Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Why I Think "Clouds of Sils Maria" Is The Best Film EVER!

I posted this on January 7, 2016, but I've made extensive changes, and will continue making changes, so I'm reposting it. (Last updated: July 22, 2016)


I keep yammering like a lovesick fan, but I keep hearing mostly crickets. The audience for art house films isn't that large, after all, but this movie is special, even for them. So, I wanted to explain in greater detail why I think "Clouds of Sils Maria", starring Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart, and Chloë Grace Moretz, is the best movie of the century so far, and maybe one of the best movies ever filmed.

"Clouds of Sils Maria" is, as advertised, a character study of three actresses, one of whom is grappling with age, but I interpreted it quite differently, as history's most-subtle horror film.

The movie works on two levels. Level 1 is as a movie about women's relationships. Level 2 is as an illustration of the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche (“The higher we soar the smaller we appear to those who cannot fly"), whose dark and frightening vision has been controversial since the 19th Century. The ability of the movie to function so well on both levels is what blows me away.

This YouTube video summarizes Level 1 very well:

I checked out some reviews of the film and found many of them close to useless. Most reviews state the movie ends on an ambiguous note. To me, the opposite is true. I glimpsed something horrible, but masked so well that many don't see it at all. A subtle horror movie - a unique specimen in cinema!

Director Olivier Assayas tried to alert reviewers about the two levels, so as not to confuse them. For example, this reviewer, Sandra Hall:

Sils Maria is a valley in the Swiss Alps where Nietzsche was inspired to come up with his theory about the cyclical nature of time.

Much is made of this in the publicity for French director Olivier Assayas' Clouds of Sils Maria – which sounds ominous, I know. Fortunately, however, these musings don't find their way into the film, which is left to speak for itself, helped along by its stars, Kristen Stewart and Juliette Binoche.

That's just great! The director tells the reviewers what the movie is all about, and provides them with everything they need to understand his intentions, and the reviewers still miss the point!!!

Director Olivier Assayas apparently also worked with Binoche in her youth, so this movie appears to have semi-autobiographical qualities too.  Yet another layer of meaning!

Friedrich Nietzsche spent many summers brooding at Sils Maria. Certain concepts he coined have become familiar over the years. His 'Übermensch' became a foundation concept in the rise of Naziism, for example. But he had another concept too, one less familiar, called 'Eternal Recurrence of the Same'. This movie explores that concept, without actually saying so.

Since I'm not a philosopher, Wikipedia will have to do:
Safranski argues that the combination of ruthless warrior pride and artistic brilliance that defined the Italian Renaissance embodied the sense of the Übermensch for Nietzsche. According to Safranski, Nietzsche intended the ultra-aristocratic figure of the Übermensch to serve as a Machiavellian bogeyman of the modern Western middle class and its pseudo-Christian egalitarian value system.

...The Übermensch shares a place of prominence in Thus Spoke Zarathustra with another of Nietzsche's key concepts: the eternal recurrence of the same. Several interpretations for this fact have been offered.

...Still others suggest that one must have the strength of the Übermensch in order to will the eternal recurrence of the same; that is, only the Übermensch will have the strength to fully accept all of his past life, including his failures and misdeeds, and to truly will their eternal return. This action nearly kills Zarathustra, for example....

The concept of the Übermensch is extended in this movie to women. In the absence of a better name, I'll call the concept "Über-Wench".

Plot summary from Wikipedia:
Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche) is a famous international movie star and stage actress. She travels with a loyal young American assistant, Valentine (Kristen Stewart). She owes her career to having been cast, over 20 years earlier, in both the play and film versions of Maloja Snake by Wilhelm Melchior, a now elderly Swiss playwright. The play centers on the tempestuous relationship between a callous young girl ("Sigrid", a part that made then-18-year-old Maria famous) and a vulnerable older woman ("Helena") who is eventually driven to suicide after "Sigrid" takes advantage of her, squeezes everything she can out of her, then dumps her.

