The Immortal Story (1968) Movie Script

In China...
in the Portuguese island of Macao...
there lived, toward
the end of the last century,
an immensely rich merchant...
...whose name was Mister Clay.
He had a magnificent house
and a splendid equippage.
And he sat in the midst of both,
erect, silent...
...and alone.
Among the other Europeans he had the
name of an iron hard man,
who had broken with his partner,
a man called Louis Ducrot,
and then bankrupted him, and thrown him
and his family into the street.
It would be a little manner of 300 Guineas.
But Louis Ducrot couldn't pay...
- And that was the end of it.
- It was the end of Louis.
- He committed suicide.
- And his family?
Well, there was a daughter some place
but she ran away with a sea captain.
And, of course, old Clay had taken
over the house. Poor Louis!
- He'd been proud of that house.
- Proud? The objects of art in it.
He smashed and burned up
every one of them before he left.
He said that nothing meant
for the embellishment of life
would ever consent to live with
the new master of that house.
Except the looking glasses...
the ones he brought from France.
Those mirrors had reflected only
happy and affectionate scenes
It would be his murderer's
punishment, he said,
to meet, wherever he went,
the portrait of a hangman.
Mr. Clay sat down to dine in solitude.
Face to face with his portrait.
He was not aware of any lack
of friendliness in his surroundings.
The idea of friendliness
had never entered his scheme of life.
It was only natural that things
should be as they were
because he had willed them to be so...
When he was seventy,
he had fallen ill with the gout.
He couldn't sleep at night. His head
clerk would sit up with him and read aloud
the bills, estimates and
contracts of his business.
I have read to you all of the old
account books twice over.
Shall I start again?
There are other kinds of books.
- Haven't you heard of them?
- Other kinds of books?
Besides account books there are other
things which people sometimes read.
What's that?
In the party of Jews who took me
with them fleeing from Poland
there was a very old man.
Before he died, he gave me this.
Here, Mr. Clay, is something
that I shall read to you.
"The wilderness and the solitary
places shall be glad,
"and the desert shall
rejoice and blossom
- "In synch even with joy ..."
- That's not a book.
- "Strengthen ye the weak hand ..."
- That's not a book at all.
It's what you have asked for.
Something beside the account books.
"Strengthen ye their weak hands
and confirm their feeble knees"
- Where'd you get it?
- "say to them that are fearful hearted:
"'Behold your God will come
with a recompense.'
"and in the wilderness
shall waters break out."
What was all that?
Has it happened?
Is it happening now?
- Who put that thing together?
- The prophet Isaiah.
The prophet!
I don't like prophecies.
People should only record things
when they've already happened.
This prophet of yours,
when did he live?
Oh, about a thousand years ago,
Mr. Clay.
People can record things,
which have already happened.
Do you know what such a
record is called?
- A story.
- Yes, Mr. Clay.
I heard a story once when I first
came out here to China.
One of the sailors told the others
about a thing which had happened to him.
He told them a story.
A sailor was walking by
himself near a harbor
when a carriage drove up and
a rich old gentleman said to him.
"You are a fine looking sailor.
Would you like to earn 5 Guineas?"
The sailor naturally answered yes and the
rich old gentleman drove him to his house
and gave him food and wine
and said to him:
"I am very rich.
"I'm very old and I don't trust the people
"who will inherit what I've saved up all my life.
"Three years ago I married a young wife.
"But she's been no good to me.
"I've got no child."
With your permission, Mr. Clay,
I also can tell that story.
What's that?
The old gentleman led
the sailor to a bedroom
which was lighted with
candlesticks of pure gold.
Was it not so, Mr. Clay?
In the room there was a bed
and in the bed there was a lady.
The old gentleman took from
his purse a piece of gold.
A 5 Guinea piece, Mr. Clay,
and handed it to the sailor.
- How do you come to know this story?
Coming here to China, Mr. Clay,
you travelled on only one ship.
So you heard the story only once.
- What's that got to do with my story?
