A Tale of Love by Death - film scipt transformation of A Midsummer Night's Dream and Robert Browning Poems

INT. A magnificent room decorated in a traditional 19th century style with several modern touches, a mobile phone lies on the dresser and a colour photograph of the beautiful woman within the room (Hermia) and somebody we take to be her father is stood in a gilt frame beside the bed. The window behind Hermia shows darkness threatening a storm. Joy Division’s “Love will tear us apart” plays in the background. Hermia is a striking young woman, with long yellow curls which frame her face effortlessly, her eyes are large and ocean blue. She seems troubled. She is examining her seemingly flawless self in a full length mirror and she is rehearsing a conversation. As the music reaches 25seconds, the shot of the room and the girl fades into a montage of famous, modern love scenes, the music quietens and a nameless voiceover speaks in a male, strong yet reassuring tone, addressing the audience.

Death: Beauty is often misconstrued as perfection. In plays, books and films, the Juliet is never described as hideous, Rose Bukater was stunning, not shabby and although Bridget Jones is a little quirky and afflicted with low self-confidence, everybody else seems to agree that she is, well, attractive.

When it came around to my time to meet Hermia, I couldn’t help but notice her obvious beauty. She was, if you can excuse my predictability, quite breath taking and I was almost sad to see her go so early. Alas, the decision did not lie with me; her beauty had far from given her the fairy tale that her mother had always dreamt up. Instead her fickle heart and disloyalty had sentenced her to me. I’m not sorry for it. She created her own destiny. Beauty isn’t everything.

Music begins to fade at 1.00minute, and by 1.05minutes has completely faded. Scene changes, INT., large, grandly decorated 19th century room, accompanied by similar modern additions, a flat screen television high on the wall, a telephone beside an enormous, lit fireplace which doesn’t seem to be doing its job of warming the room. The atmosphere is stony. Hermia sits in one armchair, putting on a farce of nervousness for the Duke’s (Demetrius) benefit, who is sat ominously in a chair nearer the fire, slightly shadowed with an amber drink in his hand. He has the rest of the room in awe. An awkward silence waits patiently for a speaker. Hermia takes the advantage.

Hermia: I’m sorry. I was so confused, you were never meant to find out, but then you did and it was too late. I wanted to be hones-

Demetrius holds up a hand signalling Hermia to stop her drawl of apologies. He is angry and quite frightening.

Demetrius: Stop it! Just stop. I’ve had enough of you, of the lies, disloyalty.

Hermia: Disloyalty? Ha, you’re one to preach aren’t you!

Demetrius: Here we go; I wondered how long it would take for this to raise its head.

Hermia: Well what did you expect? You cannot sit there and tell me off for this! It’s not easy under her shadow, the way you used to talk about her, like nothing else mattered, like I didn’t matter! I got hurt and looked for somebody else, I was wrong. Both of you wanted me, then wanted her then changed your minds again, but I stuck with you! I wasn’t the one blinded by false love!

Demetrius: Helena was different, complicated. It was a long time ago and you forgave me! You can’t use that as an excuse for this! How long has it being going on you stupid little whore? Weeks, months … years? Ever since you threatened to run with him?

Demetrius sips his drink and sighs with disdain.

Demetrius:  Enough. It’s time for you to leave.

Hermia becomes urgent, kneels before Demetrius, takes hold of his hand and grasps at it as she speaks.

Hermia: Leave? Stop it, don’t be stupid. I, I know I promised but this time I mean it. You’re all I want. You and me, just like it was planned. I swear to thee, by Cupid's strongest bow, by his best arrow with the golden head, by the simplicity of Venus' doves, I love you Demetrius. He was just a stupid inconsequential mistake, he’s nothing. We are meant to be together, I’ll never mention Helena again, or him. They’re both gone, over.  I can forgive you an-

Demetrius’s anger spills over and he jumps up, grabbing Hermia up with him, flinging his half empty glass into the fire, causing it to erupt simultaneously. He’s shaking with rage. For the first time the audience sees his face, dark hair and eyes with a wide set jaw and a broad forehead, handsome yet seemingly unhinged.

Demetrius:  Forgive me? Why thank you, meanwhile you’re off with whoever the hell you want with no regard for me!

