The Lover (1992) Movie Script

Very early in my life
it was too late.
At 18,
it was already too late.
At 18, I aged.
This aging was brutal.
This aging, I saw it
spread over my features...
one by one.
Instead of being
frightened by it...
I saw this aging of my face...
with the same sort
of interest...
I might have taken,
for example...
in the reading of a book.
That new face, I kept it.
It's kept
the same contours...
but its matter
is destroyed.
I have a destroyed face.
Let me tell you again.
I'm 15 1/2.
It's the crossing
of a ferry on the Mekong.
Look at me.
I'm 15 1/2.
It's the crossing
of the river.
When I go back to Saigon...
it's as though
I'm on a journey...
when I take the bus.
That day, it's the end
of the school holidays.
I don't remember which one.
I went to spend it in Sa-Dec
with my two brothers...
in my mother's tight house...
behind the bush school...
in the horror
of the Sa-Dec house.
The big pieces are mine.
Why yours?
Because that's the way it is.
I wish you'd die.
Paul, come to bed.
You mustn't be afraid
Not of Pierre,
not of anything.
Never again, you know.
Never again.
He came back?
I see him on the balcony...
in the night outside...
doesn't want to go
to his room.
He's too scared of Pierre.
Me, it's when he's outside
that I'm afraid.
I'm afraid
he'll leave like that.
He'll get lost.
It can happen
with that kind of child.
That's not true.
You're not afraid for Paul.
You're only afraid for Pierre.
Why is it
that you love him so much...
and not us... never?
I love all three
of my children the same.
That's not true.
It's not true!
Answer! Why is it
that you love him so much...
and not us?
I don't know why.
I wrote to Saigon...
to ask for Pierre's
I'm sending him back
to France.
You're happy?
He stole at
the opium den again.
I can't pay any longer.
It's over.
It's not possible anymore.
Mom, hurry up,
or I'll miss the bus.
Bye, Paulo.
Take care.
Yes, Mom.
When are you coming back?
For Mardi Gras.
I already told you.
Oh. I forgot.
So that day...
I'm going back to Saigon.
I'm wearing my cabaret shoes
and my man's hat.
No woman, no young girl
wears a man's fedora...
in that colony in those days.
No native woman, either.
That hat, I never leave it.
I have that, this hat.
That all by itself
makes me whole.
I'm never without it.
So it's the crossing...
of one of the branches
of the Mekong...
on the ferry that's between
Vinh Long and Sa-Dec...
in the great plains
of mud and rice...
of southern Indochina...
the plain of the birds.
Excuse me, mademoiselle.
Do you smoke?
No, thank you.
I'm sorry.
It's so surprising...
a young white girl
on a native bus.
I like your hat.
It's original...
a man's hat
on a young girl.
And you're pretty.
You can do
anything you like.
You're who?
- I live in Vinh Long.
- Where in Vinh Long?
On the river just outside.
The big house with the terraces.
The blue stone one?
It's a Chinese house.
I am Chinese.
He's from
that financial minority...
that owns all the popular
housing of the colony.
He's back from Paris...
where he undertook
some business studies.
He's the one...
who was crossing
the Mekong that day...
towards Saigon.
If you want, I can
drive you to Saigon.
Do you know her?
She's the administrator's
Mrs. Stretter,
Do you want one?
Yes, thank you.
Is it true, that story
about the young man...
who killed himself
for her?
Don't know.
Yes, it's true.
On the marketplace
at Louang Prabang...
the day she left.
He was her lover.
The smoke
doesn't bother you?
I mean, in here?
No, not at all.
You're at
Saigon High School?
Yes, but
I sleep elsewhere...
at the Lyautey
Do you like studying?
Yes. I find it interesting.
What grade are you in?
And you're...
uh... 17.
And you?
and jobless.
And Chinese, what's more.
What's more... yes.
You look so beautiful
when you say that.
Since my mother's death,
my father has lived on his cot.