- From Gravesend to Lisbon,
there was a sailor on
that ship who told the story.
On my way to Singapore, I heard
another sailor tell that story.
The story they tell never happended
and that's why it is told.
It never will happen, Mr. Clay.
I don't like prophecies.
Yes, Mr. Clay.
Goodnight, Mr. Clay.
I don't like pretense.
I don't like prophecies.
I like facts!
If this story has never happened now.
Yes, Mr. Clay.
I want it to happen in real life
to real people.
Yes, Mr. Clay. To real people.
- Where do you want it to happen.
- Here. In my own house.
I want to see it all with my own eyes.
I want to dine with the sailor
in my dining room
I want to pick him out myself
in the street by the harbor.
- It will involve expenses.
- Yes. It's going to cost us some money.
You remember there's
a woman in the story.
The young miss,
I shall not be able to get you.
I'm paying you to do this work for me...
and it will be part of your work
to find me this woman.
Yes, Mr. Clay.
This clerk might well have been
a highly dangerous person
except that ambition,
desire, in any form
had been washed and bleached
and burnt out of him.
He was like some kind of insect:
hard to crush,
even to the heel of a boot.
And yet, there were things
not yet to be recounted
which moved like big
deep water fish
in the depths of his dark mind.
He had only one passion:
a craving to be left alone.
His soul was concentrated
on this one request,
that he might he might enter
his little room and shut his door
with the security that, here, no one
in the world could possibly follow him.
By the next day, he had decided
on the heroine for the story.
In the town, she was called Virginie.
She was the mistress of another clerk
in Mr. Clay's establishment,
- A young man named Simpson.
- Charlie?
You remember, he asked me
to buy you a shawl.
So I brought you some of them so
you could choose the one you like.
Yes. Charlie didn't want to be seen
in the shops buying such things for a woman.
Word of that might have got back
to his family in Europe. So he sent you.
I don't suppose you've got a family
in Europe? What's your name?
Levinsky. Elishama Levinsky.
I won't ask you what you want of me.
You can tell me when you feel like it.
If you know Charlie, I suppose you
work with him at the office...
- for the old American?
- Yes, Miss Virgine.
How is he? The old man?
I heard he was sick.
He's no well, Miss Virginie.
He does not leave his house.
Good. Is he going to die?
Oh, no.
At least he is strong enough
to make up new schemes.
With your permission,
I'll tell you one of them.
He dislikes pretense.
He dislikes prophecies.
He likes facts.
- Facts?
- Yes.
But 50 years ago, on a ship,
he heard a story told.
A sailor was walking by himself near the harbor
when a rich old gentleman drove up
in a carriage and said to him:
"You are a fine looking sailor.
Do you want earn 5 Guineas tonight?"
- That was in Benin.
- Yes?
Not here in Macao.
I heard it from a friend of mine,
an Englishman, merchant captain.
It happened to a sailor that he knew
when he first went to sea.
Miss Virginie, this is a story that lives
on ships. All sailors have told it.
It might have been left on sea and never
come ashore if it hadn't been for Mr. Clay.
He made up his mind to have it
happen in real life to real people
in order that one sailor in the world
shall be able to tell it, from begining
to end, as it actually happened to him.
If he wants to play a comedy,
a comedy with the devil,
it's a matter between the two of them.
- What's it to me?
- Yes! A comedy. I'd forgotten the word.
There are three people in Mr. Clay's comedy.
The old gentleman, he will play himself
and the young sailor...
he will himself find by the harbor.
But if an English merchant captain has
told you this, Miss Virginie,
he will have told you that besides these
two there's also a beautiful, young lady.
On Mr. Clay's behalf, I am now looking
for this beautiful, young lady.
If she will come into this comedy
and finish it for him,
Mr. Clay will pay her 100 Guineas.
Old Clay has got some pretty
strange ideas of a comedy.
In a comedy, the actors pretend
to kill one another... or to die...
or to go to bed with their lovers.
They don't really do any of these things.
