An Idea for a Film
by F. David Peat
(Note on Dialogue: The dialogue, when it occurs, is
often simply overheard and not focussed upon. In many
cases we catch snatches of different dialogues that act
to create a sort of ambience or sound effect. On other
occasions dialogue may be more important.
Sound itself is of key importance in the film. It
provides a commentary, sometimes ironic, upon the
Evening. A university town somewhere in North America.
A deserted University Campus. As the camera roams we
see shots of a poster "Scientists for a Holistic World",
meeting rooms, a parked TV truck.
At the airport we see a banner welcoming scientists.
The lobby of a hotel or university residence. A few
scientists stand around in coats, holding brief cases.
They look lost and out of place.
Outside the hotel a cab has drawn up and a group of
scientists stand around discussing the cab fare.
We catch snatches of their dialogue.
-Hang on, let's do an order of magnitude
-No, take it up to a round thirty bucks and
then interpolate back
-Anyone got change for a twenty?
-You give me ten, I'll give you twenty.
-Twenty-seven dollar's a prime number, it's
not going to work out.
-It will if you all give me five.
-Who's got a calculator?
-Get out of the light for Christ's sake,
this is solar powered.
-I make that $4.1572 each.
Just pay up will ya! I gotta living to make.
-Yeah, well you can just wait? This is
important, we're trying to do a calculation.
-If we all put in a dollar fifty we can
-That's it. Great. No! The tip! The tip! We
forgot the tip.
-I've dropped my bloody contacts, I can't
see a thing without my contacts.
-I've got a PC in the back--Driver open the
trunk will you, I wanna get my computer out.
I can do a direct cash transfer with my
-D'you take American Express?
-The signal's fucking weak. Anyone got a
-I've got some great software for cab fares,
you wouldn't believe the graphics.
Oliver at Night
It is night in Oliver's home. We are in a bedroom and
can dimly make out two figures in the bed. Something
falls. We hear a curse. Oliver sits up. We see him
stagger from the bedroom and go into the bathroom- a
sudden flood of hard white light. Oliver looks at
himself in the mirror. He is unshaven and haggard.
In a series of brief shots connected by jump cuts we see
Oliver move through the house, enter his office, and
switch on his PC. We see him lit from below by the
screen as he works at the PC. Oliver gets up and wanders
around. In the dim light we see him drinking from a
whiskey bottle, a book under his arm.
The light from the fridge suddenly cuts through the
darkness. Oliver takes out a jar of olives, some cheese
and a carton of milk and begins to eat. The bottle of
Scotch is empty. He lets it slide out of his hand then
pokes around in a cupboard. We hear the sound of bottles
Hmm Slivovits, ugh...gin? Gin and...hm...gin
and milk? Gin and coke? Gin and gin?
He takes a gulp from the bottle and recoils
Ugh, how can she drink this stuff? It's
like aftershave. Aftershave. There's an
idea... No, it's got to be gin. But gin
and... and ! Crystals... that's it! Gin
Oliver pours gin into a cup. He rips open a Koolaid
packet with this teeth and pours it into the cup.
All those wonderful colors.
He stirs the mixture with his finger and tastes it. He
grimaces, then pours in a little milk and adds more
Koolaid. Sipping his drink he makes a pretence of the
Perfect, who said creativity was dead?
Oliver takes his drink, the bottle of gin, the Koolaid
packet, the carton of milk and his book. He lies on a
sofa and reads by the light of the television--with the
We hear a morning alarm ring although it is still night.
We see white noise on the TV screen
The alarm continues but it is now bright morning. Oliver
is asleep on the sofa, the book on his chest and the
empty gin bottle on the floor. Oliver's wife shakes him
It's 7:15. You asked me to wake you.
Oliver is groggy with sleep and gin. He tries to sit up.
His wife picks up the empty gin bottle and looks at it.
Oliver smiles at her, his hand gestures above his head.
Ideas....you know. Floating.....around.
I'll get you a coffee.
Oliver settles back down again:
Sleep a bit.
WIFE (shakes him roughly)
I'm going out and you've got people to meet.
It's the conference today, isn't it? Joakim
See you for lunch?
Maybe, I don't know.
OLIVER: (In alarm)
No, you've got to.
I've got things to do.
But I can't take those people all day.
It was your idea, not mine. Anyway you'd
better shower, you've got to give a
statement on television.
An interview....not a statement.
I'm late, I've got to go. (She walks away).
Hey! (He gestures for her to return). Do
something for me will you?
Run the shower nice and hot.
Then jump in and take if for me.
The Wife exits in anger, but Oliver finds this very
funny and continues laughing to himself.
And take it for me!
Oliver at the University. Day
[The following scenes they take place at the University
and during the central part of the day.
Additional scenes will explore Oliver's relationship
with his wife, including his desire for control. His
early excitement and belief in science, as told through
scenes with important people in his past. We must also
see his increasing confusion and disillusionment during
the day. An important aspect of this are the questions
put to him by colleagues, situations, interior monologue
and memories. Oliver is being forced into a corner by
the whole history of his life and ideas. He is being
driven to a crisis point.]