While traveling to Zurich to accept an award on behalf of Wilhelm, and planning to visit him the following day at his house in Sils Maria – a remote settlement in the Alps – Maria learns of his sudden death. His widow Rosa later confides in her that Wilhelm's death was suicide and that he had been terminally ill. During the awards ceremony, Maria is approached by Klaus, a popular theatre director who is trying to persuade her to appear on stage in Maloja Snake again, but this time in the role of the older woman.

Maria is torn and only reluctantly accepts. To prepare for the role she accepts Rosa's offer of the Melchiors' house in Sils Maria, which Rosa is leaving to escape her memories of Wilhelm. Maria's discussions with Valentine and their read-throughs of the play's scenes combine to evoke uncertainty about the nature of their actual relationship. A hot young American actress, 19-year-old Jo-Ann Ellis (Chloë Grace Moretz), has been chosen to interpret the role of "Sigrid", but her scandals are ubiquitous in Google searches, YouTube videos, and tidbits of contemporary cultural knowledge as relayed by Valentine to the somewhat out-of-touch, 40-something Maria.

Questions soon multiply regarding aging, time, culture and the blurring line between the "Sigrid"/"Helena" and the Valentine/Maria relationships. Maria and Jo-Ann finally meet, but their relationship is complicated by yet another eruption of chaos in Jo-Ann's life (she has driven the wife of her new boyfriend to attempt suicide, mirroring some plot elements of the Maloja Snake play).

During their time at Sils Maria, Maria and Valentine spend much of their days hiking in the Alps. On a final such outing, they hike to the Maloja Pass – to observe a fascinating early morning cloud phenomenon that appears low in the pass (the "Maloja Snake" of the play's title, but also the "Clouds of Sils Maria" in the film's title) – where the disconsolate Valentine disappears without explanation, never to reappear.

Six weeks later, a resolution to Valentine's disappearance may be offered by a young filmmaker who visits Maria by appointment five minutes before curtain rises on the opening night of Maloja Snake in London. Maria seems preoccupied, so near to curtain rise, and dismisses his suggested ideas about the proposed film role he is offering her as "too abstract for me". However, the final scene of the film suggests that she may suddenly understand things...or not, because then she is on stage, smoking and waiting for "Sigrid" to pass through the offices collecting outgoing folders.

Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche) has a very hard time accomodating herself to play the character Helena. She knows in her heart that she is actually a Sigrid, not a Helena, but time has aged her out of the role. The dilemma is, how can Maria remain a Sigrid while playing a Helena?

Maria practices for the role of Helena, with Val (Kristen Stewart) reading Sigrid's lines. This is the most confusing part of the movie - who really is the older character, and who really is the younger?  (They are reading the opposite's lines, so ambiguity creeps in.) Slowly it dawns on Maria that she can remain a Sigrid even while playing Helena if Val is sacrificed and forced to become the Helena in real life. ("Only the Übermensch will have the strength to fully accept all of his past life, including his failures and misdeeds, and to truly will their eternal return. This action nearly kills Zarathustra, for example.")

Meanwhile, Val has fallen in love with Maria, but isn't prepared for the resulting humiliation.

Maria meets Jo-Ann Ellis, the younger Sigrid (Chloë Grace Moretz) and instantly the women are the closest of companions. They are both Sigrids - they are both Über-Wenchs - and they intuitively understand each other. 

Val is not an Über-Wench, however, and just like Helena, can't endure the humiliation and disappears. Maria Enders is revealed as the true "Maloja Snake"! Kudos to the fabulous Kristen Stewart, for playing a role that initially appears to be the lead character of the movie, but is revealed in the end to be a zero, a nullity, a non-entity!  And Chloë Grace Moretz gets to play the actress bedeviled by paparazzi, just like Kristen Stewart suffers in real life!

The two Sigrids differ in temperament, but not in deed.  Just as Maria sacrifices Val, Jo-Ann sacrifices her boyfriend's wife.  Sigrids are eternal, and they do whatever they find to be necessary, morality be damned.