You're master's like
the Emperor Nero of Rome
who had people eaten up by lions.
- Yes?
- Yes. Just to amuse himself.
- But since then it hasn't been done.
- And was the Emperor Nero very rich?
Oh... he owned all the world.
- And were his comedies good?
- He liked them himself, I suppose.
But nowadays, who would
he get to play in them?
If he owned all the world, he would
get people to play in them.
What does he pay you?
30 pieces of silver?
I am in Mr. Clay's employ. I cannot
dare go anywhere but with him.
But you, Miss Virginie, you
can go wherever you like.
- Yes. I suppose so.
- Yes. You suppose so.
But you have been able to go
wherever you like all your life.
I was so angry with my life today
that I was planning to end it.
But now you are angry with me.
Miss Virginie,
Mr. Clay is prepared
to pay 100 Guineas
if on the night appointed by him,
you will come to his house.
- To his house?
- Yes. To his house.
Do you know what house that is?
It's my father's house.
I played in it when I was a little girl.
That house was the only
thing left me from the time
when I was rich and pretty and innocent.
The heroine of Mr. Clay's story
is rich, pretty, and innocent.
All of these years,
whenever I walked past it,
I've dreamt of how
I'd enter it once more.
You are to enter it again, Miss Virginie.
I will not go
into this house, Mr. Levinsky.
You've been here before. It's
not very much of a place, is it?
I shouldn't think you'd
be used to much better.
I live by the harbor near
the company quarters.
Mr. Clay's company!
It's true.
- You're an important man
- No! Miss Virginie.
You run the old man's office for him.
You have all of his affairs
in your own hands.
You live in a house on the Praia Grande?
- A room.
- A room.
I wonder what it's like.
Did you have a home
when you were a child?
- No.
- I thought so.
- You knew him, didn't you?
- No, Miss Virginie.
His name was Ducrot.
He was my father.
It's not the name you
use now, Miss Virginie.
Your father died before I came to China.
He killed himself.
That's not my mother.
It's the Empress Eugenia of France.
We used to talk, my father and I,
of great, splendid, noble things.
He told me how the Empress
wore her white satin shoes
one single time only
then made a present of them
to the common schools
for the little girls to wear
to their first communion.
I was to have done the same thing.
Papa was so proud of my small feet.
The Empress made a great
career for herself.
She said to the Emperor
that the way to her bedroom
ran through the cathedral of Notre Dame.
And the way to my bedroom?
Lately, it's been through
offices and counting houses.
We go where we are told, Miss Virginie.
- What does he really want, the old man?
- To demonstrate his omnipotence,
to do the thing which cannot be done.
And yet, you said the Emperor of Rome
owned all of the world.
But the people down there,
going north, south, east, west,
How many would be going at all
if they hadn't been told to go
by Mr. Clay and the other
rich merchants like him?
Now, Mr. Clay has told you
to go to his house
and you will have to go.
I suppose that nobody could
insult you even if they tried.
Why should I let them?
And if I told you to
get out of this house?
When I'd gone. you'd sit here
and think of the things for
which you sent me away.
Didn't you say you had
no family in Europe?
There was a pogrom, Miss Virginie.
They were killed in the pogrom.
- But you escaped and came to China?
- I was in many places first:
Frankfurt, London, Amsterdam, Lisbon...
- Well, you're here now.
- Yes, Miss Virginie.
I see now...
who you are.
I thought you were a small rat
out of Mr. Clay's storehouse.
Et toi, tu es le juif errant.
I travelled once, myself... for a while.
Que se o marinheiro...
An English captain...
the one who told me your story.
He took me to Japan.
On our first night,
there was an earthquake.
The earth trembled and shook
at the loss of my innocence.
- In the shawls, Miss Virginie...
- In the shawls?
Yes. In the other I once brought
here for you to choose from...
in each, there is a pattern.
A pattern in all of them.
Only sometimes the line goes the other way
from what you expect.
As in a looking glass.
With money to travel with,
you can make a career for yourself.
