Monday, 30 May 2011

Falling in love with Reuben

Who is this wealthy French/Jewish art collector really? What is his secret scar? And why did he commit such a dreadful crime ?

Writing a screenplay is not the same as writing a novel.

'Some things cannot be spoken or discovered until we have been stuck, incapacitated, or blown off course for awhile. Plain sailing is pleasant, but you are not going to explore many unknown realms that way.'
David Whyte

I'm trying to create a psychological profile for Reuben, but I'm stuck once again.

The problem is, I've started to empathize with this character. A lot. Deeply. I want to know him. Hug him. I think I'm beginning to fall in love with him. He's starting to feel like a long lost brother. Or maybe an uncle. Yes, a mysterious uncle. I want something wonderful and good to come out of his suffering in the concentration camp. I don't want him to become a lying, criminal, misogynist. I'm empathizing deeply with the little boy who walked out of Auschwitz. My heart bleeds for him, and five year old Anabel, who much later becomes his wife. How can this story unfold if it isn't his plan to abduct baby Sasha, his granddaughter? The whole story hinges on this terrible act.

When I first wrote the film's synopsis I hadn't figured out he was a holocaust survivor with an extraordinary artist/teacher mother, and and an artist/designer mother in law. This changes everything. With such strong, creative, resourceful women behind him, what possible believable motive could he have for arranging the kidnapping of his own grandchild?
Money ? No. Revenge? For what ? Ideology? Possibly. Pride? Why? To get media attention for what... his business?

Now if anybody reading this has a startling intuition as to what Reuben's motive could be, (you would need to scroll back and read a few of the previous posts), please, please, please leave a note below. Thank you so much in advance.

Is it impossible for male prisoners of war in whatever context, to recover from heinous abuse? Is this a curse Reuben carries, and has to offload? Will he pass this curse onto all his offspring?
Does Shifra have siblings ?
Is there nothing anybody can do to help Reuben transform this curse? Is there a missing something in his life, a father figure maybe who could save him from his own poison?

In the case of my widowed Irish grandmother , what was missing in her life was her husband. Alone, she arranged my departure from Ireland , from my mother, as soon as I was born. The destination was to be as far as her mind would stretch. Scotland. All those years ago the shame of an illegitimate child in Ireland made many women loose their marbles, as well as their babies.

One of America's leading forensic psychologists. Dr. Richard Kocsis has devoted his professional life to figuring out how to spot criminals : arsonists, rapists,abductors , serial murderers etc., and in his opinion, there's no single method for undertaking this difficult task.
But, he asks, 'Does the evidence point to a perpetrator with a fantasy or a plan?'
A fantasy or a plan.
What a great question !

Which was it Reuben? Speak to me.

"Art is the act of triggering deep memories, of what it means to be fully human."

David Whyte


Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Fireflies in the Dark. Rueben's Mother ?

The research for my screenplay took another twist today. On the Internet I discovered two extraordinary Jewish artists: Bauhaus trained Freidl Dicker-Brandeis, and Felix Nussbaum. Could Rueben's mother be modeled on the saintly Freidl? And could his father be modeled on Felix ?

The following is from the first article I found about Freidl:

'I was doing my rounds of the thrift shops, and found this heart rending book in the children's section. It's called Fireflies in the Dark: The Story of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis and the Children of Terezin.

It tells the story of Dicker-Brandeis, a woman who packed more art supplies than anything else when she was sent to the Terezin concentration camp. And once there,she dedicated her life to distracting children--and helping them
document their fate--with the kind of self-abnegation one really only sees in saints. She gave lessons, invented contests with prizes, helped organize plays and musicals...anything to allow the children to have some semblance of childhood in a place of death. Daily one-way "transports" to Auschwitz occurred. Thousands of
drawings by Friedl's young pupils survived...whereas these same pupils did not.

Of the 15,000 children who passed through Terezin, only 100 survived."

And on a personal note, another email from Stuart at the Irish Jewish genealogical Society in Dublin today. Somebody has responded to his posting my fathers scanty details and false name on the 'wanting to find persons list.'

Somebody out there thinks they knew my father.

Could there be a link to finding the character of Reuben,and finding my father ?

To see some of Felix's work :

Monday, 23 May 2011

Reuben. Shifra's Father.