The period of daylight is bisected by lunch. During the
morning Oliver meets with various orthodox scientists as
well as with old friends and colleagues. He also falls
into certain memories or fantasies about his childhood
and youth. But following lunch the people he meets
seems to have become transformed into adherents of
various New Age beliefs. He begins to meet people who
have "answers" to life and inflated plans for the
The setting for this central daylight period is a
university campus and we soon become aware of a
dehumanized and denatured aspect in the environment. The
textures are hard and unyielding, plastic, concrete,
steel, aluminum, glass. If there are plants and trees
then let them be artificial, or in pots. At one point
we see a tree being removed from an office and replaced
with another, identical tree.
Throughout this central section of the film the sound
track contains an undercurrent of electrical, electronic
sounds--a composition that underlies any dialogue or
music. In place of birds and the distant barking of
dogs that often characterize an outdoor scene, we hear
the click of a keyboard, the sounds of a modem dialing
and being connected, laser and mechanical printers,
electronic pagers, bleeps, Xerox machines, the hums from
From time to time we also briefly glance at a television
screens which seem to comment on the action by showing
"science programs", shots of trees being cut and burned,
polluted rivers. Later in the film Oliver is in the
country, the contrast with this man-made environment is
Morning. The University Campus.
At first, while Oliver is seen walking across the
university campus, we have not yet left the world of
trees, grass and birdsong. But as the morning
progresses these sights and sounds are replaced by those
of a more mechanical kind.
A lecture hall where Oliver is officially opening the
As Oliver speaks the camera roams around the audience,
wanders around corridors and out into the campus where
students are sitting on the grass, then back into the
I want to welcome all of you. This is a
highly emotional moment for me. Over the
last few months I've been acting as the
catalyst that would bring you together.
Well, now you're all hear. I'm.....I'm
amazed. And I'm deeply flattered. T his is
my dream come true.
But let's get down to business. I want to
welcome all you astronomers who are
concerned about black holes and the creation
of the universe. And I want to welcome you
physicists who probe the very smallest--the
spaces below the quarks.
Who knows that if in going to the very
smallest limit we may not emerge into the
very largest? And you biologists who are
working on the genetic code. A code is a
language. It is information. How curious
that each one of us is the creation of a
sort of molecular language. Who knows if a
similar language guides the properties of
the elementary particles? That's one of the
questions I'll be asking you over the next
few days. How can we go beyond relativity
and quantum theory? What is it that lies at
the basis of this universe of ours. It's it
mathematics? Is it algebra? Is it logic?
Or is it a sort of language, the ultimate
code of nature?
And there are also some of you here
concerned with another type of language--the
language of the brain and the basis of a
quantum of memory.
So in a way, despite the different hats we
may wear we are all working together. It is
truly heartening to have brought so many
outstanding thinkers to the same place. He
points to two or three Noble Prize winners
in the audience We've got a handful of
Nobel prize winners here --and quite a few
more potential laureates (laughter). And
let me not forget, he concludes, our cousins
in the less hard sciences--the sociologists,
psychotherapists--and the others who will
join us this afternoon. They too are also
seeking the boundary between matter and the
My dream is of an integrated knowledge, from
the elementary particle to the galaxy, from
human creativity to the genetic code. For
too long has our knowledge been fragmented.
Now I see a total transformation of society,
indeed a new age. We have reached the 21st
century. It is a time of hope for all of
us. Thank you.
Outdoors. The Campus
It is a bright, cheerful, warm morning. Oliver appears
happy and energetic. We see him walking with his
assistant, a young physics student who is overburdened
with a clip board, portable telephone, brief case and
sheaves of computer printer output which tend to
unravel. Oliver greets participants at the conference.
He smiles, waves and shakes hands. Our impression is of
constant movement and activity, of energy. We catch only
parts of the conversation between Oliver and his
assistant talking together.
Professor Oesterman is arriving by car.
I'll have to be there for that.
The President of the University was hoping for a formal
What about accommodation?
The pure mathematicians were having trouble
finding their rooms last night.
They seemed to be confused about which way
up to hold their maps. (Oliver laughs). And
don't forget the TV statement to night,
they'll collect you at 10:30.
Interview, not statement.
A newspaper reporter steps in. She asks Oliver some
difficult questions. She is critical of science and all
this hope for the future. What about all the terrible
problems we have created on the planet, she asks,
pollution etc? Oliver smiles and tries to explain,
seducing her with his eyes.
You are so intense.
Through the evocation of her questions and intensity he
is plunged back into memories of another woman--a young
painter. We see Oliver, as a young man, and the painter
together. They talk about art and science. He explains
to her that there is magic in the way science looks at
the world. He shows her a quantum jump using an apple.
As he juggles with apples and oranges the fruit seems
somehow to become superposed. Oliver is trying to get
across the idea that reality is very more mysterious
that any act of the imagination. Together they are
going to unify the arts and the sciences.
Oliver is rushing ahead with his assistant when suddenly
he freezes and stares down and sees, on the clean, pure,
white concrete pavement, a curious pattern consisting of
just a few stones and sticks at his feet.
Don't take any notice of her, she's just an
A sudden very brief flash of Oliver as a boy. He is
arranging a pattern of stones on the ground. We will
see echoes of this pattern on several other occasions.
