Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania (1972) Movie Script

That early fall,
in 1957 or '58,
one Sunday morning,
we went into the Catskills,
into the woods.
We walked through the leaves,
beating the leaves with a stick.
We walked up
and up, and deeper and deeper.
It was good to walk like that
and not to think,
not to think anything
about the last ten years.
And I was wondering myself
that I could walk like this
and not to think
about the years of war,
of hunger,
of Brooklyn.
almost, and maybe,
it was for the first time,
as we were walking
through the woods, that
early fall day,
for the first time I did not feel
alone in America.
Like I felt
there was the ground,
there was earth,
and leaves, and trees,
and people.
And like I was
slowly becoming
a part of it.
It was a moment when I forgot
This was the beginning
oi my new home.
"Hey, I escaped the ropes
of time, once more,"
I said.
I walked the streets of Brooklyn,
but the memories,
the smells,
the sounds that I was remembering
were not from Brooklyn.
Somewhere at the end
of Atlantic Avenue,
somewhere there they
used to have their picnics.
I use to watch them,
the old immigrants,
and the new ones.
And they looked to me like some
sad, dying animals
in a place they didn't exactly
belong to,
in a place
they didn't recognize.
They were there,
on the Atlantic Avenue,
but they were completely
somewhere else.
Some footage
I took with my first Bolex.
I wanted to make a film against war.
I wanted to shout, to shout
that there was a war,
because I walked the city
and I thought nobody knew
that there was a war,
I thought nobody knew
that there were homes in the world
where people cannot sleep,
where their door has
been kicked in at night,
with the boots of
soldiers and the police,
where I came from.
But in this city nobody knew it.
I remember you, my friends,
from displaced person camp,
from the miserable post-war years.
we are,
we still are displaced persons,
even today,
and the world is full of us,
every continent
is full of displaced persons.
The minute we left,
we started going home,
and we are still going home.
I am still on my journey home.
We loved you,
but you did lousy
things to us.
Have you...
have you ever stood in Times Square
and suddenly felt,
very close to you and very strong,
the smell of a fresh
bark of a birch tree'?
My brother said
he was a pacifist
and that he hated war.
So they drafted him into the army,
and they took him back to Europe,
back to all the war memories.
So he started
eating leaves from the trees
and they though! he was crazy,
so they shipped him
back to the States.
And there was Mamma,
and she was waiting.
She was waiting for
25 years.
And there was our uncle,
who told us to go west:
"Go, children, west,
and see the world."
And so we went.
And we're still going.
The berries, always berries.
Uogos, berries.
Our uncle, the protestant,
reformed protestant,
pastor, and a very wise man.
He was a friend of Spengler,
and he had all his books there,
maybe that's why
he told us to go west.
The house, the attic in which
I lived during my studies.
And I had a rope dangling
to slide down in case
the Germans bang at the door.
And as we were approaching,
closer and closer
to the places
we knew so well,
suddenly, in front of us
a forest.
I didn't recognize the places.
There were no trees when we left.
We planted small
seedlings all around,
yes, and now the little
seedlings had grown up,
into big, large trees.
Our home,
our house was still there,
and the cat met us.
So what does one do when
one comes home after 25 years?
Of course,
we went to the well
to drink some water.
The water
that tastes like no other water.
Oh ,
cool water of Semeniskiai!
No wine ever tasted better anywhere.
OK very good. Today is August 7th,
it's our first morning in Semeniskiai.
And we're having breakfast.
Mamma complains that
her memory is failing.
She can't find a spoon.
She hasten and she can'! find
a single one this morning.
"The only thing to know
about the old age," she said,
"is that you can't find your
spoons when you get old."
Brother Petras arrives.
We talk about the trees,
how tall they have become,
how much they have grown.
We decide to go to the fields,
to see how the work
is done these days.
So we go, and Petras leads us,
and he's very excited, he
wants to show everything.
And there, high on the combine,
sits Jonas Ruplenas, with whom
I went to school together,
who used to take care of
cows and sheep in the fields.
And there he sits now,
and he's so big,
and the machine is so big,
and the fields are so wide.
Brother Kostas sings a song
about the collective farm work,
we all join in.
Oh, these personal ramblings...
Of course you'd like
to know something
about the social realities.
How is the life going there,
in the Soviet Lithuania?
But what do I know about it?
I'm a displaced person
on my way home,
in search for my home,
retracing bits of past,
looking for some recognizable
traces of my past.
The time in Semeniskiai
remains suspended for me...
...remains suspended
until my return.
It's beginning to move again.
Later we all go to Petras' place
and so it goes,
late into the night.
When we had enough,
when we had enough of it,
brother Petras brought some hay
from the barn,
and there we slept.
In the morning, brother Petras
took the hay back to the barn,
he was sort of hiding.
He said, "Don't tell them in
America that we sleep in hay.
He thought It was very funny.
That evening, the collective farm
Vienybe, which means togetherness,
gave us a reception.
The collective farm
embraces six or seven...
a dozen former villages.
Our mother is telling about
the terrible post-war years
and how the police was waiting
for a year for me to come home,
they thought I was...
joined the partisans
Every night, the police was
waiting behind the house
in the bushes, for me to come home.
And the dog used to bark and bark.