Creating memorable characters for a screen or stage play is a must. Show, but don't tell is what's required. So the writer has to get to know her characters intimately before you the audience get to meet them. This is daunting in the case of Reuben, Shifra's father. He's the baddie.

So for anybody reading this blog for the first time, creating Reuben will be a huge step forward in writing my screenplay.
So far, in my head, he is basically scarred for life by his Holocaust experiences. As an orphaned child of 10, he walks free from Auschwitz, followed by a frail fatherless five year old child called Anabel, and her young (artist) mother Sonia, carrying two slim books. Many years later, Anabel becomes his wife, and Sonia becomes a famous artist in Paris.

At the moment I haven't got a title for the movie. Maybe SHIFRA, or The Songs of Cybele. Or Sonia's Sketchbooks.

The present synopsis goes something like this:

Jewish Shifra, talented artist/dancer daughter of wealthy,cultured, damaged, French holocaust survivor parents, immigrates to Bolivia with acrobat boyfriend after long abortive Paris search to find her abducted baby daughter Cybele. A clairvoyant convinces Shifra she won't find the baby, but the baby will find her in South America when she's 18. In La Paz the young couple begin a new life teaching street kids circus skills. Four years later ,on the death of her father, Shifra's mother Anabel discovers a shocking truth. Her art collector husband Reuben arranged the abduction.

Why ?

Just last night I saw the movie August Rush. It has the same underpinning theme: Grandfather gets rid of grandchild. Why ? It's not too clear in this film except the grandfather may have a prejudiced against the Irish ?

In my case, it was my Irish grandmother who wanted rid of me. She arranged my adoption. Motive ? Shame. Her shame. She locked my mother in the coal shed every time somebody rang the door bell.
Now, in the US more than 40% of births are to unwed mothers.

Morals and motives change...
So, the task in hand now, is to create Rueben.

Age : 76 when he dies.
Physical appearance: Bearded, medium height, slim, handsome, shifty, slight turrets syndrome .
Likes beautiful women, secretive, prone to terrifying rage outbursts, lost his faith years ago... hates...?

What does he hate ?

"All the true vows are secret, you make a promise it will kill you to brake"
David Whyte.

What has Ruben vowed for himself and his family?

PS. This is what I love about writing and the mysterious creative process, things just happen. In writing this post today,I've discovered a new character, Shirfa's grandmother Sonia, an artist. Last week during my research of French Jews between 1939-45,I re-discovered the colorful life of artist Sonia Delaunay. There is a delightful story of her making a quilt for her new born son which becomes the inspiration for many subsequent paintings. I wondered how I could use something of her life and art in my story.

Have a look at the article below, and scroll down to the pic of Sonia Delaunay in a dress she designed.
Imagine having the luck to have someone like her as your grandmother! Welcome to the plot Sonia.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Who really is Shifra's father ?

If you are interested in miracles, forgiveness, compassion,healing and the mysterious creative process of how a finished piece of artwork or writing comes into being, read on. If this isn't your cup of tea, fine, no probs, plenty of other blogs to interest thousands of different points of view.

I am thrilled though to discover (through the stats on the blog site) that people in Russia, Bahrain, Australia, the US, the Ukraine, Pakistan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Singapore, and about 15 other countries in including Iran, India, and Peru are reading this blog. Thank you, every single one of you.

The motive for writing the blog continues to be the desire to share my belief in the healing power of creativity, and the belief in a loving higher intelligence available to all of us through prayer, meditation, being in nature, stillness, and music. Of course there are many ,many other avenues of connecting with the Divine.

Healing though creativity is the main theme of the film I'm currently writing. This screenplay is coloring my life, and becoming, yes, a love affair.

The late John 0'Donahue has been a profound influence and inspiration in how I view the world: always from the heart, and David Whyte's haunting poetry conveys a depth of poetic vision that I hope in some small way to create on screen. So if you resonate with either of these wonderful writers, you may feel at home in my world of stories.

At the moment, the film story is unfolding by asking questions.
The current one being: who really is Shirfa's father ?
Who is this man capable of arranging his granddaughters abduction ?

Here's a clue I think :
'All true vows are secret, you make a promise it will kill you to break.'
David Whyte.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Mystical Rain.

Scarlet poppies. Friendship. Aloneness. Confusion. A piece of spinach quiche. A picnic. A river drunk with melted snow. Memories.