Back in the present. In front of him the old woman is
slowly moving grains of brown rice on a large bamboo
dish. She keeps her head is down and chants. Her voice
is indistinct. It is as if she mumbles or sings, half
to herself and half to the grains of rice. Her
personality and whole attitude arrests Oliver in his
confident forward movement.
Oliver seems unable to move. He stares down at the
pattern which is very simple yet compelling. We hear a
voice (her voice?)
"Everything in connection. Inscape and
Landscape. The Patterns of the Universe."
The old woman continues to chant while Oliver stares at
the pattern. She looks up at him.
Never break the pattern.
In a sudden movement she flings the grains of rice
towards Oliver who frantically brushes them off.
Oliver's companion kicks at the arrangement of sticks
and stones, sending them flying.
The old woman laughs. Oliver's colleague jokes
Holism's the new religion, or hadn't you
heard? Everything's connected to everything
else--people even use sun spots to predict
the stock market. They'll believe in
Oliver moves on but now his confidence appears shaken
and his energy drained. The bird songs and sights of
nature have faded away.
The Arrival of a Great Scientist.
There has been much anticipation at the arrival of the
Great Scientist, Joakim Oesterman. Now he appears
through the crowd, pushed in a wheelchair by his
assistant, a young woman in a white uniform. Her bearing
is severe and uncompromising. Oesterman is of extreme
old age and so encased in rugs, blankets and scarves
that we can hardly see him. We sense that is so old as
to appear sexless, indeed his part is played by a woman.
The crowd of scientists part as the old man is pushed
forward. Some push their papers and books forward for
him to touch- or be blessed, other's genuflect, touch
his blankets, almost cross themselves. We heard their
voices, but catch only occasional fragments of what they
He worked with Einstein.
He won got the Nobel Prize at thirty.
They say he's solved Fermat's Last
He doesn't have to use mathematics to
derive the results--the proof simply arrives
in his head.
Oesterman's Equation came to him in a
Einstein called him his spiritual son.
He's solved the Unified Field Theory but
refused to publish it.
The wheel chair stops in front of Oliver who bows
We are deeply honored Professor. We..I.. am
The old man moves his lips but there is no sound.
The Herr doctor Professor says there is no
conflict, there is no beginning and there is
no end." (A pause) "The Herr doctor
Professor says there beneath the atom there
is only eternal flux and ceaseless movement.
The old man now raises his hand and points at Oliver.
The Herr doctor professor says he has
touched the seventh veil that lies in front
of the heart of reality.
The old man lowers his hand and his head drops onto his
The Herr doctor professor will sleep now.
Oliver bows and Oesterman's assistant wheels away the
old man in his chair.
A flash back to Oliver as a graduate student.
Oliver is sitting at a table, looking very unsure of
himself, and flanked by two professors. They hold
copies of his thesis:
This thesis of yours.
It just won't do.
You see, for a theory to work it must be
elegant and totally simple.
The universe is so complex and this whole
approach of yours. Its too...
Its not sufficiently elegant, it lacks
Yet not complex enough.
And the topic...!
But I really wanted to...
We can't all be another Einstein, can we?
Do something practical.
Forget this dreaming.
Results, results, results.
Publish, publish, publish.
ONE,TWO and THREE
Forget all this dreaming.
The Campus. The Present
Oliver meets up with an old colleague and they talk
together. He tries to talk about his dreams of unity.
But the colleague, Peter, seems to be laughing at him.
He takes an egg out of his pocket.
The universe is like this?
Exactly rich with meaning, packed full.
"Everything is a search for meaning." But
there is no meaning--the universe is this.
He takes the egg and crushes it in his hand. It simply
crumbles to a fine powder.
The universe is a blown egg. It contains
nothing. It is totally empty. That's what
freedom means, you're not tied to anything.
You have to make your own meaning.
It is night and Oliver, as a boy, walks with his father.
We are in some indistinct region where the sounds of
nature are distorted and threatening. It is a dead and
barren landscape. If there are trees then they are
without leaves or twigs. The earth is dry and dusty,
without grass. The birds and insects, the different
sounds of nature are electronic and mechanical.
Father and son descend a series steps and enter into a
large building. Inside is a laboratory. It stretches
far into the distance and is many stories high. The boy
and his father are dwarfed by giant electrical machines.
These are not machines of the twentieth century for seem
to be of an earlier period--the late nineteenth century.
Great brass and copper globes, transformers, giant
capacitors tens of feet high, cables, wires, meters.
There may even be bursts of high pressure steam, or
clouds of liquid air, or even the glow and roar of a
furnace. Everywhere there is the buzz and crackle of
electricity, the whole environment is mysterious and
threatening. The lighting is in a high key and the
father's face is full of deep shadows.
At no time do we seen the father show tenderness to the
boy or even acknowledge his presence. The boy appears
frightened by the size of the machines and by their
noise, yet there is also a hint of his fascination with
their great power and potential.
The father points to a pair of globes at the far end of
the laboratory. There is a moment of silence and then a
staggering bolt of lightning flashes between the
spheres. Again and again the lightning flashes. We see
the boy's face lit by the flashes of light. It is full
of fear, yet at the same time almost hypnotized and
fascinated by what he is seeing. He reaches out to hold
his father's hand but at the last moment lowers his
The lightning stops and the father points to a table.
