Prologue: Infinite Obscure screenplay (1984)

Black. Sound begins: loud synthetic pulse
Title: the names of all fine authors are fictitious ones
Image: ‘in this critical ocean’
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Title: PROLOGUE: INFINITE OBSCURE
Title: For Savator R Tarnmoor
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Image: ‘But what most puzzled and confounded you was a long, limber portentous black mass of something hovering in the centre of the picture, over three dim blue perpendicular lines, floating in a nameless yeast. A boggy, soggy, squitchy picture truly, enough to drive a nervous man distracted. Yet there was something definite, half-attained, unimaginable sublimity about it which fairly froze you to it, till you involuntarily took an oath with yourself to find out what that marvelous painting meant… But stop! Does it not bear a faint resemblance to a gigantic fish, even the great Leviathan himself?

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Title: something unconsciously big and white

Image: ‘For unless you own the whale, you are but a provincial and a sentimentalist in Truth.’

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Image: ‘His great genius is declared in his doing nothing in particular to prove it. It is moreover declared in his pyramidical silence.’

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Image: ‘Surely all this is not without meaning. And still deeper the meaning of that story of Narcissus who, because he could not grasp the tormenting mild image he saw in the fountain, plunged into it and was drowned. But that same image we ourselves see in all rivers and oceans. It is the image of the ungraspable phantom of life, and this is the key to it all.’

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Title: something unconsciously big and white

Image: ‘Yet lurks an elusive something in the innermost idea of this hue which strikes more of panic to the soul that that redness which afrights in blood.’

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Image: ‘By reason of these things, then, the whaling voyage was welcome. The great floodgates of the wonder world swung open, and in the wild conceits that swayed me to my purpose, two and two there floated into my inmost soul endless processions of the whale, and midmost all of them, one great hooded phantom – like a snow hill in the air.’

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Image: ‘This is my substitute for pistol and ball.’

**** **** ****

Image: ‘Who is not a cannibal?’

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Image: ‘I myself am a savage, owing no allegiance but to the king of cannibals; and ready at any moment to rebel against him.’

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Image: ‘Who ain’t a slave? Tell me that!
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Image: ‘You’d almost thought I’d been his wife.’

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Image: ‘He eats nothing but steaks and he likes em rare.’

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Image: ‘He sat up in bed, stiff as a pikestaff.’

Image: ‘He pressed his forehead against mine, clapped me round the waist, and said that henceforth we were married.’

Image: ‘How it is I know not, but there is no place like a bed for confidential disclosures between friends. Man and wife, they say, there open the very bottom of their souls to each other, and some old couples often lie and chat over old times till nearly morning. Thus then, in our hearts honeymoon, lay I and Queequeg, a cozy loving pair.

Image: ‘I tried to move his arm; unlock his bridegroom clasp.’

Image: ‘I allow no border to take such dangerous weapons in their rooms anight.’

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Image: ‘He employed the interval in braiding something very carefully in his watches below.’
Image: ‘But there was no time for shuddering, for now the savage went about something that completely fascinated my attention, and convinced me that he must indeed be a heathen. For going to his heavy greggo, or wrapall, or dreadnaught, which he had previously hung on a chair, he fumbled in the pockets, and produced at length a curious little deformed image with a hunch on its back, and exactly the color of a three days’ old Congo baby. Remembering the embalmed head, at first I almost thought that this black manikin was a real baby preserved in some similar manner. But seeing that it was not at all limber, and that it glistened a good deal like polished ebony, I concluded that it must be nothing but a wooden idol, which indeed it proved to be. For now the savage goes up to the empty fireplace, and removing the papered fire-board, sets up this little hunchbacked image, like a tenpin, between the andirons. the chimney jambs and all the bricks inside were very sooty, so that I thought this fire-place made a very appropriate little shrine or chapel for his Congo idol.’

