It is hard to translate. “Sweetbitter” sounds wrong, and yet our standard English rendering of “bittersweet” inverts the actual terms of Sappho’s compound glukupikron.
Anne Carson, Eros the Bittersweet
becoming day. The landscape familiar, yet forever strange, like the mythic places of fairytales: we know frogs; we know beauty (but not –this frog, this beauty).
CUT: DAY, EARLY MORNING, still EXT
the quality of early morning light.
Does it matter, ultimately,
who says what? Are these
things, these words, bound by
identity(ies)or not? The problem
is . . .
THE PROBLEM IS: even when locating the screenplay, the authorized screenplay, it’s wrong. The screenplay used to film is invariably changed: late edits, cuts, impromptu dialogue, wholescale revisions. If one uses a screenplay to film, the film is never the screenplay; it’s necessary to recreate the screenplay after the film has been shot using the screenplay.
“The problem is . . . the
problem is” . . . (Mocking)
It’s always problems with you,
why not –
The problem is— nevermind. It’s
implied –there’ll be a director’s
note or something, it’s in the
INT: A bedroom. The bed (a futon really) pushed against the wall, sheets mismatched and disheveled
CAMERA zooms on mismatched, disheveled sheets. Neither character is visible.
V.O. Continuing argument, inaudible
BUT: If the characters aren’t seen onscreen, how is one to determine the nuance of relationship –as in WHAT is the relationship?
Are they arguing about “eros”?
Else, why the opening epigraph?
“Else why” !? Who talks like
that? Who says “eros”? Do you
mean fucking? sex? some cute,
The problem with the screenplay
is this: it all happens so
Or so quickly, depending.
O.S. Footsteps heard approaching. They may be stilettos, they may be gumboots.
Camera zooms again on mismatched, disheveled bed.
When you’re watching the film,
it’s quick –but to read this
one wants to skip parts:
exposition, for example.
[The opening exposition from Frankenstein for example. How much to describe: graveyard, skeletons akimbo on the hill, Franz’s face between wrought-iron fence spikes?]
For example, rewriting the
screenplay, after the film
For example, each page is
supposed to be one minute.
You’re not suggesting checking
Oh no, no. That’s beyond what
we’re talking about here –
What are we talking about,
CAMERA pans the interior of the room. Bed/futon, bare walls, a plumbing pipe running down the shadowed corner, a vinyl blind with pullcord on the only window. A lonely telephone jack, discolored by paint.
Even a poet knows that kind
of language – “a lonely telephone
jack” won’t work. How can a film
show “lonely”? “Discolored by
paint”—fine. That’s visual,
external, but “sweetbitter”
presents another problem . . .
Tongues? You could show tongues . . .
Tongues aren’t erotic! Well,
maybe in the abstract if they
were implied, shadowed, but most
films ruin even the kissing,
with too-long shots of tongues
touching –backlit, usually.
CUT: Light pours through the vinyl shade on the window, backlighting nothing.
The problem is the poet is always
the subject of the poem. Always,
even when (especially then)
ADAM GOPNIK (V.O.)
Desire is not subject to the
language of judicious choice,
or it would not be desire, with
a language all its own.[i]
ALTERNATE ENDING. FADE OUT.
RIVKA GALCHEN (V.O.)
Think of it this way: there is
a vast unwritten book that
the heart reacts to, that it
races and skips in response to,
that it believes in . . .
CUT: Unmade, mismatched bed again
RIVKA GALCHEN (V.O.)
But it’s the heart’s belief in
that vast unwritten book that
brought the book into existence;
what appears to be exclusively
a response (the heart responding
to the book)is, in fact, also a
conjuring (the heart inventing
the book to which it so
desperately wishes to respond).[ii]
[i] Adam Gopnik, “Military Secrets”
[ii] Rivka Galchen, “Pleasure Island”