There and Back, a radio drama
Two voyages are central in this radio play.
The “there’-trip, in which the young father takes his son to the city to hide him in a Catholic boarding school for boys until the war is over.
The ‘back’-trip, in which the adult son takes his old father home from an elderly institute.
The author mingled these two stories with one another so that the past and the present become a current curve in which the stories of the war, just like fairy tales do, express hope and disappointment.
In this composition, the music is part of the action.
This was the text voor the BBC-version. I don’t have the play in English, but you can follow with the English text the Dutch version.
In Tokio, London, Den Haag and Berlin the play was awarded. Enjoy.
The play opens with the first stanza of “Le souvenir de vous me tue“ (The Memory of you kills me) (Morton). After the first sentence :
SON: ‘Le souvenir de vous me tue.’
Along with the music we hear a child waking and getting up.
CHILD: Is it getting light ?
(he opens a shutter) Yes, it’s getting light.
(Then the music fades into the silence of scene 1.)
Interior. Early morning : bedroom: the ticking of the alarm is audible in the foreground.
Door : Child enters.
CHILD: Daddy …
CHILD: Daddy… Daddy, its getting light.
(Father wakes up.)
CHILD: It’s getting light, Daddy.
FATHER: It‘s still pitch dark, Jonathan.
CHILD: …because the shutters are still closed. Look.
(we hear the child opening the shutters.)
FATHER: Is that what you call light ? It’s still much too early.
CHILD: Listen Daddy, you can hear the birds sing.
FATHER: It’s still much too early.
CHILD But listen.
(In the silence, morning birds do become audible.)
CHILD: Can you hear it now ? And look, near the woods it is getting light.
FATHER: Yes. I hadn’t looked that far.
CHILD: Are you also a little scared, Daddy ?
FATHER: Why should I be scared, Jonathan ‘?
CHILD: (after hesitation) It’s a long way, Daddy…
FATHER: They’ll never find us.
FATHER: Ah yes, now I can hear the birds too.
CHILD: I can see the sun, Daddy. It’s pointing one finger to the sky.
(Here the music fades in : “The Glitt’ring Sun” of Thomas Arne.)
- Along with the instrumental overture, we hear all kinds of sounds of the two in the
CHILD: Get out of bed now.
FATHER No. Come in bed with me for a while.
CHILD: No, don’t tickle me. Don‘t.
(They start playing together.)
When the singing starts, we hear them (now in the background) getting up and going to the washbasin.)
CHILD: No, that is far too cold. No, don’t do that, it’s much too cold.
(These sounds are drowned out by interior car of scene 2 and the music now clearly comes from a car radio.)
- Interior – early morning – the car : it is raining on the car. we hear wipers.
BROADCASTER: You have just listened to “The Glitt’ring Sun”, from “The morning” of Thomas Arne. Emma Kirkby sang, accompanied by The Parley Instruments, conducted by (Roy Goodman)
Click : Radio is turned off – interior car audible.
ADULT SON: I was eleven then, Daddy. Eleven years old in the glitt’ring sun of that early morning. This city was the destination of our journey. Here I would hide in a catholic boys‘ boarding school until the end of the war.
(we hear the car, and the rain, wipers.)
CHILD: (As if his own youth is personified and now sitting with him in the car.)
Did I still have curly hair ?
ADULT SON: Curls ? Yes, I think so. Oh no, you didn’t.
CHILD: The short hair made me look more catholic. Catholics never wear their hair long.
ADULT SON: I cried when they cut my hair.
CHILD: Cried ? It was more like “howling” !
ADULT SON:Don’t exaggerate. I admit I cried.
CHILD: I thought the curls would never grow back.
ADULT SON: Nothing grows back as easily as curls.
- Interior – day – living room : the father cuts the child’s hair.
CHILD: (howls) I have no lice, I have no lice !
FATHER: In wartime every one has lice.
CHILD: Don’t, Daddy ! I don’t want to be bald.
FATHER: Sit still !
CHILD: All my curls are on the ground.
FATHER: If you sit still, I will tell you a story.