And how is 'Eternal Recurrence of the Same' portrayed? As THEATER! Of course! The life of the theater is all about reincarnating old scripts with new people. What could be more eternally recurrent than that? That's the entire point of theater!

In Olivier Assayas' vision of the film the actresses play concepts as well as characters.

Plus, there's plenty of Meteorology here too. Love the Maloja Snake phenomenon.  I need to get up into the Swiss Alps sometime!

This movie works in so many ways! It is a gem!

Kristen Stewart is the first American actress ever to win a César Award! This is not an accident!:

Best fan video!:

The Nietzsche in "Sils Maria" is well-shrouded, but it sometimes almost emerges into the open. The character Chris Giles in the movie recites a quote that I thought at first was a direct quote, but is actually more of a Nietzschean distillation: "We're not allowed to regret anything. If we're sincere, then we're the sum total of our experiences – no exceptions." And because it would be too obvious, they never once mention in the movie that Nietzsche conceived of his book "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" at Lake Engadine, in the immediate neighborhood of Sils Maria, where he often stayed in the 1880's.

The movie is certainly written without obvious Nietzsche references. The plot focuses on the difficulty of an aging actress in playing a tragic older character in a play she had once starred in when she was younger. But the Dallas Morning News (Reel Genius) critic intuits that there is a problem, that movies like "Last F***able Day" do a much better job addressing the problems of older actresses, so why not watch that movie instead? The problem is that the movie is shrouding a vast Nietzschean substructure. Many scenes in the movie don't even make sense unless there is some disguised purpose. The Australian reviewer, Sandra Hall (link above) wrote that Director Assayas indicated that the movie explored concepts by Nietzsche, and she was happy to report to her readers that there was no German philosophy in the movie at all. So, yeah, all Nietzsche, and nothing but Nietzsche, every instant of the movie.

Principal Cast

Juliette Binoche ... Maria Enders
Kristen Stewart ... Valentine
Chloë Grace Moretz ... Jo-Ann Ellis
Lars Eidinger ... Klaus Diesterweg
Johnny Flynn ... Christopher Giles
Angela Winkler ... Rosa Melchior
Hanns Zischler ... Henryk Wald
Nora von Waldstätten ... Actress in Sci-fi Movie
Brady Corbet ... Piers Roaldson
Aljoscha Stadelmann ... Urs Kobler
Claire Tran ... Maria's London Assistant



In this section, I include Screen Capture images from the film, quotes from the film, and applicable pithy quotes by Friedrich Nietzsche as they apply to "Clouds of Sils Maria":

On Eternal Recurrence of the Same:

“The heaviest burden: “What, if some day or night, a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: ‘This life, as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh…must return to you—all in the same succession and sequence—even this spider and this moonlight between the trees and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned over again and again—and you with it, speck of dust!’ Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: ‘You are a god, and never have I heard anything more divine!’ If this thought were to gain possession of you, it would change you as you are, or perhaps crush you. The question in each and every thing, “do you want this once more and innumerable times more?” would lie upon your actions as the greatest weight. Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?”

(Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science: with a Prelude in Rhymes and an Appendix of Songs)

On "Maloja Snake":
Nietzsche: “The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die. As well the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be mind.”

Valentine: "She's the one who filed for divorce. Why would she be holding things up? That's, that's ridiculous."

Val's suggestive phone screen.

Valentine: Henryk? Why are you still so upset with him?

Maria: I have no reason to have stopped being upset with him.

