This will all need to change radically! – but for now here is an idea which combines something of the neorealist styles of Andrea Arnold with the formalist approaches of Bergman or Godard.
A university security guard’s grip on reality begins to slip as he becomes increasingly convinced that a young lecturer is behaving suspiciously and needs to be brought to justice.
“The Embrace” is a psychological thriller in the manner of “Mulholland Drive” or “The Machinist”.
The Embrace will be shot on campus at Hertfordshire University.
The film will have a mosaic-like structure made up of moments of extreme realism contrasted with lyrical dream-like sequences something similar to the slow motion scenes from “In The Mood For Love” (2000). As the film progresses the dreamlike moments take on a darker aspect reflecting the fracturing thoughts of the protagonists psyche.
The visual influences for this film sitting somewhere between Goddard’s “Alphaville” and Richard Ayoade’s “The Double”.
Key Concept: ‘Free Indirect Discourse’
The main idea behind the script is to resurrect a style of voice-over as employed by filmmakers such as L. Bresson and E. Rohmel and their use of a literary technique called “free indirect discourse”. The use of free indirect discourse deliberately creates ambiguity making it difficult to say who is telling the story – an objective narrator, the film maker or the main protagonist, and is a device I intend to use to reflect the increasingly unstable psyche of my main protagonist. As well as this I will also be employing a more familiar voice-over technique called, “the unreliable narrator”, which (think; Lolita or Catcher In the Rye) I will use to create a deliberate tension between what the audience sees and what the protagonist tells us we should be seeing.
A security guard in his mid 30’s. Handsome and strong but in a place/world where his strength and good looks are entirely redundant and unnoticed. Has worked as a security guard with the university for around 2 years but in that time hasn’t managed to form any meaningful relationships. Has a history of undiagnosed and untreated psychological problems. Ex-football supporter.
A 25 year old university lecturer, currently studying for a PhD in Humanities. Sociable and well-spoken, has a tendency to cut corners and take liberties when it comes to abiding by university authority (steals photocopy paper, uses milk from the cafeteria for his breakfast cereal).
A pretty, 20 year old Bulgarian barista, working in the university’s coffee shop.
Okwute & Nnaji:
Nigerian security staff.
Treatment: The Embrace
Please note: The sequence of events in the treatment will definitely need to be re-thought.
The film opens in a university common area crowded with talkative young students. The common area spills out into a smart new cafe space where IVANA, a pretty Bulgarian barista, is being shown how to serve snacks and use the till by an older English lady, STACEY. As Ivana struggles to work the till her movements are accompanied by a man’s voice which talks about her simple, unaffected beauty.
At first we don’t know who these words belong to until we see, waiting in the queue, the well-built security guard, PAUL CHAMBERS, watching Ivana as she struggles to make a sale on the till. The voice-over ends abruptly as Stacey, the older lady, curtly asks Paul if he is ready to order. Paul blurts out his order in coarse North London dialect.
Sometime later we see Paul as he sits and eats his sandwiches in the small security guard offices. Two Nigerian security men talk to each other in their native tongue paying no attention to Paul.
Paul walks through the university’s crowded public spaces unnoticed by the young students.
We see him in standing in an empty stairwell checking the loosely fitting metal handrail.
Hours later, Paul reenters the cafe to find that Stacey is packing her bag to go, leaving Ivana to close up alone. Paul buys a drink from Stacey before sitting at the back of the room watching as Ivana wipes the white tabletops in the cafe as she closes shop.
As the scene progresses the everyday activity of wiping tables takes on an almost dreamlike quality as Paul watches Ivana’s graceful movements. As he does so, the voice-over describes how Paul is able to translate her movements, which, he feels, are signals aimed directly at him. Music plays as Paul’s anticipation builds and Ivana moves from table to table towards the one he is sitting at.
Just as Ivana reaches Paul’s table the mood of anticipation changes however, when BEN WRIGHT, (the same man who was in the queue earlier that morning) a well-spoken young lecturer enters the room asking if it is too late to buy a coffee. Ivana, stops wiping the tables and offers Ben a free filter coffee from the cafetiere. Ben pours milk into his drink, talking freely with Ivana, offering to help her with her poor English – to which she politely declines.
The next day we see Paul as he stands in the cafe area looking over to where Ben is sitting with a a female lecturer. After a few moments Ben gets up and makes his way towards the cafe area, passing Paul on his way. As he does so the security guard makes a point of reading Ben’s name tag as once more we hear the familiar voice-over.
