) Ask him if he believes in God.
Man with cloth asks and old man answers.
Old man: Yes.
Man: But how do you know that God exists?
Old man: My father said that and he was not a liar.
Man: What about you? Do you believe in God?
Man with cloth: Our journey is reason for God’s existence. If he didn’t exist then why are we looking for him?
Man: Why have you covered your mouth with cloth?
Man with cloth: My parents covered my mouth since I was a child and later when I grew up I just kept doing it.
Man: Why?
Man with cloth: I don’t want millions of micro-organisms enter my lungs and die when I breathe.
Old man moans and breathes with difficulty. He sits up and says something.
Man with cloth: He says he feels hot. Do you have water?
Man takes out his bottle of water and man with cloth pours the water on dirt and makes mud and rubs it on the old man’s forehead with his fingers. Man and woman drink water and man pours water over his and her head to cool down. For a moment a cool breeze blows and old man murmurs something with a smile that can hardly be understood.
Man: What is he saying?
Man with cloth: He says Varona (God) is blowing.
Old man takes out a shriveled apple with no stem from his pocket and hands it to the couple as a token of gratitude.
Old man: This apple is yours. I am tired of being born again.
Man: (takes the apple) Man is either a victim or a murderer. See how many animals we have so far consumed in order to stay alive? So many cows, sheep, chickens and fish. We have breathed in and killed so many micro-organisms. We have smashed so many ants under our feet. The innocent human being is impossible.
Woman: You interpret life from a negative point of view. There were people who changed the lives of human beings. Beethoven with his music, Picasso with his paintings, Edison with electricity, Gandhi with his peace.
22-By the riverside, wood market, day:
Man, woman, man with cloth, old man and other old men and women have gathered around, among them some are buying wood.
Man: Why are they buying wood?
Man with cloth: Because when they die they want to be burnt with these woods and their ashes thrown in the Ganges river.
The decrepit old man unable to buy wood is sitting in a corner on a large wooden boat looking to be dying. Other old men are sitting on their woods in the boat. The boat starts sailing and other boats carrying old men and women with their loads of woods are also moving along.
23-In the boat, on the way and along the Holy City shores, continued:
Man is sitting on the boat edge sticking his hand in the water. He brings out some water and pours it back into the river drop by drop. Woman is filming old men and women hanging on to their woods with her digital camera. Some of them are caressing their bundle of woods.
Woman’s voice: Has our birth been a right action? When I feel happy my answer is yes but when I feel miserable it is negative. I have asked the man who accompanies me like a female bird’s mate for several times to consent to creating a baby in a lovemaking act without pleasure or negligence but he has answered: “only like the mindless nature can we make a human being who is either a victim or a murderer and we can not determine our child’s fate in a divinely manner.
Man: (throws a drop of water in the river in front of the woman’s camera.) One drop can not change the taste of the river, can it?
Boat reaches the Holy City. On the river banks stairs coming out of the water stretch up to the temples rocketing towards the sky. Some people are performing ablutions and some wash themselves in the river. Large black cows cool themselves in the water at the river side. And smoke comes out of fires. Boat comes closer. Fires belong to burning corpses. Some nude men with wreaths of yellow flowers over their shoulders go into the river. Woman bashfully brings her camera down.
24-Holy City, continued:
Man and woman walk in the streets of the Holy city. Woman feels stifled of the smoke in the air and covers her nose with a tissue. A woman cries in an alley. Men stop her from getting close to the source of the stink. The words of the crying mother reveal that she can smell her dead son’s body. Someone is begging to collect wood for another who has died and can not be burned because he had no woods. Untidy men are sitting on the river bank meditating. A naked man with long hair and beard has extended his hands towards the sky resembling a tree growing towards the sun. On another stair a man has bent down holding his big toes making a deep sound and keeping still. Woman sits by the river. Across from her a bunch of women wearing saris are half way in to the water praying with a man holding a few reeds together. Woman goes into meditative position and closes her eyes. Man starts walking by the riverside and gets further away from the woman. From the man’s point of view the old man who accompanied them to the Holy City is collecting woods here and there looking weak and feeble. He has collected some small pieces of wood. The man with cloth on his mouth is meditating somewhere. Man gradually enters an environment where smoke increases and he feels that the smell of smoke is bothering him.  Some mourners carrying a corpse wrapped in cloth and flowers pass by him and cry out some verses.
Mourners: Rama is God’s name and only this name will remain behind in the world.
Mourners deliver the corpse to a group of people who are in charge of burning the dead. Man looks out and walks closer. So close that smoke and fire take over his face. Woman comes out of the meditative state and fails to find her mate besides her. She gets up and walks here and there. Again a monkey carrying its offspring screams and crawls up the wall. Someone brings a bucket of water from the river and pours it in the dying old man’s mouth. Old man drinks the Ganges River’s water and dies. His companions cover him with a sheet and put yellow flowers on him and carry him to the burners. Woman looks for her husband everywhere. In some place on the river bank boys with shaved heads are reading a book together.
Teacher: Sit down quietly. Don’t do anything. Your plant will grow out of you.
The boys repeat the teacher’s words. Woman searches for her husband. Her husband runs towards her.
Man: Come that old man is saying good bye to you.
They leave together and settle in one place. The old man that accompanied them to the Holy City walks towards his woods. He falls down several times. Man with cloth grabs his arm and helps him reach the woods. Old man lies on the woods like a dead body. Man with cloth runs to the river to bring him water with his hand. Man and woman watch the old man from up close.
Old man: Burn me.
A young man with a torch gets prepared to burn him.
Woman: (screams) No, he is still alive.
Old man: Burn me.
Man with cloth arrives and pours water in his mouth with his hand and steps back. Woman rests her head on man’s shoulder and cries. Man watches the old man. The young man with a torch puts his head on the old man’s chest.
Young man: He is not breathing. Come listen.
Man with cloth also puts his head on the old man’s chest and nods his head in agreement. Weeping, woman in man’s arms tries to look at the old man once again. Man does not want her to see the scene. Young man strikes the gasoline drenched woods with his torch. The woods catch on fire. A cow’s moan is heard. From the woman’s point of view a cow gives birth to a calf in the smoke and haze coming out of the old man’s corpse. Old man burns in flames.
25-Holy City, night:
Hundreds of torches are lit in the hands of people that are praying, worshipping and performing ablutions in the river. Their prayer chant is heard. Man and woman are sitting by the river eating the shriveled apple they got from the old man.
Man: (bites the apple) If God exists he will regret that he ever created mankind. That’s why he destroys people group by group in floods, earthquakes and by AIDS.
Woman: (bites the apple) Given that then every child that is born means that God has not yet become hopeless of creating humans.
Man: Whether he has or not we ate the apple anyway.
Woman: Let’s make love without negligence or pleasure so perhaps we will divinely make a new human being.
Chanting voices of those praying and performing ablutions in the river reaches up and man and woman embrace each other and go down the camera frame as if each is taking the other’s clothes off by the river in the darkness and throws it in the river. Amidst chanting and water’s gentle waves they start making love. A lovemaking more similar to worship and in between, appear the phases of formation of a fetus beginning with sperms and ovules, an embryo and later months of fetus development. Sometimes during lovemaking they get orgasmic pleasure and stop and start again. Sometimes they regret the fetus they have created and start wiping kisses from each other’s lips and the created fetus disappears. But again with another kiss they continue their lovemaking and create another fetus. A fetus that is supposedly meant to be a different human being.
Mohsen Makhmalbaf
Summer 2004