Quotes by Nietzsche applicable to the arrogance and shamelessness of both Maria and Jo-Ann:

"To be ashamed of one's immorality: that is a step on the staircase at whose end one is also ashamed of one's morality."
"Arrogance on the part of the meritorious is even more offensive to us than the arrogance of those without merit: for merit itself is offensive."
"Although the most acute judges of the witches and even the witches themselves, were convinced of the guilt of witchery, the guilt nevertheless was non-existent. It is thus with all guilt."
“What is the seal of liberation? Not to be ashamed in front of oneself.”
“Poets are shameless with their experiences: they exploit them.”
“They call you heartless; but you have a heart and I love you for being ashamed to show it.”
“Man is the cruelest animal.”
“Of all evil I deem you capable: Therefore I want good from you. Verily, I have often laughed at the weaklings who thought themselves good because they had no claws.”
“Remorse.-- Never yield to remorse, but at once tell yourself: remorse would simply mean adding to the first act of stupidity a second.”

Rosa burns Wilhelm's papers.

Henryk dissed to his face.

Val tells Maria to meet Klaus.

Maria meets Klaus.

Maria: [Referring to the proposed role of Helena] Time's gone by and she can't accept it. Me neither, I guess.

Klaus: There is no antagonism. It's the attraction of two women with the same wound. Sigrid and Helena are one and the same person. One and the same person. That's what the play's about. And because you were Sigrid, only you can be Helena now.

Maria: How can you be so sure?

Klaus: You know as well as I do that Wilhelm Melchior had been working on a sequel for years.

Maria: Yes. But it was about Sigrid at 40 years old.

Klaus: No, it was about Sigrid 20 years later became Helena.

Maria: So who's going to play Sigrid?

Klaus: Jo-Ann Ellis. She did a superhero movie that just opened in the States.

Maria: And besides that?

Klaus: Not much. She's 19. She's a lot more interesting that her interviews and profiles. She has a theatrical background. She doesn't want to be swallowed up by Hollywood. She admires you and is willing to pull out of her other commitments.

Maria: I'll listen carefully. But to be honest, the role scares me. Helena scares me. I'm in the middle of a divorce. I feel alone, and vulnerable. Probably too vulnerable to do this.

Klaus: If you refuse, I'll understand, but it will be a missed opportunity, especially for Wilhelm.

Maria: I should get going.

Klaus: Excuse me, but I won't be staying for dinner. Good evening madam.

Maria: Klaus, I have another reason. Susan Rosenberg. She played Helena with me.

Klaus: I remember Susan Rosenberg.

Maria: She died in a car accident a year after. It's a superstition; I've always associated her death with Helena's suicide.

Klaus: She was a lousy actress who didn't understand a thing about the role. And her conventional style of acting highlighted the modernity of your performance. You should be grateful to her.

"Camel Phase"

Quotes by Nietzsche:

On Valentine and Maria's hikes in the Alps:

"All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking."
"On the mountains of truth you can never climb in vain: either you will reach a point higher up today, or you will be training your powers so that you will be able to climb higher tomorrow."
“He who climbs upon the highest mountains laughs at all tragedies, real or imaginary.”

On Maria's suffering by deciding to accept the role of Helena, and Maria's rebirth as an Uberwench:

"To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering."
"I assess the power of a will by how much resistance, pain, torture it endures and knows how to turn to its advantage."
"What really raises one's indignation against suffering is not suffering intrinsically, but the senselessness of suffering."
“You must be ready to burn yourself in your own flame; how could you rise anew if you have not first become ashes?”
"One has to pay dearly for immortality; one has to die several times while one is still alive."
"That which does not kill us makes us stronger."

On the friendship between Maria and Valentine:

"It is impossible to suffer without making someone pay for it; every complaint already contains revenge."
"Rejoicing in our joy, not suffering over our suffering, makes someone a friend."
"People who have given us their complete confidence believe that they have a right to ours. The inference is false, a gift confers no rights."
"Talking much about oneself can also be a means to conceal oneself."
"Whoever has witnessed another's ideal becomes his inexorable judge and as it were his evil conscience."
"A friend should be a master at guessing and keeping still: you must not want to see everything."

Maria: I had a dream. We were already rehearsing and past and present were blending together. Confused.

Valentine: No kidding.

Maria: I shouldn't have said yes to Klaus, but Wilhelm's death, mourning, I couldn't refuse.