He never leaves
his opium pipe...
and he nearly
doesn't eat anymore.
I never guessed
the depth of their fondness.
There it's been 10 years...
that's he's taken care
of his business like that...
from his bed.
He stares
at the river, you see.
I see.
Yes, I miss Paris...
the parties,
the evenings
in Montparnasse...
the coupole.
Do you know the coupole?
I went to France once.
It was in the north,
near the Belgian border.
I only know here...
the Mekong, Saigon.
You like Saigon?
Yes, I like Saigon.
I like Saigon, too.
Cholon above all.
Cholon, it's like China.
That's it. It's here.
You got here
earlier than usual.
I met someone on the ferry.
He drove me here.
A Chinaman.
Helene is the only other
white girl...
in the boardinghouse.
Helene, she is immodest.
She doesn't realize.
She walks naked
in the dormitory.
She doesn't know
that she's very beautiful.
She's innocent...
lingering on in youth.
Hey, I forgot
to tell you something.
There's a girl...
the assistant mistresses
found her...
she was a prostitute
every evening...
behind the wall.
Nobody noticed anything.
- Who?
- Alice.
Alice? Who's she going with
like that?
people walking by.
It's always appealed to me.
To go with men
you don't know.
You don't even see them.
You'll never know
their face.
Do you think
we're all like that?
Yes. The assistant
mistresses, too.
Every woman.
Actually, I'd rather
be a prostitute...
than take care of lepers.
What are you
talking about again?
That's what everybody
says here.
They say they want us
to study...
but it's not true.
They take us into boarding...
so they can send us
to the lazarets...
with the lepers,
the plague-stricken...
the cholera-ridden.
I'd rather be a prostitute.
They'd be lucky, those men.
I'm the matador.
You are the bull.
Eyes on one level.
Shoulders straight.
3... 4...
5... 6.
Look over my left shoulder...
back out, arms locked,
bottom in.
And 1 and 2
and 3 and 4...
and 5 and 6
and 7 and 8.
And 1 and 2
and 3 and 4.
5, 6, 7, 8.
It happened very quickly
that day, a holiday...
a Thursday.
He came
that Thursday afternoon...
to the boardinghouse.
He came to wait for her
with the big black car.
It's early
in the afternoon...
the time of the siesta.
It's in Cholon...
in the alleyways of Cholon...
in the smell of soup,
roast meat...
jasmine, dust,
charcoal fire...
in the smell
of the Chinese town.
I... I didn't choose
the furniture.
It's... it's my father,
bought me this.
Young, rich Chinese
have mistresses...
and they call this
the bachelor's room.
Do you have
many mistresses?
Do you like the idea
of me having mistresses?
Yes, I do.
So you followed me here...
as you would have
followed anyone.
I wouldn't know.
I've never followed
anyone into a room yet.
I'm... l'm afraid...
I'm afraid of loving you.
Listen, we'll leave.
We'll come back some other time.
Well, I'd rather
you didn't love me.
I want you to do as you
usually do with other women.
Is that what you want?
I know
you'll never love me.
I don't know.
I don't want you to talk.
Just do as usual.
He tore the dress off.
He tore the little white
underpants off...
and he carried her like that...
naked, to the bed.
Once on the bed...
fear overcomes him.
I can't.
He says it's not true...
that she's too little...
that he can't do
such a thing.
So she's the one who does it.
Her eyes closed...
she undresses him...
button by button...
sleeve by sleeve.
The skin.
The skin.
The skin is
of a sumptuous softness.
The body is hairless...
any virility at all...
other than that of the sex.
She doesn't look him
in the face.
She touches him.
She touches
the softness of the sex...
of the skin.
She caresses the golden hue...
the unknown novelty.
I still see
the place of distress...
the distempered walls...
the slatted shutters
giving up to the furnace.
The soiling of the blood.
I remember well.
The room is dark.