CHILD: I don’t want to hear a story, I want my curls back.
FATHER: If you sit still, your hair grows faster.
CHILD: Is that true ‘?
FATHER: Why do you think Moses’s beard was that long ? Because he sat still for weeks while the Jews entered the Promised Land. He sat on the mountain and looked down.
CHILD: Why couldn‘t he go in there himself ?
FATHER: He had never had his hair cut. He scared every one.
CHILD: Why did he sit still then for so long ‘Then his hair would grow even longer, you said so yourself.
FATHER: Because he was tired. Tired of roaming the desert for forty years.
CHILD: And weren’t the others tired too ?
FATHER: No. They didn’t have to think. Moses did.
CHILD: I don’t think that’s fair.
FATHER: What isn’t fair ?
CHILD: He organised everything and then he had to stay outside himself.
FATHER: He had doubted God.
CHILD: Then I cannot enter the Promised Land either.
FATHER Why not ?
CHILD: I doubt too.
FATHER: Children are still allowed to doubt.
CHILD: Could all children enter the Promised Land then ?
FATHER: Yes. Children are always allowed everywhere.
CHILD: Even if their hair is so long that they can step on it ‘?
This scene merges with :
- Interior – day – car : rain – wipers
ADULT SON: And when my hair had grown again, he bleached it.
CHILD I looked in the mirror and saw that I was no longer “me”.
ADULT SON: Dark eyes and bleached hair.
CHILD: Daddy, look. Who is that little boy in the mirror over there ?
- Interior – day – room.
FATHER: That is a Christian boy.
CHILD: And where has the Jewish boy gone ?
FATHER: It is here, and also a little here.
(we hear the boy and the father laughing, which is drowned out by 🙂
ADULT SON: And he pointed with his hand to my head and to my pants.
CHILD: You have turned me inside out, Daddy. The Jewish boy is on the inside and the lining is the Christian boy.
(They laugh, which is drowned out by 🙂
ADULT SON: He sat me on his lap, kissed me very softly in the neck so that it tickled and then said :
FATHER: There are no Christian or Jewish boys any longer.
CHILD: Then where have they all gone to ?
FATHER: All little boys are molten.
CHILD: Was it that hot then, Daddy ?
FATHER: Yes. The fire of the war melted them.
CHILD: What did they change into ?
FATHER: When melted boys harden, they become men. Cold men made of steel.
Music fading in from ‘Le souvenir de vous me tue’.
- Interior – day : in the left channel we hear the adult son walking along the corridor of a hospital/home for the elderly : typical sounds, dragging sounds off in the distance, older people shouting something.
- Exterior – day : in the right channel we hear the child and the father leave. Early morning. Sounds of nature. Child audible from afar. “
- Exterior – early morning : sounds of nature.
CHILD: Daddy, Daddy ! Two butterflies 1 Two butterflies. They‘re going into town too.
FATHER: Jonathan, you have to stay by my side ! Jonathan !
CHILD: They are flying together. I think they can do tricks.
FATHER: Jonathan !
we hear them disappear into the distance. Sounds of nature intermingie with :
- Interior – day – room, institution : door open, son inside.
OLD FATHER: Jonathan.
ADULT SON: Daddy.
OLD FATHER Is it still raining ?
ADULT SON: No. It will be a beautiful day today.
OLD FATHER: …do you still study, Jonathan ?
ADULT SON: Daddy ! I am almost sixty. It’s me, Jonathan.
OLD FATHER: Jonathan Your hair ? Your hair.
ADULT SON: Grey, Daddy.
OLD FATHER: No, No. White. White. Christian hair.
ADULT SON: Daddy. I was eleven then.
OLD FATHER: Yes, yes. Sometimes I think I forget everything.
ADULT SON: You’re not the only one, Daddy. I forget my own phone number.
OLD FATHER: Can you go back, Jonathan ? Can you go back today. Is the war finished?
ADULT SON: The war finished forty-five years ago. I have come to get you.
OLD FATHER: Are we going back ?
ADULT SON: Yes Daddy, back. Home.