Valentine: He is a sick director. Jo-Ann is a superstar. Pay's well.

Maria: I don't need the money.

Valentine: OK.

Rosa shows Maria the Maloja Pass.

Valentine: (referring to Jo-Ann) "I love her. She's not completely antiseptic like the rest of Hollywood."

On the absurdity of modern life and Maria's initial hatred of the Internet:

"In the consciousness of the truth he has perceived, man now sees everywhere only the awfulness or the absurdity of existence and loathing seizes him."

Jo-Ann's TV interview.

Jo-Ann's TV interview.

Jo-Ann can't remember Klaus's last name.

Rehearsing at the cabin.

Maria: No, but everything is weighted to make Sigrid look good.

Valentine: I didn't read it like that. I see her arrogance and her cruelty. And Helena's humanity. She's able to talk about her own pain. It's moving.

Val leaves for Lake Como. Maria tries to back out of the project.

"Lion" Phase

Quotes by Nietzsche:

On Maria's education and choosing the correct path:

"The doer alone learneth."
"He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying."
"We often refuse to accept an idea merely because the tone of voice in which it has been expressed is unsympathetic to us."
"You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist."
"Experience, as a desire for experience, does not come off. We must not study ourselves while having an experience."
“No one can construct for you the bridge upon which precisely you must cross the stream of life, no one but you yourself alone.”
“A thinker sees his own actions as experiments and questions--as attempts to find out something. Success and failure are for him answers above all.”
“Meaning and morality of One's life come from within oneself. Healthy, strong individuals seek self expansion by experimenting and by living dangerously. Life consists of an infinite number of possibilities and the healthy person explores as many of them as posible. Religions that teach pity, self-contempt, humility, self-restraint and guilt are incorrect. The good life is ever changing, challenging, devoid of regret, intense, creative and risky.”
“One repays a teacher badly if one always remains nothing but a pupil.”
"He that writeth in blood and proverbs doth not want to be read, but learnt by heart.
In the mountains the shortest way is from peak to peak, but for that route thou must have long legs. Proverbs should be peaks, and those spoken to should be big and tall.
The atmosphere rare and pure, danger near and the spirit full of a joyful wickedness: thus are things well matched.
I want to have goblins about me, for I am courageous. The courage which scareth away ghosts, createth for itself goblins--it wanteth to laugh.”

On Maria's purpose:

"To forget one's purpose is the commonest form of stupidity."
"Many are stubborn in pursuit of the path they have chosen, few in pursuit of the goal."
“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”
“Is it better to out-monster the monster or to be quietly devoured?”
“Become who you are!”
“I know of no better life purpose than to perish in attempting the great and the impossible.”
“One must give value to their existence by behaving as if ones very existence were a work of art.”
“And once you are awake, you shall remain awake eternally. ”
“One must shed the bad taste of wanting to agree with many. "Good" is no longer good when one's neighbor mouths it. And how should there be a "common good"! The term contradicts itself: whatever can be common always has little value. In the end it must be as it is and always has been: great things remain for the great, abysses for the profound, nuances and shudders for the refined, and, in brief, all that is rare for the rare.”
“Live dangerously.”

On Maria's will to power:

"The world itself is the will to power - and nothing else! And you yourself are the will to power - and nothing else!"
"Not necessity, not desire - no, the love of power is the demon of men. Let them have everything - health, food, a place to live, entertainment - they are and remain unhappy and low-spirited: for the demon waits and waits and will be satisfied."
"Do whatever you will, but first be such as are able to will."
“It is the business of the very few to be independent; it is a privilege of the strong. And whoever attempts it, even with the best right, but without being OBLIGED to do so, proves
that he is probably not only strong, but also daring beyond measure. He enters into a labyrinth, he multiplies a thousandfold the dangers which life in itself already brings with it;
not the least of which is that no one can see how and where he loses his way, becomes isolated, and is torn piecemeal by some minotaur of conscience.
Supposing such a one comes to grief, it is so far from the comprehension of men that they neither feel it, nor sympathize with it. And he cannot any longer go back! He cannot even go back again to the sympathy of men!”