No less than the Empress of France.
Only on this pattern, the road
runs around the other way.
And, why not, Miss Virginie?
And you said you didn't know my father?
Or anything about him?
This is the motto on
our family's coat of arms:
"Pourquoi pas"
That means, "Why not," Miss Virginie?
Tell Mr. Clay for me that I won't
come for the price he's offered me.
My price is 300 Guineas.
That's the pattern.
Or in terms he'll understand,
the known debt.
- Is that your last word, Miss Virginie?
- Yes.
- Your very last word?
- Yes.
Here is 300 Guineas.
He was sure to go mad at the end
with all his sins.
Rich traders and merchants,
they're all mad.
In one way or the other,
this thing will be the end of him.
- Yes?
- Yes, Miss Virginie.
But now he may think
that the pursuit of a story
is even more interesting
than the pursuit of money.
Do you want a receipt?
No, Miss Virginie.
Young sailor!
My master here in this carriage
wishes to speak to you.
He says, would you like
to earn 5 Guineas tonight?
You're a fine looking sailor.
Would you like to earn
5 Guineas tonight?
You're a fine looking sailor,
my young friend.
Would you like to earn
5 Guineas tonight?
Yes, I want to earn 5 Guineas.
I was thinking about it just now...
in what way I was to earn 5 Guineas.
Get into my carriage.
I'll tell you more at my house.
No. Your carriage is too fine.
My clothes are too dirty and tarred.
I shall run beside.
And I can go as fast as you can.
He's young, eh Levinsky?
He's full of the juices of life.
He has blood in him.
I suppose he's got tears.
He longs... yearns...
for the things which dissolve people...
For friendship and love.
Such things, a man's bones have dissolved.
Once I broke with a partner of mine
when I wouldn't allow him to become my friend.
It dissolved my bones.
- Do you think he's ever seen gold?
- He will have heard of it.
Hold out your hand.
That's what you're going to earn tonight.
It's a 5 Guinnea piece.
It's gold.
And gold, my young sailor:
it's solid. It's hard.
It's proof against dissolution.
You're a poor sailor
and I'm a rich old man.
My name in China is worth more
money than you've ever heard of.
In America, when they name me
they name a million dollars.
That million dollars, that's me...
myself... my days... my years.
My life.
And soon the time will come when
one half of me must go
and the other half,
my million dollars, will live on.
But where?
It occurs to me that
it might give me pleasure
to leave my possessions to a child.
A child which I myself
have caused to exist.
Caused to exist as
I've begotten my fortune.
The starving coolies in the tea fields,
they didn't know they were
contributing to the making of it.
For them, it was only the pain in their hands
and the poor copper coins of their wages.
In my brain and by my will, many...
...things were brought together
to make up one single thing.
A million dollars.
I'm not just now in the habit
of talking to rich old people.
To tell you the truth, old master,
I'm not just now in the habit
of talking to anyone at all.
A fortnight ago,
when the scooner picked me up,
I hadn't spoken a word for a whole year.
My own ship went down in a storm.
And, of all her crew, I alone
was cast ashore on an island.
Tonight, it's no more than three weeks
since I walked down
the beach of my island.
All of this must be a change for you.
Yes, this house is very different
from my island.
Well, I'll soon get used to
talking again. I've talked before.
- I'm not such a fool as I look.
- No, my young friend.
I'm gonna tell you why I fetched you here.
I know.
I know what you're going to tell me old
master. I've heard it before: every word.
It's hard on you being so old and dry.
But I shall know well enough
what I'm doing.
- He's very young, is he?
- The sailor boy? Oh, yes!
Mr. Clay is highly satisfied with
his catch on the behalf of Macao.
Very likely, there's not another fish
of just that kind to be caught there.
But if he stays until dawn,
he'll see the truth on my face:
that it's old!
Mr. Clay and the sailor boy
are making ready.
- Old and powdered and ruined...
- They are entertaining one another.
Just as you are now preparing
yourself for your own part.