OLD FATHER: They took Hannah away, and Sarah.
ADULT SON: Yes, father. Hannah and Sarah, they took them away.
OLD FATHER: Can we cross the river ? Or shall I carry you again ?
ADULT SON: You carried me back then. When I was eleven.
OLD FATHER: It was on a Friday, the beginning of the shabbath.
ADULT SON: Yes. It was a Friday.
OLD FATHER: What is today ‘?
ADULT SON: Today is Saturday.
OLD FATHER: … when you arrive in the land where I am taking you.
ADULT SON: Today I am taking you back, Daddy.
OLD FATHER: Won’t you be afraid when we get to the water ?
ADULT SON: I won’t be afraid, Daddy. Come.
- Exterior – day. we hear the music from Schubert’s “Am Flusse” D766 (by the stream), in
which the past becomes audible : water flowing, birds singing and the excited voice of the boy completes the musical picture.
CHILD: Would the water be cold, Daddy ? Last year we had a dip here.
(Music continues, in which water becomes audible.)
CHILD: If I were a fish, I’d stay under water as long as the war lasted, and afterwards, I’d become a boy again.
CHILD: My pebble, my pebble hit four times. True. Four times.
(The music ends, water is brought to the foreground.)
CHILD: The bridge ! Daddy, the bridge, there.
FATHER: The bridge is guarded.
CHILD: Then how can we cross the river ?
FATHER: I will carry you.
CHILD: I can swim, you know.
FATHER: The current is much too strong here.
CHILD: If we wait until dark, the soldiers may have left.
FATHER: When it gets dark, other soldiers will come.
CHILD: Daddy, does God love us ?
FATHER: Of course God loves us.
CHILD: Why doesn’t he perform a miracle then ?
FATHER: God is tired of the people, I think.
CHILD: He could change the soldiers into pillars of salt.
FATHER: Not so loud. They’ll hear us. Come, let’s go the other way.
CHILD: And as soon as we have passed, they can change back to soldiers again.
FATHER: I think I know a spot where the current isn’t this strong.
CHILD: Daddy, why can‘t you work magic ‘?
FATHER: Who says I can’t ‘?
CHILD: Then work magic, Daddy. Look into your magic mirror !
FATHER I’m not Rabbi Adam.
CHILD: Bewitch me, Daddy. Make me so small that I can live in your pocket.
FATHER: Come on … We‘re almost there.
CHILD: Or make me very big. Bigger than Goliath. Then I’ll lift you up and put you across the river.
FATHER: There‘s the spot !
(we hear the water and cross fading we come to a busy street.)
- Exterior – day – busy street, city.
ADULT SON: Ok, ok. We’ll drive out of town and there I leave the car.
OLD FATHER: The feather boat… Don’t forget the feather boat.
ADULT SON: The boat ? O yes. The story of the water palace.
QLD FATHER: The water palace stood offshore, amid the waves.
ADULT SON: The floors and the walls were made of water, the gardens, the farmlands and the fruit-trees which stood there : all were made purely of water.
OLD FATHER: And you said : Daddy, I can see the water palace. I can see it. There !
Commotion of the busy street fades into :
- Exterior – day – river : later that day, they are waiting for dusk and tell one another a Jewish fairy tale.
CHILD: I can see it, Daddy, I can see it. There !
FATHER: Can you also see the ten walls, Jonathan, surrounding the palace ? Ten walls so no one can enter ?
CHILD: I can see them, Daddy ! Whoever tries to enter, will drown !
FATHER: And that palace the king wanted to show to the most beautiful princess in the world, hoping she would then stay with him.
CHILD: (playing the princess) If you build me an ivory castle, king, a palace from where I can see the water palace the entire day and night, then I think I will want to marry you.
FATHER: And they got married. But soon after the king dreamt that his bride would shoot a golden arrow to his heart.
CHILD: An arrow of love ?
FATHER: I don’t think so. The king was afraid.
CHILD: (acting the princess again) What are you looking for king ?
FATHER: Oh… Me… nothing, nothing really. Of course he was looking day and night for a golden bow and a golden arrow in his ivory palace.
