SUFFER THE EXEGESIS OF LOVE IN NEW JERSEY OR SURRENDER TO DEATH ON LONG ISLAND, DOROTHY...A film by Kevin Di Novis and Richard Kwietniowski
Screenplay by Richard Kwietniowski, Kevin Di Novis and Jan Galligan
Directed by Kevin Di Novis
Based on novels by Gilbert Adair and Astro Teller
Starring: John Hurt as Giles De'arth Kevin Di Novis as Trevor
Winner of the Best of Show Award at Sundance and Slamdance Film
Giles De'arth, recluse, widower, recently-retired emeritus-professor of artificial intelligence/computer science lives in his faculty apartment lost in the clutter of his personal and academic lives. Books, magazines, papers, clothes, food, computer parts, piles of garbage and newly acquired stuff fill every inch of the apartment. He walks over something everywhere he moves. He rarely leaves the apartment, except to buy what he can't order over the phone, or by e-mail or fax, and have delivered directly to his doorway.
Giles lives via his computer, consumed by a project started before his forced retirement at the University of Toronto. Out of respect, his department allows him to continue his accounts on the university's servers. Giles makes constant use of e-mail, telnet, gopher, and the world-wide-web.
Until recently, his passion was HUMBERT, an artificial-intelligence- agent-software-go-bot-program, designed to surf the internet, gathering huge quantities of unrelated information from newsgroups, helpdesks, FAQs, websites, intranets, gopher-sites, MUDs, MOOs, and other repositories of network information. HUMBERT accesses all of the sources, gleans the 'most interesting tidbits' based on an increasingly sophisticated and constantly-self-improving neural-network-algorithm Giles has written for this purpose, and sorts, catagorizes and compiles it all into a well-ordered report which Giles receives daily via e-mail from: HUMBERT@ithica.UT.edu.
We learn all of this during the film's opening credits while the camera first pans a continuous steady-cam loop around the cluttered apartment and then makes a slow circle around Giles as he sits glued to the computer screen reading HUMBERT's report. This scene is in black-and-white, except for the computer screen, which glows in full-256, 8-bit color. The screen lights Giles' face, reflecting colors onto his skin and shirt-front. All else is in black and white.
As the camera stops circling Giles, we zoom in, over his shoulder to take a close look at what is on the screen. We see that the report from HUMBERT is an HTML document, full of hot-links and cross-references.
Giles' cursor moves down the page and stops at a link to [Trevor@AOL.com:CHATROOM_OZ, transcript, 3-22-98].
We hear Giles' interior monologue as he clicks on the hot-link.
"Chatroom, that's an interesting concept..."
Cut to an artist's loft in Hoboken where Trevor sits with a COMPAQ portable on his lap, logged into AOL and deep in conversation in OZ, a chat-world and his obsession. This scene is in full technocolor, except for the laptop, which is in 256-level greyscale. As the camera zooms out from Trevor's computer display, we see that his loft is an oasis of calm and order. Everything organized, labeled, stacked and shelved. A coffee cup sits on the coffee-table in front of Trevor, a folded, barely-used linen napkin is aligned, just-so.
A travelling camera shot of Trevor's studio shows that this compulsion for order dominates his art-life as well as his personal-life. The studio and his artworks show total attention to minute detail. Oddly, every artwork, all small paper-back-book-sized paintings created in a hyper-realistic style, contains an image of Dorothy Gale in Kansas.
The camera does a tight zoom-in on one of the paintings. We see Dorothy near the barn of her parent's house, her dog standing by her feet. She's wearing red patent-leather pumps. Kansas and Dorothy's clothing are rendered in full-living-hyper-real-color. Dorothy's body however, is in black-and- white. The camera zooms to a macroscopic view of the painting, peering closely, first at Dorothy's face, then her eyes, one eyeball, it's pupil (the detail seems infinite, almost fractal). Reflected in a picture-window-like-rectangle, distorted by the curve of her eyeball, we see Giles, sitting amidst the heap of his desk, still staring into the screen.
Giles is typing madly, talking aloud at the same time. One hand on the keyboard, the other off-screen, in his lap. In super- imposition the transcript of a chat-room conversation streams by. Giles, who has chosen the screen-name WIZ has been conversing madly with Trevor, nee TOTO, and in the over-print we catch glimpses of graphically detailed oral and anal descriptions.
WIZ:> Deeper, harder, faster!
In rapid jumpcuts, the screen flashes from the black and white world of Giles to the color world of Trevor.
The movie screen is now an enormously scaled-up version of both of their computer screens.
Giles/Trevor/Giles/Trevor/Giles/Trevor/ Giles/Trevor/Giles/Trevor/Giles/Trevor/Giles/Trevor/Giles/Trevor/ Giles/Trevor/Giles/Trevor/Giles...
stopping just short of that trauma-inducing-strobescopic-rate at which all of us in the theatre would have suffered a 'Paka-Paka' induced brain hemmorage. As it is I (and I assume everyone else) feel slightly nauseous.
The jump-cuts are replaced by lap-dissolves showing Giles and Trevor overlaid with a digital-clock display counting off hours, days, months in rapid succession.
The screen splits horizontally, Giles (B/W) on top and Trevor (color) on the bottom:
WIZ:> We must meet, I can't wait any longer.
WIZ:> My place, or yours?
TOTO:> ...somewhere neutral...
WIZ:> New York City?
TOTO:> ...Long Island...
WIZ:> Next month?
TOTO:> ...this weekend...
WIZ:> Until then!
The screen remains split.
Giles (still at the top) logs into HUMBERT, programming it to search travel services for the best rates: Toronto to JFK, JFK to Montauk. HUMBERT immediately returns a download from the OAG service, organized by cost, in descending order.