On it is a long fluorescent tube. But the tube, not
being connected to any power source, is dark. The more
menacing sounds of the laboratory have faded now,
leaving only an electrical hum. The father hands the
tube to the boy. The boy takes the dark tube and
suddenly it fills with light. The boy stares in wonder
at this light and his face is lit up with its cold
illumination. He runs his hand over the tube and stares
into its depths. The father smiles down at the boy.
The Campus. The Present.
A scientist stares, unblinking ahead of him. His eyes
seem to be covered with an opaque film. He gives the
impression of all seeking blindness.
OLIVER (whispers to his associate)
That's Burnack, the astronomer.
Burnack speaks, his eyes fixed ahead.
I see galaxies without end, space upon
space, endlessly. I see the birth and death
He raises his hand to his face and a radiant look
animates him for a moment.
I feel the solar wind on my cheek. Endless,
A flash back to Oliver, as a young graduate student,
talking to his supervisor.
The two are in an office at the university. Oliver sits
while his supervisor, at the other side of the desk,
walks as he talks. There is something of the headmaster
or priest in the way he lectures to Oliver. The
supervisor insists that scientists are like priests;
they are in the world, yet not of it. They must
dedicate themselves to nature, to learning her secrets.
They must not sleep or deviate from this aim. The
scientist is not a doer, not a participator, not an
actor. He stands outside, he observes without touching.
We must learn to be self effacing, the older scientist
In a later flashback we will again return to the scene.
The supervisor shows the young man a book.
The great Ernst Mach wrote this book, his
signature is in the front. I met him one
when I was a small boy. He was the man who
deeply influenced Einstein."
He turns to an illustration and shows it to the boy. It
is a monocular vision, a vision of Mach's room but seen
as through a single eye.
This is how Mach saw the world. He was
analytical, dispassionate- a genius.
Oliver, a boy
It is night and Oliver, as a young boy, is dressed in
his pajamas. With the aid of a flash light, carefully
descends a dark staircase. Using his hand he gropes his
way downstairs. An indistinct whispering can be heard.
He moves along a corridor and approaches a door which is
opened to reveal a small crack.
[This is the first of a series of this particular memory
that slowly unfold over the film. At first we only seen
the boy approach the door. But later we will see:-]
Oliver approaches the door and very gently pushes it
open, ever so slightly, so that he can stare into the
room. The room is lit only by firelight. In front of
the fire his mother sits naked in a bath tub. She has
her back to the boy and she gently sponges her naked
body. Her nakedness is illuminated by the gentle, warm,
flickering firelight. The rest of the room is in
darkness, lit faintly by the fire.
In the corner Oliver makes out his father, sitting
upright, dressed in Edwardian rigor. He has a book on
his knee. He straightens in his chair and looks at his
wife without emotion. The book falls. We see its open
page--the drawing of Ernst Mach of the scientist in his
chair. The door is slowly closed from the inside and
Oliver is left, small and cold, outside.
A brief glimpse of the mother, cut to Oliver's face, but
Oliver is now an adult. Cut to the father. The book
falls. Close up of the book. We see a drawing of "the
scientist in his armchair". Pull back to Oliver as an
adult. He turns the pages of the book it is Ernst
Mach's "Principle's of Mechanics".
OLIVER (voice over)
Ernst Mach--Einstein's intellectual father--
the man who believed that we are the passive
observers of the world. The scientist sits
in his armchair and looks out at the world.
But it doesn't work like that does it? The
world hits you in the face--and sometimes
you're forced to hit back.
The present The Conference
Oliver enters a room. A group surrounds a scientist who
has wired up a dog. Electrical leads come out of the
dog's stomach and head, they are connected to a keyboard
I've always been more interested in a meat
machine that in a silicon based
intelligence. The specimen now functioning
as a microprocessor."
He begins to type on the keyboard and the dog twitches
and moves. He stops typing.
See, the organism has been programmed to
Paper pours from the printer. Oliver tears off a page
and begins to read: "(TO be inserted--a quotation from
John Stuart Mill's "On Liberty")
The Lunch meeting
A table at an outdoor restaurant. We hear the sounds of
nature, faint bird song. Oliver's wife is sitting
alone. A waiter hovers nearby and finally speaks.
What? Oh, I don't know. A Perrier I
suppose....and a twist of lime, no lemon.
The Waiter nods and moves away.
Oliver tries to escape from a group of colleagues.
Oliver's wife is scraping the label off the Perrier
bottle with her finger nail. She glances at her watch.
Lots of activity. Oliver runs for his car.
Oliver's wife, stands, drops some money on the table and
Oliver in the back of a moving cab.
He is sitting forward and giving directions.
The Restaurant exit.
Oliver`s wife exits the restaurant. Oliver runs in from
the other direction and touches her on the shoulder.
I was late.
You said 12:30, look at it now.
I've got to talk to you.
(He begins to lead her back to the table and gestures to
Look, I'm busy. I've got things to do this
(To the waiter) Have you got a menu? Yes. No,
I just want something fast, a sandwich or
(To his wife) Have you eaten?