CHILD: It’s no fun being married to such a scared husband.
FATHER: The princess wanted to swim to the water palace.
CHILD: And did the king have her followed ?
FATHER: Yes. Sentries shot ten arrows at her, each with a different poison, and each pierced the princess.
CHILD: Before she reached the water ?
FATHER: Seriously injured, she fell in the water, but then a high wave rose, carrying her further seawards through each of the ten gates in the ten walls surrounding the water
CHILD: So she was still alive ?
FATHER: And the wave carried her to the innermost room and put her on the circular bed, where she lost consciousness and fell sound asleep.
CHILD: And even the waves splashing onto the walls of the palace couldn’t wake her ?
FATHER: Not even the waves.
(They listen to the water.)
CHILD: Is she still lying there ?
FATHER: No. A prince came from a neighbouring country.
CHILD: He was called Jonathan.
FATHER: Yes, Jonathan. He disguised himself as a beggar and dreamt that birds from all over the world came to the coast.
CHILD: And he heard them sing melodies, ten in number.
FATHER: And they dropped feathers on the coast, until the feathers formed a little boat, shaped like a swan.
CHILD: And when the prince woke up, he even remembered the ten melodies and he now knew how to rescue the princess.
(we hear the water, evening sounds.)
FATHER: It is dark enough now, Jonathan. Get undressed. Climb on my back and hold on tight.
CHILD: You will be the feather boat, Daddy.
FATHER: Hurry, prince.
we hear in the music how they get prepared and how they go in the water. They put their clothes in the boy’s suitcase. Music : Eric Satie Gymnopedie Orch Debussy.
FATHER: First take off your pull. Careful. Is it not too chilly ?
CHILD: Yes, it’s quite chilly.
FATHER: Put everything in your case. Take off your shoes. Hurry up boy. Now the other one. Come on.
- Exterior – day – parking lot at outskirts of the city.
ADULT SON: Are you sure you want to walk, Daddy ?
OLD FATHER: Yes. I’ve got plenty of time.
ADULT SON: I will take the wheelchair along.
QLD FATHER: I said I’ve got plenty of time. We‘ll be in the woods before dark.
ADULT SON: I don’t know whether the forest is still there, Daddy.
OLD FATHER: Of course that forest is still there. What are we waiting for ?
ADULT SON: Sit down until the commotion is over.
OLD FATHER: That‘s ok.
ADULT SON: Be careful.
OLD FATHER: Why should I bother to be careful ?
ADULT SON: Because you are my father.
OLD FATHER: I am ? It’s been a long time, Jonathan.
ADULT SON: Anyway, you still have to tell me the end of the story of the water palace.
OLD FATHER: Did I promise that ?
ADULT SON: Yes, when we had crossed the river.
OLD FATHER: Later, by the river.
- Exterior – evening – river : current audible, the child and the man crossing.
FATHER: Now it’s getting deeper. Hold on tight.
CHILD: I can swim too.
FATHER: The current would sweep you away.
CHILD: I am strong.
FATHER: Then make sure your little suitcase doesn‘t get wet.
CHILD: Perhaps we‘ll end up in the water palace, Daddy ?
FATHER: Watch out. Are you comfortable ?
CHILD: How did the story of the water palace end ?
FATHER: I Will tell you later.
CHILD: We’re almost there, Daddy.
FATHER: Are you cold ‘?
CHILD: Only a little. Here I can reach the bottom.
FATHER: I think so too.
(The father puts the child into the water.)
FATHER: Can you reach the ground ?
CHILD: Yes. It’s all right. Come, give me your hand. Now I will help you.
FATHER: That time will come soon enough, son. Dry yourself quickly before you get ill.
CHILD: Your back is softer than the feather boat, Daddy.
FATHER We can stay the night at the edge of the forest.
CHILD I hear something …
(They listen : wind in the trees, nocturnal sounds.)
FATHER: It is OK. Come here, I’ll rub your back dry.
CHILD: Aunt Hannah always does that too. And then Esther says that I am still a little baby.