Trevor's half of the screen shows him surfing a travel-guide-website for Montauk and Montauk Point. We see him make on-screen reservations at SeaSide Motel, single room, double bed, $79.00 per night.
The screen splits vertically.
On the left (B/W), Giles grabbing at random, stuffs his suitcase, runs out the door and jumps into a waiting taxi.
Simultaneously, on the right (color) Trevor, carefully organizes his travel kit. Among his personal effects, we see him pack a set of stainless-steel tools, including a large pair of surgical scissors.
After checking all the light switches and electrical outlets, he carefully re-arranges the few items on his desk, turns on the bathroom light and the table-radio, locks the door behind him, checks it, twice, and heads down the street to catch a bus, first to Port Authority in NYC and from there to Montauk.
Still in split-screen we see Giles at the airport, on the plane, and then waiting at JFK for his connection to Montauk airport.
Trevor meanwhile has ended his bus rides, and is in a cab on the way to the SeaSide motel.
The screen fills with Tevor getting out of the cab, and we follow him into the motel office. The film is now in duo-tone, smoothly cycling through the color-wheel in slow, imperceptable changes, blue, green, red, orange, violet, all made neutral by the effect of the grey-scale-tones.
Trevor goes to the room and begins an orchestrated arrangement of the items in the room and the items in his suitcase. In short order the room has the same perfection as his studio at home. From his suitcase along with the surgical instruments, which he has carefully hidden at the back of one of the dresser drawers, Trevor takes out two pill-bottles. In a macroscopic zoom, we see the labels: Zanex, a horse tranquilizer and Viagara, an experimental aphrodisiac.
We also see him unpack some clothing that is obviously not his. The clothes, a complete man-sized costume for Dorothy, blue jumper, white blouse, yellow anklets and red patent-leather pumps, are seen in technocolor. They seem to glow. Colored light reflects softly from Trevor's face.
Suddenly he is startled as he hears a taxi pulling into the motel parking lot. Giles!
Trevor stashes the clothes at the bottom of a drawer. He sits at the end of the bed, expectantly, suffused in a mauve-duo-tone, chirascuro light.
Giles enters the room, banging his suitcase into the night-stand. Rumpled and disheveled from his long flights he stands sheepishly before Trevor, who rises, taking him by the shoulders.
"Wiz," he says, "you look tired, but you look even more wonderful than I could have imagined."
"Oh, Toto," says Giles, "can I call you TT, for short, you know, as an endearment?"
"Sure, why not..." he answers. They embrace, but it ends quickly and awkwardly. We follow them as they leave the motel to explore their environs, the town, the beach, the sea, the dunes, they walk together for a long time. As they return to the motel, Trevor suggests a drink in their room, before dinner. He gets two glasses, a bottle of champagne, and, as Giles goes to the bathroom to 'freshen up', he crushes one of the aphrodisiac pills into Giles' glass as he pours the champagne for them both.
"Bottoms up Professor!"
"Oh, you think of everything.", says Giles downing his glass in a single gulp.
"Let's eat," says Trevor.
A series of dissolve shots follow them through dinner at a fashionable resturant overlooking the ocean. Continuous tight shots of Giles face show him becoming more and more flushed, he has to continually wipe sweat from his eyes.
"Let's leave." say Giles. "Let's go back to our room."
"Anything you say, Doctor." answers Trevor.
At the motel, the t.v. provides the only light, casting an eerie, evil light about the room. Giles is stripping off his clothes, tossing them aside. Tevor follows behind, picking up each item, folding it carefully, and placing it neatly on the dresser-top.
"Slow down, Einstein," says Trevor, "Don't have a hernia on me."
"Oh!", he answers, "I can't stand it any longer. I'm as stiff as the Woodsman's axe handle!"
We've been watching Giles in the background, as we look over Trevor's shoulder. He prepares another round of drinks for them. This time he crushes one of the tranquilizer pills into Giles' champagne.
"Here, Edward Teller, father of the hydrogen bomb, drink this."
"What?" says Giles. "Whose father?"
"Never mind," answers Trevor, "drink your champagne."
"To us!" says Giles.
"Ditto." says Trevor.
Giles' head begins to spin, echoed by the t.v. images which become a psychadelic/psychotic collage, like MTV on steroids, and then it subsides, segueing into a series of slow motion outakes from Mary Tyler Moore, Dick Van Dyke and Father Knows Best, color and black-and-white mixing at random.
Giles is flat on his back on the bed, naked as the day he was born.
Trevor begins dressing Giles in the Dorothy Gale costume, anklets, blouse, jumper and last, the red pumps.
"Put your heels together and your knees apart." Trevor tells him.
"Huh?" says Giles.
"That's right, now just relax." Trevor says.
Trevor picks up the surgical sheers. They flash demonically, lit by the snowy glare of the t.v. screen. He raises Giles' skirt with one hand and lowers the scissors with the other. Slash!
The screen is flooded in technocolor red.
The camera zooms out to show Giles, in Dorothy's clothing. A smile fills his face. Blood fills the bedsheets. Trevor walks out the door, the camera follows. The scene is stark, black-and-white.
Rivulets of blood drip down his arm as Trevor makes his way across the sand to the water's edge.
"Dorothy! Dorothy! How could you leave me Dorothy?!" he screams as he walks straight into the ocean, ankles, knees, waist, chest, shoulders, neck. Now only his head and upraised arm are visible above the waterline. He continues into the sea.
At last, the soft light of the rising moon. The scene is still black-and-white, this time softened by the moonlight.
The camera does a slow aerial-pan-out...getting smaller and smaller as we move higher and higher above the Montauk shore.
Lights go out in the buildings along the sea coast.
Slow fade to black.