It's surrounded by...
the never-ending clamor
of the town...
carried away by the town...
by the flow of the town.
My body was in
that public noise...
this passing by
from the outside...
The sea, I thought...
the immensity.
What are you
thinking about?
They're dead.
Did it hurt you?
Are you sad?
Yes, I guess.
A little.
I don't know.
It's because we've made love
during the daytime...
in the dead
of the heat.
It's me.
I'm always
a little sad.
I'm like my mother.
When I told her
I'd be a writer...
she shrugged.
She said it's not work...
it's a childish idea.
She wants me to do maths,
my mother does...
to earn money.
What do you want to write?
about my elder brother...
to kill him...
to see him in pain...
to make him die.
About my younger brother
to save him.
And about that...
about my mother's sadness.
About the lack of money,
about shame.
I know the bad luck
with your mother...
and the tragedies she's lived.
How do you know?
Through the servants.
Through my driver.
You know everything
through the servants.
I know about
your elder brother, too.
I met him in the opium dens
along the riverside.
He smokes too much.
Much too much.
The whites don't know
how to smoke.
He's an animal.
He scares me.
He steals from my mother
to go smoke.
He steals
from the servants.
My mother never
says anything.
He's her favorite.
Since my father died,
there's no money in the house.
My mother
lost everything here.
She made all
the wrong choices.
So how do you manage?
We do the best we can.
We're shameless.
We do the best we can.
Did you come here
because I've got money?
I don't know.
I came because I liked you.
Would you like me
if I were poor?
I like you the way you are...
with your money.
I want to...
take you away.
I'd like
to take you away...
leave with you.
I can't leave
without my mother yet.
I'm too little.
I can't leave my mother
nor my little brother.
Not yet.
I had asked him to do it
again and again.
To do it to me.
He had done it.
He had done it
in the unctuousness of blood.
I think he's used to it.
This is what he does
in life...
Love. Nothing else.
I'm very lucky.
Obviously, it's as if it were
a profession he'd have.
He's on me...
he engulfs himself again.
We stay like that, nailed...
moaning in the clamor
of the town.
You see...
you'll remember this afternoon
all your life...
even if you've
forgotten my face...
my name.
Do you think
I'll remember the room?
Take a good look at it.
It's like anywhere.
That's it.
It's like always.
I wonder
how I found the strength...
to go against the forbidden
with this calm...
this determination...
how I succeeded
in going all the way...
to the end of the idea.
How could I have taken
so much pleasure...
for me alone
with this unknown man?
My mother...
she'll kill me
if she finds out the truth.
My brother, he'd kill you.
with a Chinaman.
Since I've been little...
she tells me that
here in the colonies...
a girl that isn't
a virgin anymore...
can no longer
find a husband.
Do you think that's true?
Yes. Your mother's right.
It's no longer possible
after that...
that dishonor.
For instance...
if I wanted to marry you...
well, it would
not be allowed.
We can't tolerate
the idea of that.
I'm Chinese.
I'm sorry.
Now that you've
done that with me...
marriage between us
would be impossible.
Well, then,
it's for the best, then.
Chinese... I don't like
Chinese very much.
Can I come into your bed?
No, not now.
I'll tell you
about it tomorrow.
What's wrong?
What's the matter?
What's she doing
in that new car there?
Wait. Wait.
Don't be bashful.
It's a wonderful report.
She's the sole heiress,
and I'm the sole heir.
The date
has been set for years.
That's another reason
I came back from France.
- You love her?
- No.
I don't know her.
For us...
marriages are arranged
by the families.
We know that a future
together is unthinkable...
so we speak of the future...
in a casual manner...
without any involvement,
And the two families
got together...
to hide their wealth away.
It's so much the customs
of ancient...
or modern China.
We don't think we could do
anything any other way.
He's never had a job.
He says that if he was poor...
it would be terrible.
He'd be much
too lazy to work.
It's opium that
takes away the strength.