Andalucia. 3rd of May. Three women saunter through long low mysterious tunnels of beige bamboo, crunchy underfoot, following a brown and dirty-turquoise river. One walks quickly. High caramel colored cave studded mountains to the north, silent keepers of secrets of the terrible Spanish Civil war. An enchanted pool, a favourite swimming place last summer, trashed by relentless winter storms. This is the river where Pepe saved the drowning boy,eleven years ago.
These are some tags for yesterday.

'I think you've had a mystical experience.' I say to Sasha.
We're all laughing , but not disbelieving.

'Yes. Baptized in the middle of a poppy field. Cleansed. Watered.'
We laugh again. We are two artist friends and Sasha, 48, a writer from the USA.

'Well, I just can't explain this.'
The American writer is struggling for words.

'All of a sudden large drops of rain fell right out of the sky and rested on my arm. They were beautiful. The sky is completely blue. The sun is dazzling. How could this be? I swear to God drops of rain fell onto my arm. I saw them. I felt them.'
Slowly and incredulously Sasha strings out and stresses her surprise.

From a distance, and unseen by her, I became her silent witness. Too far away to see the raindrops, but near enough to know she needed to be undisturbed.

She sat cross legged, facing west, in the middle of Fraskito's field of scarlet poppies. Only her head was visible. Her shortish hair is dark brown, almost black, curly, crinkled. I sat with my textile artist friend on a stone, close to the river.

Sasha needed nature to commune with her heart.
She had crossed the Atlantic to do this.

Thousands of cadmium red poppy petals quivered all around her, and thousands of white Margaritas swayed every time a breeze whispered. Wild lavender, young olive trees, and fresh new mint surrounded us. We were resting in a valley alive with wild treasures.

'I swear to God,' she repeated,' it rained on me,just for a few seconds!'

Mystical rain.

Scarlet poppies. Friendship. Aloneness. Confusion. A piece of spinach quiche. A picnic. A river full of melted snow. Memories.

'Sometimes everything has to be inscribed across the heavens so you can find the one line already written inside you.'

David Whyte

Pepe and the drowning boy. Post 22.04.2010.

Monday, 2 May 2011

On the death of Osma Bin Laden

Friday was The Wedding. Sunday the Day of Remembrance for the Holocaust. Monday, today, Osma Bin Laden and his son have been killed, and it's Mothers day in Spain and Portugal and Taiwan and The Netherlands. My prayer for all of us is that the feminine voice of compassion, not vengeance flood the world. Please let us not gloat. Please let us behave with dignity.

'An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.' Mahatma Ghandi.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

May Day thoughts...

It's May Day.
I'm longing to be back in Peru.
It's worldwide Remembrance day of the Holocaust.
I feel sick and sad and stunned, and numbed.
So many lives lost.
My Jewish father ran away from Europe. He found himself in Dublin, changed his name, and died his hair blond. And before I was born , like a puff of smoke, he ceased to exist.

I have a Jewish retreat guest in my house for five days.
I've found help for the screenplay. His name is Charlie. He's Jewish.

So many swirling thoughts and strange feelings today, and then, Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels. A book which uses language in a way that stretches the brain like a piece of elastic, enthralls the soul, and lances the heart.
'The most important book I have read for forty years,' comments John Berger, no less.
It's about the 'after effects', the after life of a young Jewish boy rescued from Poland by a scholarly and kind Greek bachelor archaeologist. They flee to Greece, then emigrate to Canada. The seven year old has witnessed the killing of his parents, and disappearance of his musical sister. The disappearance of his beloved sister haunts him. Sounds very grim but the story is exquisitely laced with extraordinary images, ideas, and wisdom. A friend lent me the book. I think you'll enjoy it she said. It was John Berger's endorsement that grabbed my attention.

Here area a few lines (from it) which glued themselves to my psyche:

'The best teacher lodges an intent not in the mind but in the heart.'
'...I tried to embroider darkness...'
'... write to save yourself and someday you'll write because you've been saved...'
'... our relation to the dead continues to change because we continue to love them...'
'... what a gift you had for making one feel clear-clean...'
'... when we say we are looking for a spiritual adviser- we're really looking for somebody to tell us what to do with our bodies...'
'... we forget to learn from pleasure as well as pain...'
'... is there a man who will slowly undress my spirit...'