Image: ‘Many spare hours he spent, in carving the lid with all manner of grotesque figures and drawings; and it seemed that hereby he was striving, in his rude way, to copy parts of the twisted tattooing on his body. And this tattooing, had been the work of a departed prophet and seer of his island, who, by those hieroglyphic marks, had written out on his body a complete theory of the heavens and the earth, and a mystical treatise on the art of attaining truth; so that Queequeg in his own proper person was a riddle to unfold; a wondrous work in one volume.’

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Image: ‘And yet still further pondering, while I jerked him now and then from between the whale and the ship, which would threaten to jam him – still further pondering, I say, I saw that this situation of mine was the precise situation of every mortal that breathes; only, in most cases he, one way or other, has this Siamese connection with a plurality of other mortals. If your banker breaks, you snap; if your apothecary by mistake sends you poison in your pills, you die. True, you may say that, by exceeding caution, you may possibly escape these and the multitudinous other evil chances of life. But handle Queequeg’s monkey-rope heedfully as I would, sometimes he jerked it so, that I came very near sliding overboard. Nor could I possibly forget that, do what I would I only had the management of one end of it.’
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Image: ‘A slender rod-like mark, lividly whitish; a birthmark on him from cdrown to sole.’

Image: ‘He looked like a man cut away from the stake.’

Image: ‘He sleeps with clenched hands, and wakes with his own bloody nails in his palms.’

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Title: the malice
the root

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Image: ‘While his live leg made lively echoes along the deck, every stroke of his dead limb sounded like a coffin-tap.’

Image: ‘It was Moby-Dick that demisted me; Moby-Dick that brought me to this dead stump I stand on now. Aye, aye it was that accursed white whale that razeed me; made a poor pegging lubber of me for ever and a day! And I’ll chase him round Good Hope, and round the Horn, and round the Norway maelstrom, and round perdition’s flames before I give him up. And this is what we have shipped for men: to chase that whale over the sides of the earth, till he spouts black blood and rolls fin out. What say ye, men? Will ye splice hands on it now? Methinks ye do look brave.’
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Image: ‘Towards thee I roll, though all-destroying but unconquering whale!’
Image: ‘He at last came to identify with him, not only all his bodily woe, but all his intellectual and spiritual exasperations. The white whale swam before him as the monomaniacal incarnation of those malicious agencies which some deep men feel eating in them.’

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Title: I am the bloody man
I have the bloody hand
And I will have revenge

Image: ‘That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate, and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale principal, I will wreak that hate upon him!’

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Image: ‘Though touchest my inmost centre boy. Thou art tied to me with cords woven of my heartstrings. Come! Let’s down!’

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Image: ‘They deified the crocodile of the Nile, because the crocodile is tongueless; and the sperm whale has no tongue, or at least it is so exceedingly small as to be incapable of protrusion.’

Image: ‘A peculiar snow white wrinkled forehead, and a high pyramidical white hump.’

Image: ‘Whaling may well be regarded as that Egyptian mother who bore offspring themselves pregnant from her womb.’

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Title: half horse
half alligator

Image: ‘Champollion deciphered the wrinkled granite hieroglyphics. But there is no Champollion to decipher the Egypt of every man’s and every being’s face. Physiognomy, like every other human science, is but a passing fable. If then, Sir William Jones, who read in thirty languages, could not read the simplest peasant’s face in its profounder and more subtle meanings, how may unlettered Ishmael hope to read the awful Chaldee of the Sperm Whale’s brow? I but put that brow before you. Read it if you can.’
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Image: ‘Some invisible pencil was also tracing lines and courses upon the deeply marked chart of his forehead.’

Image: ‘The skeletal dimensions I shall now proceed to set down are copied verbatim from my right arm where I had them tattooed. As in my wild wandering at that period,, there was no other secure way of preserving such valuable statistics.’

Image: So ignorant are most landsmen of some of the plainest and most palpable wonders of the world, that without some hints touching the plain facts, historical and otherwise, of the fisheries, they might scout at Moby-Dick as a monstrous fable, or still worse, and more detestable, as a hideous and intolerable allegory.’

