Raúl Ruiz: An Annotated Filmography

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The Comedy of Shadows (La Comédie des ombres)

Fragments of a Screenplay by Raúl Ruiz

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  The Comedy of Shadows was shot in Taiwan in 1996. It awaits post-production.  

 

 

CHARACTERS

1. A Young Man
2. A Young Woman
3. An Old Man
4. To, A Man in his Forties
5. Another Young Woman
6. Ki, The Film Director

They are all dead.

Landscape. Sea in background.

 

 

 

FRAGMENT 1.

KI: Within several weeks, I will have a name. That will allow me to properly present myself to fine people like you all. So please do me the great honour of forgiving me this fault (which is not a fault) of being unable to show you my calling card. I donít have one. Thatís it ... In bygone days Ė ah, those bygone days! But theyíre so far away now. So vague, so grey! I have looked deeply into what is called the past, that lost sorrow. I can only see murkiness. If I concentrate hard, I mean really hard, it sometimes happens that I can discern the past, behind the fish-flesh-coloured fog of twilight that envelops us, as its points swarm and toss themselves with a sad symmetry. Iíll say it straight: this is your world! Iíve hardly been here a week. Already a week.

ANOTHER VOICE: Youíll quickly get used to it. Fear nothing.

KI: In that world over there, my name is Ki.

ANOTHER VOICE: The famous film director?

KI: You know me?

ANOTHER VOICE: No, I havenít had that privilege. At the time of my death there was no cinema.
The first film that I saw was called Feng Shui Master. It was made this side of the river.

KI: Iíd like to see it.

ANOTHER VOICE: It screens sometimes on the lakeside.

KI: Is it a good film?

ANOTHER VOICE: Itís very prudent. Very loyal. And your films, where can I see them?

KI: They screen on television sometimes.

ANOTHER VOICE: Let me know when one of them is on.

KI: Donít worry, I will.

 

FRAGMENT 2.

Sequence shot of misty landscape. We see the sea, then the cemetery, then the mountains. Finally, we see CHARACTER 4, a man in his forties. In the distance, FOUR CHARACTERS watch him. It goes without saying that they are all ghosts. They approach KI.

CHARACTER 1 (A YOUNG MAN): Are you the film director?

KI: Yes, I am.

CHARACTER 2 (A YOUNG WOMAN): What kind of films do you make?

KI: Thatís difficult to say.

CHARACTER 1: Action films?

KI: No, I donít believe that action is any good.

CHARACTER 2: Romantic films?

KI: In a certain way.

CHARACTER 3: But they do deal with the problems of our time.

KI: Which time?

CHARACTER 3: Our time! We live in troubled times. Thereís a war on.

CHARACTER 2: Youíre talking about your time. Not mine. Our times donít meet.

CHARACTER 3: War is an eternal theme.

CHARACTER 2: Like love.

CHARACTER 1: Like adventure.

CHARACTER 3: But what are your films about, exactly?

KI: My films are about films.

CHARACTER 3: Thatís meaningless.

KI: So many films have been made, weíve got to the point where itís possible only to make films about cinema.

CHARACTER 3: Thatís meaningless.

KI: Look, when I died, I was about to start shooting a film called Six Characters In Search Of an Author.

CHARACTER 2: And whatís that about?

KI: Six characters in a tragedy stop rehearsing the play, because they want someone to tell their own story.

CHARACTER 1: My God! Thatís what Iím saying to you! This is the man we need! We were looking for a filmmaker to film our lives Ė because our lives are exemplary.

KI: But I thought you made films here?

CHARACTER 1: Not many!

CHARACTER 2: Production is way down. No more than three a year.

CHARACTER 1: Thatís nothing.

CHARACTER 3: And we learn nothing. Nothing at all.

KI: And according to you, what must a film made here teach us?

CHARACTER 3: Thatís obvious! A film from beyond the grave must teach us to die well.

CHARACTER 1: It must show us that after death the adventure has only just begun.

CHARACTER 2: Above all, it must teach us to seek eternal love.

KI: I get the feeling that someone here does not share your opinion.

CHARACTER 3: Him? Heís got nothing to say. Heís only a technician.

KI: (looks at CHARACTER 4 attentively, then hugs him): Forgive me for not recognising you straight away!

CHARACTER 4: Hi, boss!

KI: We made more than ten films together.

CHARACTER 3: So, itís true!

CHARACTER 2: I knew it. He has the air of an honest man.

KI: You speak seriously.

CHARACTER 3: Very seriously.

KI (addressing CHARACTER 4): And do you have anything like a camera?

TO: No, thereís nothing.

KI: But ...

TO: If you let me, I can try to put something together, like in the good old days.

KI: You can do it?

TO: I can always try. Iíve got a few ideas.

KI: Thatís terrific. At last I can make my version of Six Characters in Search of an Author.

CHARACTER 3: Not so fast! We want to film our story our way!

KI: Dear friends! It comes down to the same thing!

 

FRAGMENT 3.

NARRATOR: The next day, they started filming.

A VOICE: Hold on! Thereís no tomorrow in the kingdom of shadows.

NARRATOR: Youíre wrong. In territories of wind and water, there are only tomorrows. Everything that we have accomplished during our years here becomes the future in a veritable world of illusions. I could say that everything is only an electric shadow.

A VOICE: What good is it to fabricate these electric shadows called films, in a world where all skin is transparent?

NARRATOR: To give floating creatures the illusion of a past which is only a future, and the hope of a future which is only a fait accompli.

A VOICE: Go on ...

 

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© Raúl Ruiz 1996. Translation © Rouge 2004. Excerpted from the Rouge Press book Raúl Ruiz: Images of Passage (2004).
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