An espresso, right? She'll have an espresso
(She shrugs) and bring me a--I don't know
tuna on whole-wheat, or chicken salad or
Oliver is sitting, his wife still stands. He half rises
from his chair and gestures. She finally sits. Oliver
collapses back into his chair, satisfied at this small
victory. His wife remains silent. Oliver looks around
It's nice here isn't it?
God, how long have you lived in this city?
(Serious) We've got to talk.
Not again. Well? Go on.
Well its... I... Look, it's not so easy to
start, just like that, you've got to help
Its always so vitally important for you
isn't it? I mean, its a matter of life and
Look, some thing's, well, happening to me. I
don't know, but its like, well the meanings
going out of things. Do you know what I'm
Oliver slowly starts getting caught up in what he is
saying and carried away by his own rhetoric.
Its a bit like, well I can't seem to touch
things any more, not directly. (getting
excited) Look, today I was walking with
Andre and suddenly.....(he notices her
expression) You don't really want to hear
this do you? (she looks at him and shrugs).
You don't really care.
(very sincere but exhausted) Its not that,
but you always seem to want to get me
involved, you need to suck me down into your
problem. And then suddenly one day you're
not there anymore--you're off on another
tack and I'm left in the hole. Oliver,
listen to me. I just can't go on living
like that. I've got to have some space to
myself. Its like living with... Oh I don't
(touches her hand and smiles
sympathetically) Yes, I know, I know exactly
what you mean, its just that I...
Can't you hear what I'm saying. I've got my
own life and I'm not going to be sucked down
(angry) Yes, sure
I'll listen to you, but not to the same old
stuff over and over again.
It wasn't always like that.
You used to have real dreams once. (a sudden
reaction in Oliver's face) I've got to go.
She stands up. Touches his face tenderly and leaves.
Oliver picks up the Perrier bottle and begins to play
with the label. He suddenly starts and looks round.
All he sees is the cafe, its patrons, the waiter
approaching, holding his sandwich. He goes back to
picking the bottle.
Oliver and his future wife. A series of brief shots
suggesting great energy and movement, they are laughing,
looking at each other. We see them walking down a
street, beside a waterfall, by a river, coming out of a
movie theater. Suddenly Oliver takes her by the hands
and swings here around.
I don't want to stop. We've got to keep on
running together--we've can't even sleep.
They a walking beside a canal in the city, evening, the
street lights illuminate them.
You know I've got this...Oh it sounds
No, go on.
It's like a sort of vision of, well
something totally new. A completely
different way of doing science.
Well, no, not that, not so much stars and
atoms and things but people. Its... its a
way of looking at the whole universe... of
being a part of it, right in the heart of
things. Do you know what I mean?
(Shakes her head)
Listen.(pause) If got this feeling that
everything is going to come together...
science, art, music. I mean, why shouldn't
a symphony be as much a theory of the
universe as relativity. Or Bach? Bach's...
Magnificat. People like him saw something
that no one else could.
And you can see it too?
(laughs) Why not? (shrugs, then is serious).
Well, yes, sometimes. Yes, I think I do.
There's really no division between things
when you get that deep... and I think I
can... The whole thing (waves his arms to
indicate the sky and earth) its like a great
work of art... but its eternally being
painted, or played or thought about and...
and when you see it that way, why there's no
division from people, between you and me.
Look, its hard to say, but I'm not trying to
be abstract or anything, because... we're
all a part of it. Like being in an
orchestra. And that means that something's
going to change, something new is going to
(laughing with him) I don't know what it all
means, but the sound is fantastic.
Oliver with his wife in the past. They are walking in
We're free. Can't you taste it. Not just
you and me but everything. (he suddenly
sits and grabs a stone, he shows it to her.
she takes a handful of tiny pebbles and
moves them in her hand). Look at this...
its free... every atom inside can make a
decision. But don't you see what that
means... for us. We never have to be
trapped by anything again.
(She anoints him with the pebbles)
Present. The Conference
We see a man and a woman arguing- a very depressed
couple stand, inert beside them.
That's Helga and Arnold, they've developed a
new form of marriage therapy. They first
interview the couple individually and then
work out the dynamics between themselves.
Scene: A group of psychologists and workshop leaders
talk amongst themselves:
I'm charging $500 for a weekend on death.
Will death take that?
Death's very active at the moment
You can't lose with death.
If I were a younger man I'd get right into
That's just a fad, like wife abuse.
Christ how can you say that, how can you be
so casual about that?
Look lady, don't try to tell me about
fucking wife abuse, I was publishing while
you still were dry humping at grade school.
We're doing lots of touching and feeling,
you know making our own costumes.
Yeah, I know, I once tried macramé with
bipolar affective disorders--but when they
got into the manic phase they just couldn't
handle the knots.
I'm writing a self-help manual for child
Yeah, that's a good market, you wanna put in
a lot of check lists and boxes.
I've been thinking of writing a book for
codependents of people who read self-help
Helga and Arnold
We see Helga and Arnold, the marriage therapists,
So I'm fat, you call me fat? Well look at
Your mother told me, she warned me about
A group of scientists are speaking together
I'm researching thought.