It's wealth that takes
his strength away.
He does nothing.
Only love.
But it's funny...
because that's the way
I desire him.
Do you still love me?
We are lovers.
Every day we go back
to the bachelor's room.
We can't stop loving.
This takes place...
in the sleazy district
of Cholon every evening.
Every evening...
the little one comes
to receive the pleasure...
that makes one scream
from this dark man...
this man from Cholon...
from China.
Hi, Mom.
Hi, Paul.
Now and then I go back
to the house in Sa-Dec...
to the horror
of the house in Sa-Dec.
It's an unbearable place.
It's close to death...
a place of violence...
of pain, of despair,
of dishonor.
I forbid you
to slam doors!
Do you hear me?
Who drove you back
from Saigon?
I told you. A friend.
He lives in Vinh Long.
He offered to drop me off
on his way through.
He's a friend! That's all.
Who in Vinh Long?
You wouldn't know him.
He just got back from Paris.
A friend.
A rich friend.
Not everybody's lucky
enough to be poor.
And this...
what's this?
A piece of blue paper.
It's a telegram
from the boardinghouse.
Where did you sleep
Tuesday and Wednesday?
Where did I sleep
Tuesday and Wednesday?
Not at
the boardinghouse.
The fans were out of order.
I slept with my friend
from Vinh Long.
Is that what
you want me to say?
Hit her, Mom.
Don't let her
get away with it.
But it's in
this family's dryness...
in its incredible
that I am the most deeply
assured of myself...
in the deepest of
my essential certainties.
Our common history
of ruin and shame...
of love and hate,
is in my flesh.
Your daughter
looks like a whore.
Hey, dummy,
stop that shooting!
I am still in this family.
This is, barring
all other places...
where I live.
That was your dress, Mom.
The shoes, you
bought them for me.
I've been wearing
them for months.
They were on sale, remember?
Final reductions.
You do it on purpose.
See what a state I'm in
because of you?
It's as though
it makes you happy.
If you don't
trust me anymore...
just take me out
of the boardinghouse.
Besides, I'm not the one
who asked to be all alone...
all year long in Saigon.
The mother can be very,
very happy sometimes...
the time to forget.
That of washing the house...
may suffice
for my mother's happiness.
She plays the piano,
she cleans, she laughs...
and everyone thinks...
that one can be happy
in this gutted house...
that suddenly
becomes a swamp...
a field alongside a river...
a ford, a beach.
My respects, madame.
My mother...
my brother Pierre...
and my brother Paul.
On Saturday night
they are busy.
Will you be having
a cocktail, sir?
Yes. Three Martel-Perriers
and a bottle of rice wine.
We left China when Sun Yat-sen
decreed the republic...
and my father just sold
all his lands...
to the Japanese...
who had already
taken over Manchuria...
all the houses, jewels,
and everything...
to go down
towards the south.
And my mother...
she'd just lie in the road...
and she can't
go on anymore.
The mother and the brothers
mustn't know a thing.
It is set by principle...
that he's at my feet...
that I'm with him
for the money...
that I can't love him.
This because he's Chinese,
because he's not white.
My brothers devour and
don't speak a word to him.
I don't speak a word
to him, either.
In my family's presence,
he ceases to be my lover.
He doesn't cease to exist...
but he's nothing
to me anymore.
He becomes
a burned-out place...
an unacceptable scandal...
a reason to be ashamed of,
that has to be hidden.
So, what are we
waiting for?
I'd like to have a drink
at La Cascade.
Your bill, sir.
We'd like to go
to La Cascade...
to drink and dance.
What makes you laugh...
that I'm dancing
with your sister?
I'm sorry.
You're so badly paired.
Don't pay attention, sir.
He's drunk, that's all.
Can't I laugh or what?
Do you want to fight?
Take care, little buddy.
It'd take two of you
to do the job.
Oh, no.
A lot more than that.
Four of me, you mean.
You have no idea
how weak I am.
