Ithaka script (2001)

 

PART ONE

Man: What I discovered when I started reading Ruth was… I knew I wanted to talk about the constellation of my mother and her sisters and the women who brought me up and the absence of them, figures, in the whole thing. But what happens in the first chapter is that there is a famine in the land, and Naomi… her husband has died, she flees. I think she’s got a couple of sons, the sons take wives, one of them is Ruth. And then the sons die and the women are left husbandless and their only attachment is to Naomi, their mother-in-law. And that word ‘law’ jumps out. It comes out like mother-in-law. Their relation is by the law, only by the law. The other Naomi, they go back to the homeland, Naomi says, OK you can leave me now, I don’t need you anymore. You can go back to your families, there’s nothing here that your husbands are going to be able to give you. The one daughter-in-law leaves but Ruth stays and makes this absolute vow of commitment to Naomi. That’s when Naomi says, “Don’t call me Naomi anymore, call me Mara.”

*
Movie dialogue:
Oh shit.
I have a son you know.
You do?
Yeah.
Where is he?
I don’t know.

Jazzbo (young boy): Are you seeing what I am? What’s happening?
Mike: Well I can see what the camera sees.
Jazzbo: What does the camera see?
Mike: Just your head. You want me to see all of you?
(camera zooms out, Jazzbo puts his arms behind his head and lays out, relaxing)

*
Woman’s voice (reading Ithaka by C P Cavafy):
As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

Man: And then I started thinking about Sophie’s mother. The only image I have of Sophie’s mother is this one black and white photo of the house in Tooele. It’s actually a photo of Nick. He’s sitting on the front porch, looking very Greek. The screen door with the weather panes in it is behind him, and you get just a ghostly figure of Helen, the mother, behind it, because mostly it’s reflection and she’s there.

*

Movie dialogue:

Oh shit.
I have a son you know.
You do?
Yeah.
Where is he?
I don’t know.

Woman’s voice: He’s gone down south, been gone three years I think, with that southern girl, that charmer with the hair style. None of us heard much and then, out of the blue, an email. I’m coming back. There’d been some kind of catastrophe. The sort he seems to attract. He wrote me: I’ve made up my mind to be annihilated. He called himself a nobody and said he was determined to remain one. All his efforts at recognition were fruitless and anyway, wasn’t it better to operate incognito? On the margins, behind the scene. When he got here he called me and said I’m back in gloomy Ithaca. He said he’d been sleeping, incommunicado, and now he’d washed ashore like some bit of wreck. Lost, silent, amazed. He told me: I’ve travelled home to here asleep, trying to think, to pull what I’d once felt out of the shadows. My feelings are locked in the cryptic night of things. In a piece of pipe lying on the road. A heap of warm flesh. The cracked concrete, the wet grass, the true doors of the Real. One night I had him to dinner. I made my mother’s Brazilian barbequed chicken. He said: did you know the Portuguese invented the shipwreck tale?

PART TWO

Woman’s voice: She’d said to him, that charmer, I think you’re one of the saddest, loneliest people I know. Why? Because your life is ruptured, not totally broken, but damaged in ways that make you stuck. And it’s made my life somehow broken too and now I’m stuck as well. Uncertain about how to proceed, about why I have to, or why I would even want to, and you’re desperate to find a way out, thinking too hard and too much and missing the obvious. Maybe your entrenchment allows for some sort of placement but why do you always seek to reside in the deepest darkest part of the world. So we decided to hide out. From where I can’t say.

He wrote me: I don’t think that any exploration of potential is inherently fraudulent just that we’re not free to make any explorations beyond the ones the means are provided by the usual array of objective forces, the thousand mythologies in the historical field. And of course cash makes a difference. These are perhaps soft limits which become hard as we get older where the latency between concept and execution become longer than our remaining life. In any case, the cost of denial of our own freedom is the institutionalization of stupidity and greed, a symphony of creditable consumption and artificial joy.

He went on: Lamentation is the antidote. To grieve for what we think we’ve lost casts a long shadow of another road, not back but away, orthogonal to life as we know it. Not death. Such roads are solitary, like the grief that illuminates them and of course they may lead nowhere. The system may indeed be closed or not. Nada nada is the dismissal of enthusiasm by the austerity of breathing and also the urge to simplify and a sharp sword. No way to be nice about it. And so on.

And after that nothing for weeks, months. And then last week in the post the poem I read to you yesterday, the Cavafy poem, the one called Ithaka.

Man: And she was agoraphobic. She never left the house for the last twenty years of her life. That’s the only image I have of her. I don’t have this strong sense that Sophie had made any kind of vow of allegiance to her mother. I don’t know how it’s getting played out in her mind except that when she started seeing a shrink during the divorce she realized she was getting depressed in patterns. One of the patterns was that each October she would go into a deep deep deep depression. She’s realized that October was the month that her mother died, and she had never come to any kind of closure with the death of the mother. She actually did a Hollywood kind of closure, when she realized this she went to the cemetery in Tooele and laid flowers on the grave, cleaned all the graves and all that stuff.

Movie dialogue:
Oh shit.
I have a son you know.
You do?
Yeah.
Where is he?
I don’t know.

Jazzbo (young boy): I just think it’s more free here.

Man: Helen is the sister who most loved me. Helen is the one who died in 1962 of cancer, that was when I was two. I don’t have any image of Helen either, it’s beyond my memory, except the stories I was told. I was Helen’s favourite and when she was dying I would play with her on her bed, she would always ask me to come up on the bed with her. I have an immense amount of sympathy for Helen, Helen is the archetypal Greek name anyways. I know part of Helen’s story. Helen is Geneve’s mother, my cousin, that’s another Yanulla. And like all the other girls she got stuck in a fixed up marriage. Sophie was the only one who didn’t marry send up by a fix up. But Helen’s was an ugly one because she’d been raped by this old friend of the family and the family made her marry him. So a really really ugly life story. I’m sure she probably died of ovarian cancer, I’m sure all the metaphors fit right in with the brutality of it. That’s why maybe I had the attraction of the big mother figure to Helen.