He flings her to the ground violently.

Demetrius: I will not have you in my house! You forget that all of this is mine! You sit here like royalty, lapping everything up out of your silver spoon; all the while it’s me that pays for it, not your father now! He got sick of you and palmed you off on me.  I was chosen because somebody else had to tend to your every god damn whim and desire and your dear Lysander couldn’t afford it you selfish child! I fought for you all that while you were off fancying around with him! I excused you. You were young. I thought you loved me really.  But now, I’ve given everything and now you run back to that, to that…

Demetrius goes to throw all his aggression at the mirror hanging nearby, as he does the scene freezes. A man walks in the door to the back while the rest of the scene is frozen. He is in a smart suit and has a pleasant, yet sombre manner about him, as if he has seen more horror than his years would naturally permit. This is the voiceover from the start. As he narrates he casually takes a round of the room, inspecting various objects of interest.

 Death: This is exactly when I first arrived. I knew I would have to introduce myself to Hermia soon so I had been monitoring the situation for a while, so as not to miss my appointment. I felt sure I had come at just the right moment. The sequence felt right: Jealous husband, weak wife, crime of passion. Although, if I were honest, and conveniently forgetting my neutral role in these matters, I preferred the Duke to this girl. He had been reduced to something lesser than he was, and I knew his character would suffer as a result. Nevertheless, I had a job to do; I sat and waited for the glass to break.

Death sits in Hermia’s vacated chair and checks a watch, the scene then continues as if uninterrupted, and neither the Duke nor Hermia acknowledge their visitor. The camera shows a shot of the mirror as the Dukes fist lands and Hermia’s face is shattered in the reflection.

Demetrius: Get out!

Hermia hesitates then flees from the room dramatically and the Duke turns back to face the broken mirror. He begins to sob quietly.

Demetrius: (deep intake of breath) It’s fine. I’ll be okay.

Death: I knew it was impossible, but just for a moment I thought he was looking to me for reassurance, and so I answered him as honestly as I could - (said to the Duke) I certainly hope so.

I would have liked to sit with him a while longer, but I didn’t want to be late, so I followed her instead.

Scene changes. EXT. Longshot of Hermia struggling through the storm which has broken out with force, the sullen wind awake, while death strolls easily by next to her. The shot changes to Hermia’s view of a modest cottage some way in the distance.  The next shot, Hermia has reached the cottage and both she and Death peer through the window. Hermia freezes, Death speaks.

Death: I remember looking through this window, seeing that young painter and pitying him. He was poor, naïve and sad, surrounded by all those canvasses, all depicting Hermia herself, exaggerating her beauty to an almost grotesque level.

Scene unfreezes, Hermia raps on the door and waits impatiently.

Lysander: It’s open.

INT. She bundles herself in, Death slips in after and she closes the door.  Lysander is in a chair facing his fire. The room is failing in comparison to the Dukes. Hermia swans up to Lysander and sits on his knee, shrugging off her dripping cloak. She put Lysander’s arm about her waist, and made her smooth white shoulder bare. She tries to steal a kiss but Lysander rejects her

Lysander: What do you want Mia?

Hermia: Since when did I need a reason to visit you my love? I thought you enjoyed me being here…

Lysander looks at Hermia incredulously.      

Lysander: Stop it Mia. This isn’t fair. Not after last time, you, well you made it perfectly clear that he had won.

Hermia: I have no idea what you’re talking about, so stop these silly games. I’m here aren’t I? Yes. So who is it that you think I have chosen?

Hermia is playfully stroking Lysander’s hair, acting seductively. Lysander seems confused and gradually becomes frustrated as he speaks.

Lysander: But, what you said. I have nothing to offer remember! Nothing but my “stupid paintings", you said! He is rich and approved of; he’s the better man, your Duke! All these things you shot at me after I left Helena for you, and now, now you claim you have chosen me? What’s going on?

Hermia sits up straight and has stopped her flirting.

Hermia: Stop it now. We are not to talking about her anymore. Before, well, maybe I put things all out of proportion but I’m here now. I have chosen you. I don’t care about money. I love you! What is money worth next to love?

There is a pause which is drawn out by Lysander’s growing cold suspicion.

Lysander: He threw you out, didn’t he?