We should leave.
Forgive him, sir.
Forgive us.
I've not brought
my children up well.
I'm paying for it.
I'm the one who's
punished the most.
How much
is what we did worth?
In a brothel,
how much does it cost...
to do what you just did
to me?
How much do you need?
My mother needs
500 piasters.
I've got your money.
Where's her office?
It's over there.
You see, we have to let her...
go free in the evening...
not tell her what time
to be in.
We mustn't force her...
to go on trips
with the boarders, either.
She's always been a free child.
Otherwise, she'd run away.
Even I can't do
a thing about that.
She's always worked
very well in school...
even being so free.
The headmistress accepted
because I'm white...
and that for the
boardinghouse's reputation...
amongst all the half-castes
there must be a few whites.
She let me live
in the boardinghouse...
as if it were a hotel.
Other than
my French teacher...
nobody speaks to me
at school.
It's because of you.
That's your imagination.
There have been some
complaints from families.
They say I'm a slut...
and goes
to the shady part of town...
to have her body fondled
by a Chinaman.
It's nothing.
That's true. It's nothing.
Ooh! It touched her.
It's nasty.
Ooh! She sleeps
with a Chinaman.
One day you're going
to go back to France.
I can't take that.
When are you going
back to France?
At the end
of the school year...
but it's not sure.
My mother has a lot of
difficulty in leaving here.
The stone belonged
to my mother.
Take it.
And I said to him
that it's too new...
it's too strong...
and I said
to him that...
it is horrid to take you
away from my body.
l... I said to him
that he... my father...
he... he should know
what it is...
a love like this...
so strong...
that it never happens
again in a lifetime...
He wants
this marriage with...
this young girl
I've never seen.
He shows no mercy for me.
He shows none for anyone.
And you?
Do you want this marriage?
The question
is not of wanting...
or not wanting.
I'm nothing without
my father's wealth.
He told me...
"I'd rather see you dead...
than know you were
with that white girl."
But he's right.
He's right because
anyhow I'll leave...
and I have no love for you.
You see.
It's here.
My mother,
when I was little...
wanted to erect a dam...
to protect
her good-growing land.
She wanted
to become rich for us.
She put all the savings...
left after my
father's death into it.
People lied to her.
The land registrar agents
sold her flood lands...
just to earn their premiums.
covered everything.
She lost everything
here... everything.
It took her years...
to believe
that it was possible...
for people to steal
all her savings...
and then never
acknowledge her again...
to throw her out.
She would scream.
She had fits.
People started to say
that she was crazy...
to not believe
what she said...
about her money anymore...
to say
that she was lying.
We never saw another
white person for years.
The whites
were ashamed of us.
She had to give
everything up.
The upper rice paddy...
she gave it
to the servants...
along with the bungalow
and all the furniture.
We used to sit here...
with my mother
and my little brother...
and we'd watch
the sky of Siam...
over there
behind the mountains.
You feel cold?
A little.
That evening I know it.
I know only that...
later I will write
my mother's life...
how she was killed
by the land registrar agents...
robbed by
the government officials.
To write...
that's what I see
beyond the moment...
in that great desert...
under the features of which...
I see the extent of my life.
Is she beautiful?
She's rich.
The family chose her
also because of that.
She's covered with gold...
and diamonds.
Did you ever sleep
with a white girl before me?
In Paris, of course.
Here, no.
other than
French prostitutes...
it's impossible
to have white women.
Totally impossible.
I want you to say it
to me once.
You came here so that
I'd give you money.
I came here so that
you'd give me money.
Repeat after me.
I was thinking about money...
and only about money...
from the moment
I saw you on the ferry.
I was thinking about money...
and only about money...
since the moment
I saw you on the ferry.
You're a whore.
You're a whore.
I don't find that disgusting.
On the contrary...
You know...
before you...
I knew nothing
about suffering.
I would love to...
I would love to take you...
but I'm without strength.