Voodoo trick.

Val is sick.

Maria is fascinated as Val returns.


Kowalski - Primal Scream

This radio station was named Kowalski
In honor of the last American hero to whom
Speed means freedom of the soul
The question is not when he's gonna stop
But who is gonna stop him

Like Kowalski in the vanishing point
Kowalski in the vanishing point
Kowalski in the vanishing point
Vanishing point, vanishing point
Vanishing point

Like a butterfly on a pin
Like a butterfly on a pin
Soul on ice
Soul on ice
Soul on ice
Soul on ice

What sounds good?
What sounds good?
What you need? Speed
Lighten up before

There goes the challenger being chased by the
Blue, blue, meanies on wheels
The vicious traffic squad car
Right after our lone driver
The last American hero
The, the electric centaur, the demi God
The super driver of the golden west

Two nasty Nazi cars are close behind
The beautiful lone driver
The police numbers are getting closer, closer
Closer to our soul hero, in his soul mobile
Yeah baby, they're about to strike
They're gonna get him, smash him
Rape the last beautiful free soul on this planet

Vanishing point
Vanishing point
Vanishing point
Vanishing point

Soul on ice
Soul on ice
Soul on ice
Soul on ice
Soul on ice
Soul on ice
Soul on ice

Hello Kowalski
Hello Kowalski
Hello Kowalski
Cut it off


Published by
Lyrics © EMI Music Publishing, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group

(From Wikipedia):

Gillespie has described the album as an anarcho-syndicalist speedfreak road-movie record. It is named after and inspired by the 1971 film Vanishing Point, especially the song "Kowalski", which is meant to be an alternative soundtrack of the movie. Lead singer Bobby Gillespie said, "The music in the film is hippy music, so we thought, 'Why not record some music that really reflects the mood of the film?' It's always been a favourite of the band, we love the air of paranoia and speed- freak righteousness. It's impossible to get hold of now, which is great! It's a pure underground film, rammed with claustrophobia."




Valentine: She knows that it means her downfall, but that's the ultimate truth to desire. It's fuckin' powerful!

Maria: (Laughter)

Valentine: Oh my God, I hate you sometimes so much!

Maria: You're making my head spin!

Here, Maria (Juliette Binoche) grills Valentine (Kristen Stewart) about the performance of Jo-Ann Ellis (Chloe Grace Moretz) who is about to join their theatrical project. They begin edging into Nietzsche territory, and briefly touch on 'Eternal Recurrence of the Same':

Maria: (Referring to Jo-Ann) She dives headfirst into a character's ambiguities, but I don't. That's why you admire what she does.

Valentine: Yeah. You know, I think that when you watch her in a movie like in the one we saw tonight, there is - there is no distance there.

Maria: It's normal, it's a - culture. Right?

Valentine: Agreed.

Maria: What's wrong with my acting? What do I need to do to make you admire me? Do I think too much? Huh? I'm too classical; not liberated like Jo-Ann? You're here to talk to me, so start talking.

Valentine: I don't know. You, you, you can't be as accomplished as you are and as well-rounded as an actress as you are and still expect to hold on to the privileges of youth. It just doesn't work that that.

Maria: Oh. So I'm allowed to not be old as long as I don't want to be young. Is that it?

Valentine: Yeah, I don't know, I guess so. Yes, totally, well put. Fuck. I think maybe good night.

(Maria feels Sigrid's lines in the script sound phony.)

Maria: Honestly, you don't find this ridiculous?

Valentine: Why, because she speaks brutally?

Maria: No, because it's phony. I don't believe it.

Valentine: So you don't think people can be blinded by their own emotions?

Maria: Oh, I do, but not to that extent. It's too theoretical. Even a little stupid.

Valentine: It's theater. It's an interpretation of life. It can be truer than life itself. Sigrid puts Helena's desires into words. She says the unspoken. She formulates it.