This time, however, the voice suggests that something about the lecturer isn’t quite right – something that Paul can’t put his finger on. The scene ends as we see Ben once more talking casually with the delightful Ivana. Paul writes down Ben’s name down in a small black diary – circling it three times.
Some days later we see Ben enter the cafe area with a small box hidden in his bag as he surreptitiously pours his own cereal into a bowl, before pouring milk over the cereal from the milk container labelled ‘for drinks only’. This is the moment of confirmation Paul has been waiting for, as once more the voice-over speaks about the lecturer’s offence – about how the milk was clearly meant for drinks and not cereal – turning a small crime into something much more serious.
Ivana comes out to see Ben, who moves the cereal bowl out of sight guiltily. She tells Ben that she would like to take him up on his offer of language coaching.
Paul is very worried about the corrupting presence that the clearly criminal humanities lecturer might have upon the innocent Bulgarian girl, starting to investigate the lecturer in earnest – finding out which part of the university he teaches in, even going so far as to check the tyres of Ben’s car in the staff carpark.
Over the next few days Paul shadows Ben like a private detective, listing all his misdemeanours: watching as Ben steals a packet of paper from the staff room photocopier – or uses a door marked “no exit” – or flirts with his pretty female students – watching as Ben and Ivana sit together laughing in the cafe area, all the times his thoughts (the voice over) growing steadily darker and more concerned for the girl’s safety.
Finally we see Ben enter a toilet cubicle only to see Paul in the cubicle adjacent to it (the voice over telling us) that Paul is convinced that Ben is using his smart phone to access pornographic images of the worst and most degrading nature – (even though this is just speculation).
After this, Paul follows Ben from the toilet knowing that he must act swiftly if he is to bring the felon to justice. As he follows Ben, though, Paul suddenly hears strange folk music playing and as he looks through the door into the cafeteria he watches in amazement as Ivana performs a suggestive but beautiful Bulgarian folk dance to haunting music, before prostrating herself at Ivan’s feet, banging her chest in a strange ritual of surrender.
By now it is hard to say what is real and what is illusion – but one thing is clear, which is that Paul knows he must save Imogen from Ben. This he does by breaking the fire bell – setting off the alarm, just as the two are about to seal their love with a kiss.
As Ben goes to fetch his coat and bag, Paul catches the unsuspecting lecturer by the hand, pushing him into the same deserted stairwell we saw Paul in earlier. Ben is completely shocked as Paul advances down the steps towards the frightened lecturer, snatching up the broken handrail as he descends. As the two descend the steps the voice-over now speaks about the similarity between the two men and how, under different circumstances, their roles might have been reversed – how Paul might have been important.
At the bottom of the stairs Ben shields his face as Paul lifts the metal rod to strike but instead lets the pole slip from his hand where it clatters to the floor. The voice-over is almost incomprehensible
now, stating that Paul finally understands with complete clarity what he must do to resolve the situation.
Ben recoils in horror as Paul puts his arms around him holding him tighter and tighter until both men’s faces are red. At this point something entirely surreal happens (we are now trapped inside the mind of a mad man) and we see images of lights coalescing – or rivers flowing into each other – as the two men become one. When the sequence comes to an end we see that Ben is standing alone and that Paul is nowhere to be seen.
Ben walks back towards Ivana who is waiting outside, the fire bell still ringing quietly in the distance. Ben stands with her and holds her hand. They kiss, as the voice-over speaks out for the last time, saying something profound (but I can’t think what exactly, just yet).
I have already started to talk to actors about possible castings and have uploaded a speculative advert to casting-call-pro and shooting people.
Will need a good DOP for some of the sequences but am happy to film other sequences myself. Was planning to shoot the film using the new Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera which is small an unobtrusive but have recently been using the iPhone 6, which can film in 4K and has a very nice set of lenses including an anamorphic. As well as this the iPhone 6 has very nice hand held gimbal which will be very useful for some of the action shots. Will also need a sound recordist and a lighting assistant/runner.
Audience and Festivals:
Using a voice over is clearly a gamble but I am interested to see if I can make the unusual “free indirect discourse” device work. If I can do this I think the film will have a very unusual psychological dimension which might make it popular at thriller/horror festivals such as Michigan’s Thriller-Chiller festival, or Los Angeles Thriller Festival.