The scene pauses, and Death, who has been observing the scene from by the dingy fireplace, speaks.

Death: This is when I began to realise. The puzzle fell in place, all of the pieces finally coming together. I had not hoped for a happy ending, I don’t get many of those in this line of work, but I certainly hadn’t hoped for this. There was nothing I could do though, so I just, waited. But that’s when the phone call came.

 A phone rings on this cue, and Death takes a small mobile out of his trouser pocket and answers it.

Death: I’m busy. What do you mean it’s urgent? I’m on call right now so you’ll have to ring la-(pause – 5seconds). Oh. Well. That’s different. Are you sure? Right, right okay then, be ready. Goodbye for now.

Death sighs, looks to the couple and shakes his head. He straightens up, checks his watch, and then waits for things to start again.

Hermia: Of course not.

Lysander: You may as well be honest. I’ll find out anyway. Did he throw you out?

Hermia: NO!  (Hermia gets up and begins to pace the room as she rants) No, no, no! He loves me, he said so! He begged me to stay, just like you did! I chose you. It was my decision! Why are you doing this? Helena isn’t here to want either of you anymore, so why don’t you want me?!

Lysander: Stop Mia, come here.

Hermia goes back and settles herself on his knee again, burying her head into his shoulder, weeping, her hair glinting in the firelight.

Lysander: Shhh, hey, it’s going to be okay, the course of true love never did run smooth.

He strokes her hair with distressed concentration on his face. He takes a firmer hold and so quickly it seems impossible, in one long yellow string he wound three times her little throat around, and strangled her. He closes his eyes while he does it, tears run down his face. The scene freezes, Death walks over to them, places a hand on Hermia’s head and speaks.

Death: It was dreadful. It’s no better watching it again now, the result of this twisted love. Watching her struggle, her body jerk around, her breath rasping on the last few inches of life, I prayed that I had been misinformed. I didn’t want to see anymore, but alas, I wasn’t finished.

Scene unfreezes, Death moves back and Hermia goes limp in Lysander’s arms. Death does not leave. Lysander picks up Hermia and sits her on the chair, he warily opens her lids, he un-tightened next the tress about her neck; her cheek once more blushed bright beneath his burning kiss, he propped her head up as before and started speaking to her gently.

Lysander: I’m sorry my beautiful girl. You were mine; truly mine, if just for a moment. But now, now I made us last forever! Forgive me my Mia. We need not worry for God has not said a word.

He is still crying, tears streaming but he doesn’t appear sad. He gives her one last kiss on the cheek; then he briskly goes to pick up something out of a drawer by the bed and moves quickly back to Hermia and kneels before her.  He lifts the object and we see a small, black handgun. Death moves forward and the scene freezes, Death speaks.

Death: I blamed her. Maybe it was his fault. Perhaps the Duke held the responsibility. Or maybe the guilt lay with Helena. I hate suicides. Always so unexpected. (He places his hand on Lysander’s head and they look directly at each other) Maybe you should leave now.

The scene abruptly goes completely black. Lysander speaks.

Lysander: I love you.

There is a gunshot and the scene fades into another. INT. Large, grand hallway, the walls covered in paintings. There is a painting which we recognise from Lysander’s cottage showing Hermia. There are two men either side of the painting, one is the Duke and one is unknown.

Man: Who is this, Duke?

Demetrius:  That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall, looking as if she were alive. I call that piece a wonder, now: Lysander’s hands worked busily a day, and there she stands, (sighs) ’twas not her husband’s presence only, called that spot of joy into the Duchess’ cheek: perhaps
Lysander chanced to say “Her mantle laps over my lady’s wrist too much,” or “Paint must never hope to reproduce the faint half-flush that dies along her throat”:

Demetrius is speaking with disdain and the man seems unnerved.

Man: Why Duke, it is not for me to –

Demetrius: She thanked men,—good! But thanked somehow—I know not how—as if she ranked my gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name with anybody’s gift.

Man: Sir…

Demetrius: Yes? Yes you are right. Apologies, I am not yet used to her, her passing. Well, notice Neptune, though, taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity, which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me.

Scene goes black, Joy Divisions ‘Love will tear us apart’ starts again and runs through the credits. END.

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