But I was young, and
naive, and patriotic,
and I was editing this
underground newspaper,
directed against Nazis,
Nazi Germany,
and I had this typewriter
that I was hiding
in a stack of wood
outside, by the house.
And a thief, one night,
snooping for something,
found it and stole it.
And it was only a question
of days, or hours,
when Germans would catch him.
I had very little time to disappear
and it's at this point that
our wise uncle told us:
"Go, children, west, see the world
and come back."
False papers were made for us
to go to the University of Vienna
and study there,
and there we went.
The only thing was that
we never got there.
Germans directed our
train towards Hamburg
and we ended in the slave camps
of the Nazi Germany.
We goofed around,
and Kostas came home
early today from his granary.
We walked around the houses,
we touched some of the things
we used to work with.
Of course,
they're not used
anymore in the fields,
it had memories for us,
as we were mowing the grass
around the houses.
It was real enough,
ES a memory.
By the fence,
in the junkyard,
we found an old plough.
It's not used now
and brother Kostas said to me,
"OK, now you pull it!"
And he was beating me.
He said, "Now you film this
and take it to show the Americans
how miserably we live."
Of course he thought
it was very funny.
We decide to go to see
the old school house.
We all went to the same school.
Long, deep, cold winters,
through the fields,
through the frozen rivers,
through the forests,
we walked to the school,
with our noses frozen,
our faces burning
in cold wind and snow.
But ah, those were beautiful days!
Those were winters
I'll never forget.
Where are you now,
my old childhood friends?
How many of you are alive?
Where are you scattered?
Through the graveyards,
through the torture rooms,
through the prisons,
through the labor camps
of the western civilization.
But I see your faces,
just like they used to be.
They never changed in my memory.
They remain young,
it's me who is getting older.
It's a new song,
it's about somebody who's far away
and he says, "Oh, mother,
how I long to see you again.
I hope the long grey road
will lead me home,
will lead me soon home again."
This morning, the fire
was slow to start.
Our mother cooks outside, she
doesn't like to cook indoors.
It's too hot and too smoky.
She likes outdoors.
And the fire just didn't
want to come this morning.
So she gathered some dry branches
and some leaves and some newspapers.
I kept blowing at it,
and I blew a! it,
it took a very, very longtime.
But finally we got it going.
Yes, they were waiting
for you every night,
for more than a year,
behind the bathhouse.
The dogs used to bark every night,
she said.
All the women of my village
that I remember from my childhood,
they always reminded
me of the birds,
sad autumn birds,
as they fly over the fields,
crying sadly.
You led hard and sad lives
the women of my childhood.
The day I was leaving,
it was raining.
The airport was wet.
It was sad.
It was funny.
I was looking at the legs.
I remembered my old
friend Narbutas who said,
"as long as a man is
watching womans legs,
he shouldn't marry."
So I guess I won't marry soon.
In Elmshorm, Adolf as is lying
exactly in the spot
where our beds
used to be, in the labor camp.
When we asked some people around,
nobody remembered that
there was a labor camp there.
Only the grass remembers.
One of the factories,
the Gebriider Neunert,
where they used to take us
to work, together
with French, Russian, Italian
war prisoners, is still there.
It's the bench I used to work,
where I was beaten up for working
too slow and talking back.
The foreman recognized Adolf as.
We spoke about this and that.
He was a young, a good foreman.
In March '45,
we escaped and ran to Denmark
and we were caught near
the border of Denmark,
and while they were
shipping us back,
we escaped OFICG ITIOTG,
and for the last
three months of war,
we hid ourselves in
Schleswig-Holstein, on a farm.
while my brother was looking
and remembering and thinking back,
there were children around.
They thought it was very funny,
these strange people
coming to see here,
standing, looking.
They thought it was really funny.
Oh, yes, run, children, run.
I was also running once from here,
but I was running for my life.
I hope you'll never
have to run for your life.
Run, children, run.
I was watching Peter and
I caught myself envying him.
Envying his peace,
his serenity.
His being just in himself
with things around him,
with things that he has
always been with,
at home, in place, in time,
in mind,
in culture.
She walks through
New York and Vienna
with the same optimism and courage.
I admire her,
I admire Annette for making
culture into her roots,
into her life.
And there is Hermann Nitsch,
pursuing his vision,
without giving in an inch.
And heroically.
And Ken Jacobs,
who has the courage
to remain a child
in the purity of his seeing
and his ecstasies.
No, I never got to Vienna that time,
but some strange circumstances
pulled me back,
much later.
And there I am,
Slowly, I begin when I walk
through Vienna with Peter,
as we talk, as we
go to the galleries,
monasteries and Demel,
through the wine cellars,
and through the wine groves,
I begin to believe again
in the indestructibility
of the human spirit,
in certain qualities,
in certain standards.
They have been established
by man,
through many thousands of years,
and they'll be here
when we are gone.
We stood there,
that August evening in Kremsmillnster.
A few friends on the roof of
a 1200 year-old monastery,
and the evening was coming,
the sun was setting.
A blue light was falling
over the landscape.
It was very, very peaceful,
our hearts and our minds elated.
On our way back home
to Vienna,
from far away,
we saw a fire.
Vienna was burning.
The fruit market was on fire.
Peter said it was a pity.
It was his market.
He said it was the most
beautiful market in Vienna.
He said the city
probably set it on fire,
just to get rid of it.
They want a modern market now.