I'm without
any strength at all.
I'm dead.
I have no desire for you.
My body no longer wants
the one who doesn't love.
Do you know
what that's worth?
You want
to have us believe...
he just gave it to you
for your pretty face?
Why did he give you
such a diamond?
Why? Because he's rich.
Your daughter's whoring.
Take it! Sell it!
See if I care
about that ring!
You slept with him.
I'm sure of it.
Just take a look at her.
She's a disgrace.
You've got
to do something, Mum.
What are you saying?
Me with a Chinaman?
Nothing happened...
not even a kiss.
It smells of Chinese.
You slept with him.
Say it.
Say it.
Say it!
You're going to say it,
you bitch!
You filthy bitch!
You slept with a Chink.
Did you like it? Huh?
Pierre, stop!
Stop it, I say! Stop it!
You're going to kill her!
Stop it! Stop it,
for god's sake!
You're killing her, Pierre!
Stop it!
I thought my child
wouldn't come anymore.
I took a rickshaw.
Did you smoke a lot?
That's all I do.
I have no desire left.
I have no love left.
It's wonderful.
It's as though
we'd never met...
or as though
you left months ago.
When are you
getting married?
Next Friday...
and leaving...
on the Alexandre Dumas
the 12th.
Look at me.
I'm going to die
of love for you.
After your marriage...
we'll meet here one time...
just once.
You remember?
You promised me.
You're also selling
the rosewood table?
I'm leaving everything.
It's all finished here.
The only thing I'll miss
are the metal beds.
In France,
the beds are too soft.
What's that hat?
Mom, I've been
wearing it for months.
- Did I buy that for you?
- Who else?
Some days we can make you
buy anything we want.
I forgot.
You know...
I wasn't like you.
I didn't study
as easily as you do...
and I...
I was very serious...
for so long... too long.
That's how
I lost the feeling...
of my own pleasure.
He did a really
good thing, truly.
Who did a good thing?
Your friend...
your Chinese friend.
He paid off
your brother's debts...
at the opium den.
He also paid for the trip.
He was wonderful...
very discreet, too.
I had underestimated him.
I'm sorry about that.
Do you only see him
for the money?
It was when the boat
uttered its first farewell...
and the gangway
had been hauled up...
and the tugs
had started to tow it...
to draw it away
from the land...
that she had wept.
She'd done it
without showing her tears...
without showing her mother
or her little brother...
that she was sad...
without showing anything...
as was the custom
between them.
He was there.
That was him
in the back...
that scarcely visible shape...
that made no movement,
She was leaning
on the railing...
like the first time
on the ferry.
She knew
he was watching her.
She was watching him, too.
She couldn't see him anymore,
but she still looked...
towards the shape
of the black car.
In the end,
she didn't see it anymore.
The harbor had faded away...
and then the land.
One night...
during the crossing
of the Indian Ocean...
in the main room
on the big deck...
there had been
a sudden burst...
of a waltz by Chopin.
There wasn't
a breath of wind...
and that night...
the music had spread
all over the black liner...
like an injunction
from heaven...
related to something unknown...
like an order from God...
whose meaning
was inscrutable.
She had wept...
because she had thought
of that man from Cholon...
her lover...
and suddenly
she wasn't sure...
of not having loved him...
with a love
she hadn't seen...
because it had lost itself
in the story...
like water in the sand...
and that she was
rediscovering it now...
in this moment of music
flung across the sea.
Years after the war...
after the marriages,
the children...
the divorces, the books...
he had come to Paris
with his wife.
He had phoned her.
He was intimidated.
His voice trembled...
and with the trembling...
it had found
the accent of China again.
He knew she'd
begun writing books.
He had also heard about
the younger brother's death.
He had been sad for her...
and then he hadn't known
what to tell her...
and then he'd told her...
he had told her
that it was as before...
that he still loved her...
that he would never
stop loving her...
that he would love her
until his death.