Maria: Cruelly.

Valentine: OK, Cruelly.

Maria: Yeah, cruelly. Because she's up to no good. You're not in the character's skin. You - I have no choice, I have to be them. I have to identify with them. When it's phony, I feel it - viscerally. Can be literary but still be true. Can feel the difference and can hear it.

(Against Valentine's suggestions, Maria leads them astray in the Alps.)

Maria: I think this road takes us to Maloja.

Valentine: What'll we do when we get to Maloja?

Maria: Take the bus.

Valentine: You know you don't have to keep me on if you find my ideas simplistic.

Maria: What makes you say that?

Valentine: If you find my point of view - uninteresting - I - I don't really know what I'm doing here. I can run lines with you but I don't really see the point. You can find anyone to do that.

Maria: All I'm saying is that thinking about a text is different than living it. It's nothing against you.

Valentine: You hate the play. You hate her. You don't have to take it out on me. I'm just doing my job.

(Referring once again to the play 'Maloja Snake')

Maria: I don't know why I should be helping bring it to life.

Valentine: I bet you weren't saying stuff like this when you were playing Sigrid.

Maria: I was a kid when I was playing Sigrid. I - I wasn't asking those kind of questions.

Valentine: Like Jo-Ann and her science fiction film?

Maria: Yeah, probably.

Valentine: Don't you want to get that innocence back?

Maria: You can't get innocent twice.

Valentine: You can. If you just accepted Helena the way you accepted Sigrid. Obviously it's easier to relate to strength rather than weakness. Youth is better than maturity. Cruelty is cruel; suffering sucks. She's - she's mature and she's innocent. She's innocent in her own right. That's what I like about her.

Maria: Make some coffee: want some?

Valentine: (Repeats 'Cruelty is cruel; suffering sucks' to herself and shakes head in self-conscious regret at the unsophisticated sound of it.)

Valentine: You didn't answer me. You have your interpretation of the play. I think mine's just confusing you. It's frustrating me. It's uncomfortable. It's not good.

Maria: Stay.

Valentine: No, no.

Maria: Please, stay. I need you.

36 - Joann likes Chris

Jo-Ann: I don't think you understand how much of an honor this is for me. When I was 15 I saw um - um, forgot that movie you did - with the CIA and Harrison Ford - I'm so sorry I'm blanking...

Maria: "A Beetle on Its Back."

Jo-Ann: "A Beetle on Its Back," with Harrison Ford. You blew my mind! You, you, you were the epitome of class. You were everything I ever wanted to be as an actress. I mean, the way you battled the politicians and the military brass men, it was, it was captivating!

Christopher Giles: We're not allowed to regret anything. If we're sincere, then we're the sum total of our experiences - no exceptions.

Jo-Ann: You know, it's incredibly brave of you to take on the role of Helena. It's - it's a way of dealing with time.

Maria: Well, I dunno, sometimes I - I tell myself that it's just a job, and I'll be happy to move on when it's over.

Nietzsche: "In praise there is more obtrusiveness than in blame."
"There is an innocence in admiration; it is found in those to whom it has never yet occurred that they, too, might be admired some day."


Maria: I don't know why you are so dead set on making this play say the opposite of what it was meant to say.

Valentine: At 20, you saw Sigrid's ambition, and you saw her violence because you felt it in yourself.

Maria: So?

Valentine: So, that's what I'm saying. The text is like an object. It's going to change perspective based on where you're standing.

Maria: I don't know.

Valentine: We should go. We're going to miss the snake.

Maria: There won't be any snake.

Valentine: Fuck it.

On the irrationality of Valentine's sacrifice:

"The irrationality of a thing is no argument against its existence, rather a condition of it."

On Valentine's disappearance:

"When one does away with oneself one does the most estimable thing possible: one thereby almost deserves to live."