FATHER: You have crossed the river. Now you are a man.
CHILD: Look, Daddy. I see, one, two three stars.
FATHER: If there are three stars in the sky, it is night. The shabbath begins.
Music fades in. we hear them continue to the edge of the forest : the river dies away – noises
of the forest. Cross with :
- Interior – day : the other side of the former woods : at a distance highway audibie : we
hear the oid father and his aduit son walking aiong country roads.
ADULT SON: Aren’t you tired yet ?
OLD FATHER: Quiet.
ADULT SON: Being tired is no disgrace.
OLD FATHER: Talking too much is.
ADULT SON: You certainly haven’t done so since the war.
OLD FATHER The war has turned me to stone.
ADULT SON: Don’t blame the War for everything.
QLD FATHER: You and I, we were the only ones of the family who survived.
ADULT SON: You have never told me more. Not even the end of the story of the water palace.
OLD FATHER: I thought I was stronger. But the war skinned me and then scooped me out.
ADULT SON: Are you thinking of the camp ‘?
OLD FATHER: The whole time. Of Hannah and Esther.
ADULT SON: Were they with you ?
OLD FATHER: Yes. I at Auschwitz, they at Birkenau.
ADULT SON: Do you want to sit and rest ?
OLD FATHER: No. This is too terrible to relate while sitting down.
ADULT SON: We could stop talking about it.
OLD FATHER: No. I’ve kept it to myself for too long.
ADULT SON: I know what happened.
OLD FATHER: Don’t confuse it with the black tales.
ADULT SON: Hannah was expecting a child ?
OLD FATHER: Yes. She was convinced it would be a little brother for Esther.
ADULT SON: And mummy ?
OLD FATHER: Mummy was sick when she arrived. She was immediately gassed.
(Silence – sounds of nature – cars at a distance – a dog barking.)
OLD FATHER: The dog.
ADULT SON: Which dog?
OLD FATHER: The dog from the young SS-officer. He was playing with the dog while the women were working.
ADULT SON: Lean on my shoulder.
FATHER: It’s ok it‘s ok. Hannah was heavily pregnant. The women had to dig trenches. The ground was frozen. Snow. When the captain didn’t look, the women rested. Hannah began to sweat. Until she dropped the spade and with her hands gripped her belly. The captain rushed up to her and roared : “hey you, full bag,… they will…roast you later.” A young woman looked at the SS-officer. The SS-officer with the dog. He was tossing sticks for the dog to fetch. The young woman stood up for Hannah. It was she who told me the story afterwards. She saw the SS-officer being nice to the dog, and that’s why she thought he’d understand. The young woman asked the SS-officer to relieve Hannah of the work.
“That one there ?” the soldier asked. “Yes, she,” said the young woman. The soldier kept smiling. He played with the dog a little while longer and then walked toward Hannah and took the spade out of her hands.
FATHER: He smiled again and then started beating the bulging belly with the handle of the spade. Hannah screamed. She dragged herself to the camp. Eight kilometres away. At the gate she collapsed. She was dead.
FATHER: The captain laughed : “she had been very considerate” he said. “She came back by herself. If she had died at the trenches, we would have had to carry her for another 8 kilometres. “
ADULT SON: Come Daddy, let’s sit down now. The forest can‘t be far any more.
(Drowned out by scene from the forest. A little music in the distance connects the present with the past.)
- Exterior – night – woods
CHILD: (whispering this prayer) “Come, my friend. Come to meet the bride, let‘s greet the shabbath.”
FATHER: Blessed be your advent, you serving angels, messengers from God, from the King of Kings, the Saint.
CHILD: I will light the candle, Daddy. As if mummy has awaited us with the Challoth.
(Match lighting candle.)
CHILD: Bless me, Daddy. Lay your hands on my head.
FATHER: Bless this boy. May my name survive through him. May God make you like Efraim and Menasse. May God bless and protect you.
CHILD: I want to stay with you, Daddy.
FATHER When the war is over, we‘1l always be together.
CHILD: This war will take a hundred years.