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Title: I have written a wicked book, and feel as spotless as a lamb.

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Image: ‘The whale has no famous author, and whaling no famous chronicler.’

Image: ‘From the unmarred dead body of the whale you may scrape off you may scrape off with your hand an infinitely thin, transparent substance, somewhat resembling the thinnest shreds of isinglass. Only it is almost as flexible and soft as satin, that is, previous to being dried, when it not only contracts and thickens, but becomes rather hard and brittle. I have several such dried bits, which I use for marks in my whale-books. It is transparent, as I said before, and being laid upon the printed page, I have sometimes pleased myself with fancying it exerted a magnifying influence. At any rate, it is pleasant to read about whales through their own spectacles.’

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Image: ‘Has a sperm whale every written a book?’

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Title: It has all finally to do with the throat, SPEECH.

Image: ‘Whom do you call Moby-Dick?
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Image: ‘All men are enveloped in whalelines; all are born with halters round their necks.’

Image: ‘The sperm whale is in some cases sufficiently powerful, knowing, and judiciously malicious, as with direct aforethought to stave in, utterly destroy and sink a large ship.’

Image: ‘And what is more, the sperm whale has done it!’

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Title: All scatt’red in the bottom of the sea

Image: ‘I will have no man in my boat who is not afraid of a whale.’

Image: ‘Spring ye men, spring! There’s hogheads of sperm ahead, and that’s what ye came for! Pull my boys! Sperm! Sperm’s the play. This at least is duty; duty and profit, hand in hand!’

Images: ‘The uncertain unsettled condition of this science of cetology is in the very vestibule attested by the fact that in some quarters it still remains a moot point whether a whale be a fish. Be it known that, waiving all argument, I take the good old-fashioned ground that the whale IS a fish, and call upon holy Jonah to back me.’

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Title: Jesus unstrung him.

Image: ‘Oh father, chiefly known to me by thy rod: mortal or immortal, here I die!’

Image: ‘It is your own grim sire, who did beget thee, exiled sons.’

Image: ‘Mysteriously jetted into the clear moonlight or starlight, as the case might be; disappearing again for one whole day, or two days, or three; and somehow seeming at every distinct repetition to be advancing still further and further in our van, this solitary jet seemed for ever alluring us on.’

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Title: THE PYRAMIDS loom, a long slope of crags and precipices;
the tablerock overhanging, adhering solely by mortar,
twisted at angles like broken cliffs.

Image: ‘Dumb blankness, full of meaning.’

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Image: ‘I know him not, and never will.’
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Image: child runs toward camera in slow motion

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music up. Paul Robeson sings ‘Go down Moses, Way down Egypt land, Tell old Pharoah, Let my people go.’ Music plays through to the end of the credits, up to the final image.

Image: oriental women warriors. Photograph tinted red.

Title: Masonry – and is it man’s? The lines of stone do not
Seem like courses of masonry, but like

Image: close up of photograph, oriental women warriors.

Title: STRATA OF ROCKS

Image: close up of photograph, oriental women warriors.

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Title: I shudder at the idea of the ancient Egyptians.
It was in these pyramids that the idea of Jehovah
was born.

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Image: Egyptian painting

Image: Rosetta stone

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Image: child running

Image: man’s face tinted yellow

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Title: A terrible mixture of the cunning and the awful.
Moses was learned in the lore of the Egyptians.

Image: child running

Title: a dead calm of masonry

Image: oriental women warriors. Photograph tinted red.

Title: BUT FOR NO HOLY PURPOSE WAS THE PYRAMID FOUNDED

Image: Yalta conference

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Image: track up over photo of Nagasaki victims

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Image: child running

Credits:
Cinematography
Phil Hoffman

Sound Recording
SP Smith

Editing, additional camera and sound
Mike Cartmell

PROLOGUE: INFINITE OBSCURE
c.1984 Mike Cartmell

song ends

Image: ‘I am the architect, not the builder.’