But how can people expect to understand the
nature of human consciousness if they're not
up to date on the scientific literature?
I thought of studying introversion.
You'd need a good control group.
I was going to get into creativity but it
was coming to the end of the fiscal year so
I had to spend the money on a computer.
Helga and Arnold again
You call that food! I'd rather starve.
The depressed couple look at each other and shrug.
A round table panel on nuclear war.
We hear the remarks of a group of scientists.
We must learn to dialogue about our wounds.
It's not nuclear war that's the real issue,
but the control of women's bodies by a
But we've never really had a chance at a
small controlled nuclear controversy--you
know, just to test out our model of the
It's the frustration of the orgasm that lies
at the root of all anger.
I sometimes think that with enough love we
could stop the bombs going off--you know,
sort of prevent the nuclear reactions ever
occurring- right at the quantum level.
We all create our own reality.
No, no, no...don't you see? We will never
prevent war, violence is programmed into the
triune brain. So what we've got to is save
the data banks, we've got to bury our
biggest computers miles underground. We
can't do anything for the human race but we
can save the Artificial Intelligence.
Think of a world without people, without any
disturbing emotion. Just a great computer
network, eternally dialoguing with itself in
abstract mathematics. It would be like a
People have feelings and emotions, that's
what makes them so unpredictable.
Computers are logical, its the human brain
that's at fault.
No, it doesn't have to be that way. We can
control it, we can modify the
neurotransmitters in the brain. (he holds up
a test tube). With this, it can change the
whole chemical management of your thinking.
I can even induce visions the mystics saw.
Meister Eckhard, Hildegard of Bingen, St.
John of the Cross, Blessed Julian of
Norwitch. With just a few molecules of this
you can see God.
(breaks into the discussion) Jesus, I like
this, God as a food additive! Think of what
Ronald Macdonald could do with it--You know
I always felt food additives were the great
scientific breakthrough of the 20th century.
By the year 2000 we should be able to
eliminate fats, sugars, carbohydrates and
proteins all together and just live off the
Helga and Arnold
I'm leaving you.
Don't talk about it, then. Do it. Go.
And don't think you'll get the car.
Take the car, take the house. You can have
the children too.
The married couple begin to hold hands, watching the
I don't want the children, you have the
Always evading your responsibilities, aren't
Don't project your neuroses onto me.
Neuroses, she says, neuroses. All I ever
hear is neuroses.
At least I have a healthy attitude to sex.
And what's that supposed to mean?
The married couple walk off hand in hand.
I don't have to keep a stuffed fish under
Oliver ducks out of a lecture
Oliver sits on a discussion panel. He notices a young
woman in the audience-she evokes the woman that has
appeared in certain of his fantasies. She stands up
goes to the exit, looking back at him. Oliver excuses
himself and gets up to follow. Outside she walks past
several students and on into the countryside. Oliver
tries to follow her but she is always out of reach.
Oliver in the country
Oliver has been following the woman and now the sounds
of the country engulf him. It is hot lazy day. Insects
buzz. Oliver sits down, wipes his head. He looks
around at the flowers, plants and insects. He lies down
and begins to dream. In the dream Oliver moving through
a warm, comforting nature.
It is late afternoon when Oliver wakes, a time of long
shadows. He looks around and sees a movement. Again he
attempts to follow the woman. This time into a dark
wood. Finally he emerges into a clearing and sees a
house. Some of the windows are lit.
Oliver in the Dark House
Oliver enters the house. He calls out. He moves from
room to room--but there are simply shadows. He feels
that he is entering an earlier century. There are faint
sounds of a harpsichord. Memories of his childhood--
sights and faint, distant sounds. Possibly he even
fancies he sees a man seated at the keyboard--from the
era of Newton. A sudden movement. He turns his head, a
door is closing. He searches through the house. There
are other movements, just at the corner of his vision.
Footsteps. Whispered sounds and laughter. He turns and
sees his wife in the shadows.
What is happening? Where is everyone? Why
are you here?
I came to find you--Its such a warm night
they decided to eat outside.
But I need to talk to you..."
(she puts a hand on his lips) Follow me.
(she slips out of the door)
Oliver follows, calling her name. He follows a fleeting
shadow out of the house.
The Night Dinner
A number of tables are laid for dinner--illuminated by
spot lights and floods.
The scientists are gathered. Oliver moves through them
catching parts of their conversation.
This is the devil's banquet, the last death throes of
civilization. God is dead, society falls apart, science
and technology are empty--all that is left is this
insane dance from movement to movement, belief to
belief--each one crazier than the last. So everyone is
there- the physicists and psychotherapists,
mathematicians and mystics, altered states,
workshoppers, creation story--everyone. We see them at
the dark night of the soul-
At one end of the table several New Age scientists are
engaged in a tight rivalry.
Someone on the side of the group raises a his glass of
wine and looks into it.
They filter this through asbestos.
This is the clue for another round in their argument.
one takes out a pendulum and waves it over the wine.
No this is good, no additives.
Another, with a pendulum:
Yes, a good vintage.
Another takes out divining rods and passes them over a
glass of water.
This water is dead, it has no memory.
Another takes out an electrical box.
The molecules have negative helicity. I can
charge it for you.