FATHER: You will have many friends.
CHILD: I don’t want friends. I want you.
FATHER: And then we’ll go to Palestine.
CHILD: I don’t want to go to Palestine. I want to go home.
FATHER: You have promised me to be brave.
CHILD: Yes. But I’m scared.
FATHER: Sleep a little. Come close to me. When you go to sleep, I’ll always be with you.
FATHER: What did you say?
CHILD: When the shabbath leaves us, then we’ll say goodbye. Hvadalàh.
Aeroplane which will land at nearby airport coming over : it is the connection with the past.
- Exterior – night – industrial zone.
OLD FATHER: This is not the forest.
ADULT SON: This is where it used to be, Daddy.
OLD FATHER: I Want to go to the forest.
ADULT SON: If we continue we will reach the river.
OLD FATHER: And the forest ?
ADULT SON: It used to be here. Now it is an industrial zone.
OLD FATHER: There are trees over there.
ADULT SON: Four, five trees, yes. Right by the oil refinery.
OLD FATHER: Let’s eat there.
ADULT SON: You should rest.
OLD FATHER: I always sit in the wheelchair.
ADULT SON: Sleep, I mean.
OLD FATHER: I want to have Havdalah here. When there are three stars in the sky, the shabbath is over.
ADULT SON: They will be looking for us, Daddy.
OLD FATHER: They used to before. They’re always looking for us.
ADULT SON: I can go to the airport and pick you up with a taxi.
OLD FATHER: And will we then leave for Palestine ?
ADULT SON: Would you like to go back ?
OLD FATHER: Go back ? When have I been there then ?
ADULT SON: We lived there together, until I started that business in Toronto and you wanted to return to Antwerp.
OLD FATHER: Is that long ago ?
ADULT SON: Perhaps. Everything is long ago, and yet it isn’t.
OLD FATHER: Can you see any stars yet ?
ADULT SON: No. But it is getting dark.
OLD FATHER: I would like to put out the light, the nesjamàh jetheràh.
ADULT SON: The extra-shabbath-soul.
OLD FATHER: And sniff at the scent-box, look at your small fingers.
ADULT SON: Those little fingers have grown big and old.
OLD FATHER: Such long and slender fingers you had, Jonathan.
ADULT SON: It is too long ago to remember them.
OLD FATHER: You could play the piano wonderfully with them.
ADULT SON: They have forgotten the music.
OLD FATHER: Why ? Why have you never played again ever since the war is over ?
ADULT SON: Because they betrayed some one. They pointed out to some one.
OLD FATHER You have never told me that.
ADULT SON: No. I had lived at the boarding school for almost a year. There was another Jewish boy : Aaron, one year older than me. He had a very beautiful voice. I accompanied him once in a while. I knew he was hiding like I was. At the school he was called Henry. One of the kitchen help told me he knew there was a Jewish boy hiding at the school, and that he could earn a lot of money if he would turn him in. I was scared. I thought he was talking about me, and I stammered that he was mistaken, that there were no Jewish boys at all staying at the school.
He looked at me mockingly : “I know you know him.” he said. He put me in front of the big kitchen window overlooking the playground and said : “If you point to him, nothing will happen to you. Otherwise an officer will come later and you will all have to undress. I was scared stiff. Aaron was walking on the other side of the playground.
At first I thought he saw me. I pointed to him. That same night he was picked up and luckily the kitchen help was shot by the resistance so that no one ever found out that I and only I had betrayed Aaron. I have never played the piano ever since.
(Music drowned out by a landing plane filling the sound picture.)
- Exterior – night – forest sounds, the father murmurs the closing psalm about the happiness of the new time (126)
FATHER: … those now sowing with tears, let them mow with jubilation. They go, when
weeping, to scatter the seed, but they return cheering with exultation, laden with sheaves.”
CHILD: Have I really slept ?
FATHER: I think you have, Jonathan.
CHILD: Shall we continue ?
FATHER: We could also wait till it gets light.
CHILD: The night will hide us better.
FATHER: There comes a time that you will never have to hide again.