- The heroine's part in Mr. Clay's story.
- Yes?
The story is making headway.
But one way or another, you said,
it's going to be the end of him.
No man in the world can take
a story which people have invented
nd told and make it happen.
Do you think he's going to die
tonight? In his malice?
Add up a column of figures.
You start at the lowest
figure and move left.
But if a man took it into his head
to add up a column the other way,
from the left, what would he find?
His total would come out
wrong, Miss Virginie. Hmm?
His account books
would be worth nothing.
Mr. Clay's total will come out
wrong and be worth nothing.
These shells. I picked them up
every morning along the shore.
I'm going to take them to Denmark.
They're the only things
I've got to take home with me.
Some are beautiful... perhaps even rare.
What did you think about at night?
Of a boat, mostly.
A good, strong, sea-worthy boat.
She needn't be big.
No more than five per stage.
And when I met you tonight old gentleman
and you asked me if I'd earn 5 Guineas,
- that was why I went with you.
- Didn't you think about women?
On the ships I've sailed on,
the others talked about their girls.
I know. I know very well what
you're paying me to do tonight.
I'm as good as any sailor.
You'd have no reason to complain of me.
Your lady waiting here for me. She
would have no reason to complain of me.
All the same, I may as well
now go back to my ship.
And you, my old gentleman, will
take on another sailor for you job.
No. I don't want you
to go back to your ship.
You... you've been cast
away on a desert island.
You haven't spoken to
a human being for a year.
I'd hate to think about that.
I'll take no other sailor for my job.
And your boat?
Thank you, old master,
for the food and the wine.
Is there a boat you want to buy?
- Good night, old gentleman.
- How are you going to buy it?
Now you've given back your
5 Guinnea piece and going away.
That boat will never
come to be launched.
It will never come to sail.
This was my father's bedroom.
I was allowed to play
here on Sunday mornings.
He seems so far away, my father.
He's back with me tonight.
I've entered this old house with his consent.
I was a little girl the last time
I looked in this mirror.
I used to ask it to show me what
I'd be like in years to come.
I think for the first time in his life,
Mr. Clay will be impressed
- by a woman's beauty.
- He mustn't look at me.
- How can he help it?
- I mustn't look at him.
It's the time for acting the story.
He will be coming soon.
No, no. I dare not.
Let me go. Please let me go.
He's paid you, Miss Virginie.
Mr. Levinsky!
My father...
on the last day of his life...
an hour or so, before he killed himself,
he called me to him.
All our misery had risen from the moment
he first set eyes on the face of Mr. Clay,
so he bound me by a solemn vow,
never... in any place or
under any circumstance...
to look into that face again.
You will not have to look at it.
The downcast eyes of
the heroine in the story
will bear witness to her modesty.
Who knows?
The prophet Isaiah may now
have laid hands on his head
and turned Mr. Clay into a child.
Perhaps he's beginning
to play with his story.
I may play with it, too.
How do you know I won't set
fire to this house in the morning
before I leave it again...
and burn your master in it?
I know this much:
I've been with him for seven years
and now I'll lose my situation.
You're so sure that this comedy of his
will be the end of him?
I'm sure of it, too.
He was my father's deadly enemy.
This night will bring about
the final judgment.
My humiliation, my disgrace
will provide the conclusive
evidence against him.
You're the most
beautiful girl in the world.
How old are you?
Are you 17?
Then you and I are the same age.
You're young. Both of you... young.
You're in fine health.
Your limbs don't ache.
You sleep at night because
you move without pain.
You think you move at your own will.
Not so.
You move at my bidding.
You're two young, strong
and lusty jumping jacks
in this old hand of mine.
I've got something to tell you.
I've never 'til tonight
slept with a girl.
I've thought about it often.
I've meant to do it many times.
But I've never done.
It wasn't all my own fault.
I've been away for a long time.
In a place a long way off,
where there weren't any girls.
- What's your name?
- Virginie.
When I was on that island...
...far from here...