"Child" Phase

The Art of Worldly Wisdom

Baltasar Gracian, 1647
(translated by Christopher Maurer)

PART 6 of 12

130. Do, but also seem.

Things do not pass for what they are, but for what they seem. To excel and to know how to show it is to excel twice. What is invisible might as well not exist. Reason itself is not venerated when it does not wear a reasonable face. Those easily duped outnumber the prudent. Deceit reigns, and things are judged from without, and are seldom what they seem. A fine exterior is the best recommendation of inner perfection.


(Talking about new scenes from Maloja Snake found by Wilhelm's widow Rosa and handed to Klaus)

Klaus: Some of the pages make no sense out of context but there are a few others that put the play in a new light.


Klaus: Wilhelm never had any distance or maturity. On the contrary, his last texts got bolder and bolder and more and more enigmatic. Here's another way of looking at it.
We think like him. We - we project ourselves into the future instead of freezing ourselves in the past.


(Talking about the paparazzi crisis swirling around Christopher Giles)

Klaus: The media is going to crucify him.

Jo-Ann: No, no. I'll take the heat. I'll be the homewrecker. I'm used to getting nasty shit written about me. I could obviously care less.

Klaus: Do you want to cancel tomorrow's rehearsal? Maria, would you mind?

Maria: Of course not.

Jo-Ann: No way. No, no, no. I'd rather work.


(And Maria adopts Valentine's spontaneous style of rehearsing! All this passive-aggressive action by Maria against Valentine has borne fruit!)


Here, the two Sigrids discuss their roles. The mask slips, and Jo-Ann momentarily reveals the boundless cruelty at the heart of Friedrich Nietzsche's dark vision:

(Maria challenges Jo-Ann on a scene:)

Maria: Jo-Ann?

Jo-Ann: What's up?

Maria: I wanted to ask you. You know the scene at the beginning of Act 3 when you tell me you want to leave and I get on my knees and I beg you to stay? You're on the phone ordering pepperoncini pizza for your coworkers in accounting. You leave without looking at me. As if I didn't exist. If you could pause for a second. Helena's distress would last longer when she's left alone in her office. Well, the way you're playing it, the audience follows you out but instantly forgets about her. So...

Jo-Ann: So? So what?

Maria: When, when I played Sigrid I held it longer. I thought it was more powerful. Erotically. I mean, it really played well.

Jo-Ann: No one gives a fuck about Helena at that point, do they? I'm sorry, it's pretty clear to me that this woman is all washed up. I mean, your character, Maria, not you. And when Sigrid leaves Helena's office, Helena's a wreck, and we get it. You know, it's time to move on. I think they want what comes next.

Maria : If you just held it a few seconds longer.

Jo-Ann: It doesn't really feel right for me, Maria.

Maria: You're right. Yeah. I - I - I think I'm - I'm lost in my memories. You think you've forgotten your old habits, but their all - they all come back. Have to break them.

Jo-Ann: I guess you do!

(Discussion with new director Piers Roaldson about proposed new movie mutant role for Maria:)

Piers: I'm trying to consider genetics from a more human point of view.

Maria: When I was reading it, I imagined someone much younger. Maybe me younger, actually, but you were seeing me in movies that were made years ago. I - I've changed.

Piers: She has no age. Or else, she's every age at once. Like all of us.

Maria: Can I be frank? Maybe it's because I'm working with her, but as I was reading it, I - I kept thinking about Jo-Ann.

Piers: Yeah, well personally, I never think about Jo-Ann Ellis.

Maria: You're wrong. She's smart. And talented. She's modern, just like your character.

Piers: My character isn't modern. Not in that way, anyway. She's, outside of time.

Maria: Outside of time. I don't understand. It's too abstract for me. It's all right.

Piers: I - I don't like this era.

Maria: You're wrong. It's yours!

Piers: Amen! I didn't choose it.

Maria: (laughs)

Piers: And if my era is Jo-Ann Ellis and viral Internet scandals I think I'm entitled to feel unrelated, aren't I. I mean, it's nothing against her, I guess I just assumed you'd understand.

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