CHILD: Don’t we have to roam around the desert for forty years first ?
FATHER: Just for a little while longer. We’re always getting closer and closer to the Promised Land.
CHILD: A land without war ?
FATHER: Yes : there the lion plays with the lamb, the children eat sweet rolls and sit around campfires.
CHILD: I will miss mummy.
FATHER: Here, a box filled with aromatic herbs. Mummy saved them for you : her dried rose leaves are in there as well.
CHILD: Thank you, Daddy.
Yes, I can smell mummy. And springtime in the garden. If I close my eyes, I am home.
Music fades in, mixed with distant sounds from the industrial zone.
- Exterior – night – industrial zone with occasional sounds from distant aeroplanes.
ADULT SON: There are three stars in the sky, Daddy.
OLD FATHER: The shabbath is over.
ADULT SON: Havdhallàh.
OLD FATHER: Fill the glass to the brim, Jonathan.
(we hear him pour the wine from thermos into mug.)
ADULT SON: So. And the candle ’s lit.
OLD FATHER: Gott von Avrohom, Jitschok und Jaakov,
Hût‘ dein Volk Jisraél in deinem Laub,
Lieber Schabbos Koudesch get ahin
die Woche soll ons kommen zum Gliick, zum
Scholoum und zum allen Frommen !
Omein, we omein, seloh.
He repeats this twice, which fades into :
- Exterior – night – field : they are walking.
CHILD: Where do stars go to when it gets light ?
FATHER: They don’t go anywhere. They just fade, and when it gets dark, they are visible again.
CHILD: Would you have to travel for long’ to reach a star ?
FATHER: If you travel as fast as light does, it still takes years and years.
CHILD: Is it that far ?
FATHER: Look, that star over there. It is bright and seems close. The light you see now has been on its way for eight years.
CHILD: So it left when I was three ?
FATHER: Yes. And the light of these stars, that group on the left of the horizon, has been on its way for more than two hundred years.
CHILD: So when I wave now, then they would only see me wave two hundred years from now, and if they wave back, then it takes another two hundred years before we can see their waiving here on earth ?
FATHER: That’s right.
CHILD: So in two hundred years’ time they’ll see on that star that there is a war on here ?
Music fades in.
- Exterior – night – at a distance the river has become audible.
OLD FATHER: We are close to the river.
ADULT SON: Yes, they haven’t been able to do away with the river.
OLD FATHER: The water palace.
ADULT SON: You should still tell me the end.
OLD FATHER: Can we still get closer ‘?
ADULT SON: The bank has been raised.
OLD FATHER: I want to see the water.
ADULT SON: We have to do the last part on foot.
OLD FATHER: I’m not tired.
ADULT SON: Come. Give me your arm.
OLD FATHER: We will rescue the princess.
You are talking about the fairy tale ?
OLD FATHER: Have I told you she was wounded by ten arrows ‘?
ADULT SON: I think so. She was fast asleep in the water palace.
OLD FATHER And the prince saw in his dream that birds came to the coast from all over the world. They sang melodies, ten in number and when reaching the coast they each dropped one feather until the feathers formed a feather boat, shaped like a swan.
ADULT SON: And all this really happened ?
OLD FATHER: The prince asked every kind of bird in the cou.ntry to contribute a feather, with which he built a beautiful boat, shaped like a swan.
ADULT SON: And thus he reached the water palace ?
OLD FATHER: That’s right. And he rescued her from the ten arrows, and with each of his ten fingers he touched the ten pulses, while singing the ten melodies.
ADULT SON: And she woke up again and they got married.
OLD FATHER: Every year on the day of her rescue, they returned to the water palace with the feather boat. They spent the whole day in the innermost room, and what they did there or what they talked about has never ever been revealed.
(In the meantime they have reached the water.)
ADULT SON: Here you can sit down. I’ll put my raincoat on the grass.
OLD FATHER: Shall we rest here for a little while ? The stars are all there.
ADULT SON: Get some sleep, Daddy. I want to look for the star from where the light left when I was eleven and sleeping in your arms.
