THIS WEEK, a different kind of Saturday night fever. No nightclubs or models, no techno, no fashions, no carnal diversions. Instead we have only a large empty space, full of darkness and the memory of a disco ball, turning its reflections in slow motion. It is a place familiar to us all. It is sad and lonely and in it is a letter, written in haste. The letter goes like this:

Dear K,

I've been thinking things over and I've come up with this film treatment. It's just a rough draft. Please try to find time to read it, and let me know what you make of it. I think it has potential, although I realise it is only a beginning. But I really need some feedback from you. The working title is 'Smoke and Mirrors'.

Paul, a film director, is distraught. His life is a mess. His girlfriend Cathy, a designer, has discovered a note in one of his journals describing an infidelity. Typically, for Paul, it all happened in his head. At a party in Paris, Paul, on Ecstasy, spends the night talking to a girl who is out of her mind on LSD. In flashback we get snatches of their conversation, a classic of its kind. 'This is a very special moment . . .' 'Yes. Special.' 'I mean, I don't normally . . .' 'No.' 'But, erm, do you want to, er, leave now?' 'Well, yes. I have to catch a plane in four hours, so I've got to go my hotel and pack, then leave straight away.' 'Oh (pause). Oh. Right.'

A month later, when Paul has forgotten this shameful, but unconsumated lapse, his secret is uncovered. The absence of intercourse is irrelevant. For there, in his notebook, Paul is condemned by his own hand. He wanted to, it says so in black and white, and that is enough.

Ironically, the fact that he did not have sex has proved his undoing. Had the act taken place, of course, no record of it would exist.

Cathy instantly rejects him. Foul, heinous creature. Loathsome worm. And she is right: for several years she has toiled to preserve and nurture this shambling Everyman, investing countless megawatts of emotional energy in his rotten soul. And this is her reward, a knife in the heart.

To complicate matters, Cathy is younger than Paul, and feels stifled by him. For some time she has wanted to create an identity separate and distinct from that of 'Paul's girlfriend'. This is the last straw. She loves him, but is devastated by his betrayal. Enough is enough.

The director is close to breakdown. His muse, his goddess, has turned away from him. On the set of his new film, Paul lectures his leading actor and actress about the nature of love and the flow of power between lovers. We learn that even before Cathy found him out, Paul had re-evaluated their relationship and realised how invaluable she was to him. Irony number two: his close shave with adultery has led to reflection, but too late. As he finally gets some perspective on his life and the most important person in it, the lights go out.

I must just go out and get some more cigarettes and a bottle of whisky before I tell you the rest.

He tries to carry on, but fails miserably. His film, Smoke and Mirrors, originally a breathy satire on the hollowness of modern life, metamorphoses into a cinema verite movie about a couple who break each others' hearts. By now, cast and crew are infused with Paul's lachrymose sentimentality, shedding tears at the feeblest and most obvious plot devices, which Paul adds on an hourly basis, piling melodrama upon melodrama. Electricians weep into their styrofoam cups as the convoluted tale unfolds.

In desperation he lays siege to Cathy's heart. Untold millions of roses die in this war of attrition, so that Paul's ardour might seem more sincere. When obstinacy fails to impress, he throws himself on Cathy's mercy, hinting at suicide. He begs, he cries, he crawls, he whinnies, he howls; there is no sound too pitiful, no bleat or whimper too pathetic. For one wonderful moment, it seems to have worked.

Time for another cigarette. Have I smoked that packet already?

Anyway, overjoyed, Paul rushes out to buy two airline tickets for a weekend in Rome. This, he hopes, will get things back on the right track. He finishes his film with a typical autobiographical flourish. It is only at the airport that Cathy learns that Smoke and Mirrors ends with the aggrieved heroine relenting, and the protagonists jetting off on a trip to . . . Rome.

I was really hoping to end on that happy note, but real life is more complicated than the movies and this is, after all, a real-life drama. So this is what actually happens.

The ending is too much for Cathy. Paul, she realises, cannot distinguish between imagination and reality. She tells him as much. He sees his life, and the people in it, as mere grist to his mill. He has learnt nothing from the events of the last six weeks. She is both heartbroken and more furious than ever. Her anger is awesome. Paul does not understand.

She storms off. Paul, poor terrified fool, runs after her, struggling with two heavy suitcases. He blocks her path, pleading for time to explain. She sidesteps; he blocks again. She rolls her eyes as he gabbles about art and magic, a speech she is in no mood to hear. But slowly, the words start to make sense.

He tells her, yes, he does have a problem separating the real from the imaginary, but not a destructive one. He knew that the magic in their relationship had vanished. And that one person, no matter how determined, could not bring it back.

So his film worked as a spell, a kind of voodoo enactment of his real-life desires. An attempt to conjure up some magic, the kind you make with smoke and mirrors, an illusion. Because any kind of magic is better than none at all. And isn't that what love is? A kind of magic that makes life, and other people, tolerable. That opens your soul to the wonder of the 'other'. Our only salvation from the supreme indifference of the universe.

Still talking in abstractions; she shakes her head.

They stand there in the airport, in front of the check-in, and he has two tickets in his hand. And they are both weeping, because they cannot do anything else. People are craning their necks as they walk by, looking at this public display of broken hearts.

We jump cut to a long shot, then a longer shot from above, and so on, until they are very small figures in the middle of a bustling airport terminal, still frozen.

Their dilemma unresolved.

The End.

That's it, what do you think? I'm not sure about the ending, you know. I really wanted it to be more upbeat. Please tell me if you agree. See you soon, baby. All my love, A.

(Incidentally, this treatment is available for option or development.)

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