Here, allow me. (he makes passes with his
hands over the glass) It's quite safe to
drink now. I've rearranged the molecules.
I thought you were a Buddhist
No I'm a Sufi now.
I've got my own native Shaman.
I'm taking a vision quest next month.
But there's a mystic who can do the whole
thing in one weekend--there's even a special
rate on at the Holiday Inn.
I paid my teacher $1,000 to learn to balance
my electron energy.
That's nothing I paid $5,000 for quantum
I've given $10,000 to adjust my daughter's
You can get channeling covered by Medicare
What about soul readings?
I've tried fire walking--its a revealing
At another part of a table. A woman passes her hands
over another's head.
Your daughter has a tumor in her breast.
Its malignant but it hasn't been detected
The mother reacts with rapture.
Oh you're marvelous. Isn't she wonderful?
She cured my cat of cystitis last week.
Do you have her photograph?
The healer holds the photograph up to her forehead.
There, the cancer has gone. I've also adjusted a disc in
her spine. Tell her to sleep with a piece of blue paper
pinned over her bed.
Someone gets on the table to do the Dance of Creation--
but they are a little uncoordinated, physical
cumbersome, anyway the table is too crowded.
A man eats with great appetite, shoving in his food and
I was reborn into the third level of
unmanifest reality by Sheena-wa-pookna.
Yeah--Shela Kowalski, she did a graduate
course with me at Columbia.
No, Kowalski's the poststructuralist mystic.
She deconstructed my wife at a fire walking
She's the spiritual descendant of White
Buffalo Woman. Sheena-wa-pookna uses ancient
magnetic earth energy.
She ran a healing course for IBM executives
in the summer.
She put me in a pit for three days and
heaped rocks and sacred dung on top of me.
It was so...so elemental- a real death.
Yeah? You wanna watch that dung. Some
shamans are using substitutes now.
(thrusting great gobs of food into his
mouth) I've transcended earthly desires.
The Scientist's Play
The conversation is interrupted when a man made up to
look like Einstein enters. He is playing a violin. We
are clearly aware that this is one of the scientists
"playing" at being Einstein. The guests laugh and we
hear their reaction.
Look its Einstein.
We always put on a play at the dinner.
It's old Noakes, he always plays Einstein.
Einstein sees a man with a long white beard playing
(in German): Ach! I refuse to believe that
God plays dice with the world....but I could
Bohr and Heisenberg arrive on unicycles juggling eggs to
each other. Freud, Newton, and Darwin later appear.
Ach it is that Heisenberg and his friend
Bohr with their new quantum theory. I must
Bohr and Heisenberg pelt Einstein with eggs. The
scientists at the table laugh.
Death to nineteenth century physics.
Away with old ideas.
Here comes an old idea.
Galileo enters dragging a rack. There is a beautiful
woman tied to the rack, voluptuous, half naked. Galielo
begins to turn the rack, the woman squirms and screams--
she seems in pain or the grip of an erotic experience.
[During this scene we truck along the table looking up
at the scientists. They are now fat, greasy, sweaty and
drunk. There now seem to be only men present and they
cheer and bang their glasses on the table.]
He's stretching nature on the rack.
Get her secrets.
Nature's a lying bitch.
She's got to be controlled.
She's got to be mastered.
Cut off her hair.
Burn the bitch nature.
Don't believe what she says.
Give her a good stretching.
Ask her about superstrings.
What's the lifetime of the proton?
What about the fifth force?
Galielo stands back and takes his bow. He offers his
hand to nature who stands, simpers, nods and raises her
See, I wasn't hurt at all. I'm perfectly
all right. No one hurt me.
Nature coos and simpers erotically, seductively. She
kisses Galelio's hand.
My master--you're so strong, you're so
Galelio begins to make obscene gestures and movements.
The scientists roar in approval.
Nature suddenly becomes animated. She pushes Galielo
No. First we must have the trial.
The scientists take up her cry.
Nature walks towards Oliver.
We must have a victim".
Nature takes Oliver by the hand and leads him to where
Einstein, Heisenberg, Bohr and Galileo sit in judgement.
Nature takes the center chair, she is both judge,
prosecution and Oliver's defense. Her mood and
appearance varies continuously--innocent, voluptuous and
seductive, motherly, violent and destructive, angry,
Oliver you are on trial for your life. Have
you been loyal to mother nature?
At first Oliver smiles and tries to play along with the
game. But soon he becomes increasingly disturbed and
The accusers cry
He wrote a popular book.
He rejects the Copenhagen interpretation of
He's late with his student's marking.
one of his papers contained a superficial
He doesn't acknowledge his sources.
He gives poor references.
I caught him wanking in school.
He's a liar and a tell tale.
He's no good at football.
The referees reject your paper as lacking
Were you good to your mother? Did you look
after her? Were you always faithful to me?
Nature turns to Oliver's wife
What's he like in bed? Did he satisfy you?
Were there others? Was he the best you ever
(to Oliver) Did you comb your hair? Did
you wash behind your ears? Do you get
excited when you think about me?
The whole trial is carried out in a circular, spiraling
motion with Nature constantly moving around Oliver, who
in turn looks around at his accusers. The faces at the
table are menacing now.