I sometimes fancied I had
a girl with me who was mine
I brought her birds' eggs and fish and
some big sweet fruits that grew there
and she was kind to me.
We slept together in a cave that I found.
When the full moon rose, it shone into it.
But I couldn't think of a name for her.
I didn't remember any girl's name.
For god's sake! Get up! We must
get up. There's an earthquake.
Don't you feel the earthquake?
No. It's not an earthquake.
Tonight... in that room...
in that bed...
they, themselves, for that
same young, hot blood in them...
It's all nothing but a...
My story.
The birds are singing.
Yes, they're singing.
On the boats, I sometimes made a song.
What were your songs about?
About the sea and the lives of the sailors.
...and their deaths.
Sing one of them to me.
"As I was keeping the middle watch,
and the night was cold,
"three swans flew across the moon,
over her round face of gold."
A 5 Guinnea piece is like the moon
and then not at all like her...
Did you make other songs?
"When the sky's brown and the sea yawns,
three thousand fathoms down,
"and the boat runs downward like a whale,
"still Paul Velling will not turn pale."
- Then... your name is Paul?
- Yes, Paul. It's not a bad name.
My father was named Paul
and his father, too.
It's the name of good seamen,
faithful to their ship.
My father drowned six months before I was born.
He's down there in the sea.
But... you're not going
to drown, are you Paul?
Oh, maybe not.
But I've many times wondered
what my father thought of
when the sea took him,
at last, altogether.
Do you like to think
of that sort of thing?
It's good to think of
the storms on the high seas.
It's not bad to think of death.
I have to go back to my ship
as soon as it grows light.
Now there's one sailor
who can tell his story
from beginning to end
as it actually happened.
But what about those other sailors?
What ever happened to them?
And why did they tell it?
Maybe it's like that prophecy of yours.
How'd it go?
"In the wilderness shall waters break out
and streams in the desert,
the parched ground shall become a pool."
He must have lived in a country
where it didn't rain very much.
In England, where the ground is nearly
always a pool they wouldn't appreciate it.
Tell me the rest.
"Behold your God will come
with the recompense,
"and some in sighing shall flee away."
Prophecies! Get up a new financial
scheme and you must prove on paper
that the shareholders are gonna
double their money or triple it.
That never happens but you've got to
prove it or people aren't going to invest.
It's like that with the sailors.
They're poor, so they
tell about a rich house.
They're lonely, so they
tell about a beautiful lady.
That story couldn't happen.
But it's happened to them.
Say that again.
About the lame man.
"Then shall the lame man,
leap like a hart."
"The eyes of the blind shall be opened."
You're coming home with me and
we'll sleep together every night...
like tonight.
You can't do that. He's paid you.
Your man has paid you.
He paid you to go at dawn
and you took his money.
- You'll have your boat.
- Yes, I shall have the boat.
Was that what you said?
But you?
What is going to happen to you, my girl?
Old gentleman, will you remember
to do something for me?
She's got so many fine things, she would
not care to have a lot of shells lying about.
But this one is rare, I think.
Perhaps there's not another
one like it in all the world.
It's as smooth and silky as a knee.
And when you hold it to your ear
there is a sound in it.
A song.
You'll remember to tell her
to hold it to her ear?
Thank you, old gentleman.
And good bye.
- Now you can tell your story.
- What story?
All that's happened to you from
yesterday evening till now.
All that I've seen and done?
Why do you call it a story?
You are the one sailor in the world
who can tell the story truthfully
as it happened to you.
To whom would I tell it?
Who in the world
would believe me if I told it?
I would not tell it for
a hundred times 5 Guineas.
He's dead, Miss Virginie.
He's been waiting at sunrise
to drink of the cup of his triumph
but the cup has been too strong for him.
It's very hard on people who
want things so badly that
they can't do without them.
And if they can't get these things,
it is hard.
And when they do get them,
surely, it is very hard.
I have heard it before...
...long ago.
But where?
English transcript: depositio
Edited and resynched: HaraldBluetooth