OLD FATHER: You have found it already.
ADULT SON: And now you are lying in my arms.
OLD FATHER That’s fate, my son. I feel more and more light in the head. Has Hannah written to you lately ? Oh no. That is impossible. Hannah is dead. I always think she is still alive. I talk with her often. I am a little tired after all.
ADULT SON: Get some sleep now. Shall I put you down ? My raincoat is big enough for the two of us. So. I‘ll lie next to you.
OLD FATHER: If you listen carefully, you can hear the ten melodies.
ADULT SON: (softly, speaking to himself) and I can feel the ten arrows in my heart, the ten poisons.
water comes in the foreground. Crosses with :
- Exterior – night – outskirts of the city : we hear a clock tolling an early hour.
CHILD: There is East, eh Daddy ? The sun will rise there later on.
FATHER: Can you hear the clock ‘? The city won’t be far any more.
CHILD: Can I sit on your back for a little while longer, Daddy ?
FATHER: Are you tired ?
CHILD Not tired, but I want to be close to you for a little while longer.
(Child jumps on his back.)
CHILD: You are my nighthorse.
FATHER: A nighthorse ?
CHILD: Yes. Like a nightmare.
(They laugh. Do crazy things, they feel a bond.)
FATHER: This Way I wouldn’t mind travelling with you for forty years.
CHILD: Until the Promised Land ?
FATHER: Yes. And then I will let you go in by yourself.
CHILD: If you cut your hair, horsey, you may enter too. Giddyup !
(The father runs along whinnying : laughter, squeals), cross with :
- Exterior – night at the river : Adult son still half asleep, he has dreamt the previous
ADULT SON: giddyup, horsey giddyup
(wakes up with a start) Eh. Oh, I fell asleep. Father. Father. Where are you ?
(He jumps up.)
ADULT SON: Daddy ! Daddy, Where are you ? Daddy!
(we hear him walk around, shouting at different distances. which is drowned by :
- Exterior – night – close to the city.
CHILD: There Daddy ! Look there. It’s getting light. Come on horsey, run to the light. Come on. There is the Promised Land. Come on horsey. You’ll get nice things to eat later and I will rub you dry. Close your eyes horsey, I’ll take you there. Come . To the light !
(we hear them disappear. The river fades in again.)
- Exterior – night – river : the man has jumped in the water.
ADULT SON: Hold on tight, Daddy. Hold on tight, we’re almost there.
Did you think you could still swim ‘? After all, I get to carry you like you carried me. Hold on tight. Come on.
(He drags him onto the bank.)
OLD FATHER: (speaking with difficulty) I almost made it.
ADULT SON: What did you say, Daddy ?
OLD FATHER: I… almost… made it.
ADULT SON: You almost made it ? Did you think you could still swim to the other side ?
OLD FATHER: …to the water palace the water palace
ADULT SON: The water palace ? Daddy.
River in foreground, crosses with :
Exterior – early morning : outskirts of the city.
FATHER: (gasping) …this horse is tired, little boy… this horse is dead tired
CHILD: We had almost reached the light, horsey. Almost.
FATHER: If I only had two wings too …
CHILD: We are close to the station, Daddy.
(A train approaches.)
FATHER: The boarding school is not far any more.
CHILD: A train Daddy. All freight cars !
FATHER: Hide !
CHILD: Why ‘? Who can see us ‘? Look. Arms are sticking out the windows. Are they waving ?
FATHER: No, they are not waving. Because they cannot shout with their voice, they shout with their arms.
CHILD: What are they shouting ?
FATHER: Comm on. It is almost day.
CHILD: Where is the train going ?
He keeps asking questions : the train fills the sound-image and crosses with :
- Exterior – night – river.
ADULT SON: That is why you wanted to come back.
Silence – water audible.
ADULT SON: I think you have made it, Daddy. You reached the water palace.
Silence – water audible.
ADULT SON: You have made it. I’m still behind.
Train and river fill the entire sound-image now.
Music “The glitt’ring Sun“. The trains still audible together with the music until they both
(translation Gilberte Lenaerts)