Off with it. His head's grown too big.
Nature takes his head and gives him a very deep kiss.
She rubs his crotch.
Hands reach out either side and grab Oliver's arms,
pulling him back from Mother Nature. Nature begins to
cry, she reaches out to touch Oliver's cheek.
Nature turns and laughs. She walks away getting caught
up in the crowd.
As Oliver is led away we look back at the tables. The
light has changed. It is more penetrating--like the
cold, hard light of morning. It falls on the faces,
they seem old, haggard, their make-up runs. We see the
deserted tables, piled with food, spilled glasses--a
dusty wind blows the scraps and table cloths. We see
"Einstein" isolated, the cold wind blowing around him.
He plays his violin and for a moment the sound raises
itself triumphantly until it is drowned out by the icy
The guards, in menacing uniform, guns at their side
arrest him away.
Are you Professor Oliver Johns? Come this
The guards frog march him away.
We have very little time now.
Oliver shouts out for his wife. He suddenly sees her.
She tries to get towards him but the crowd gets in her
away. Oliver is pushed into a van, the guards sit
either side of him. As the van drives away lights and
shadows move across Oliver's face.
We have very little time now.
We're taking you to the studio.
Oliver sits in silence as the street lights move across
his face. All street and automobile sounds are cut out.
A period of silence. Sound of a cold wind. Sounds of
The TV Interview
Oliver arrives at the television studios. The
people that accompany him wear uniforms. It is night--
the lighting almost suggests a prison camp--spots and
floods. There is a guard gate. He is checked there by
a man with a gun, and again inside the studio entrances.
He must produce papers, ID. He is stamped, given new
ID, forms etc. Then he is rushed down corridors, down
stairs, all with constant twists and turns--people rush
by with files and papers, people pass on motorized
carts, he is constantly being rushed--in the end he
appears to be running. The lighting is ominous--i.e. is
no longer clear what is reality and what is fantasy. At
one point he moves along the corridor and passes a long
line of his colleagues.
He is led into the make- up room--surrounded by people
who shout orders. He tells them he has something he
must say. But they keep telling him:
Make it simple. Try to smile.
Don't sweat so much--you'll get a shine on
Are you going to use you hands? Do you want
him to use his hands?
We've got no time for that.
Don't move you hands.
Oliver looks at the other figures being made up--a
Buddhist, an old woman--all relaxed, all calm, all
He meets the host, who is welcoming, calm, bland. He is
Don't sit so far back.
No, relax--try to relax.
Try not to sweat.
Watch your hands.
No. Pick up the cup from the side.
Don't forget to smile.
Not so far forward.
Don't move your leg.
He's rumbling--don't let your stomach
rumble--we'll hear it from coast to coast.
Don't mind them, just relax, you'll be fine.
Just don't use any technical words.
I loved you film, it was marvelous.
You didn't write about---Hey, who is this
0743 slash A--he's on your cue sheet--right
after the Rabbi.
Yeah. Yeah...Marvelous, Oliver, really
I really want to talk about...
Hang on, yes, yes...no I won't spend too
long on him...Yes?
About what I'm going to say, its really
important that I get a chance to...
(getting instructions via an earphone) Hang
I mean if you just ask me about...
Sorry...just relax, try not to worry, you'll
be fine. Marvelous.
The interview begins, Oliver starts by knocking over his
cup. He tries to speak but is interrupted by the
starlet. He mentions the world problems, starvation--
She begins to talk about mother Theresa and how she
wants to become a nun and help all the world and adopt
poor starving children. "Wonderful". says the host.
There is a sudden burst of applause. Oliver looks
around bewildered for the studio is empty. Someone
signals to him. He stares at a camera...the person
exasperates signals again, Oliver stares at another
camera. It is clear that he is getting nowhere.
The break comes. The host puts his hand on Oliver's
You were marvelous....just try to relax, not so tense.
Make-up adjusts his head.
This fucking guy's sweating like a pig,
didn't anyone tell him.
You see, I just wanted to say...
It's important. All my life I've been after
it and now, for the first time I think I can
touch it. I think I know what it is.
Don't worry, we'll get round to it.
Others come up
We've got to dump nine seconds of the top of
the next segments
(interjects) Look I want to make sure...
Sure, sure. Keep it light, fella. And
don't forget to keep smiling.
Oliver in the Car Park
In the midst of all this confusion Oliver gets up.
Ignored by the others, he begins to creep out. He
reaches the studio door and looks back. They are about
to go back on air. We see, via a TV monitor, a shot of
Oliver's empty chair. Cut to the host who is beginning
to interview Oliver- i.e. his empty chair- in his
absence. Oliver pushes his way out and enters car park.
It is dark and the sounds of nature rise to meet him.
In the car part a black youth is dancing, jumping on and
off cars to rap music from a portable radio. Oliver
watches him. Automobiles begin to approach, they form a
circle around the dancer, their headlines pointing
inward. Other youths enter the circle of light, all
dancing. The music gets louder. It cross fades into
Bach, Native drumming and chanting. The light is full
of dancers. Oliver walks forward. He looks up at the
sky--the camera slowly tilts out of the light into the
Contact F. David Peat