Foreign Film

Foreign Film
Photo by emma.kate (copied from Flickr)
Photo by emma.kate (copied from Flickr)

So we’ve reached the end of the story, and someone hits the rewind button because this is actually a film. We hear the film whoosh along the reels. On screen, a dead lady (her heart broken) at the top of the stairs, who looks like our landlady, Gloria, convulses off the floor and lurches down the steps.

The door of the closet swings open and an umbrella flies violently into Gloria’s hands. Her mouth twists angrily. The rest of her face has many indistinct lines under a perfect painting of makeup. She could be thirty, she could be fifty. She is wearing all black. Bits of her thin brown hair escape the bun at the back of her head. She walks quickly backwards out the door, letting it fling solidly in its frame. Gloria stomps backwards out into the rain, her umbrella only covering one shoulder as the other begins very drenched and gets dryer as she makes her way purposefully down the street. Her body shakes, not from cold, but from the pulsing of her angry skin.

She stalks for several blocks and arrives at a house much like her own. The door opens behind her and she runs back through an empty hallway lifting herself into a wall and stumbling out of it. She runs backwards into a crowded dining room with two large tables set up for a dinner party. About twenty people with shocked faces lurch away from Gloria who now confronts them with a violent turn.

All we can hear is the whirring and buzzing as the VCR pulls the black tape back along its reels, so the conversation is inaudible. Fortunately, this is a foreign film so the subtitles pop up and quickly fade away so we are able to piece together some of what is said.

Tears springing back into her eyes, Gloria points at a tiny, dainty lady with jet black hair, a single streak of white streaming back from her right temple. She is wearing red and smiles thinly. Gloria’s mouth is wide. We read below this scene in tiny yellow letters, “This slut.”

Next, Gloria points at a man across the table. We recognize him as the famous Spanish actor, Santino Deloroso, older and graying for this role, but still handsome. Many words scroll across the screen, but all we catch is “…and you don’t even care…killed her…bastard…”

As Gloria sits down she catches a spilled glass of wine and goes back to glaring at the noble looking Santino who winks at the lady with the jet black hair when he thinks Gloria isn’t looking.

Conversations scroll by and Gloria’s anger softens and takes on the placid and pleasant air of a dinner guest, occasionally shifting darkly as she glances at the flirty Santino, who smiles devilishly at the laughing, dark haired lady. The subtitles: “Lovely…my house near the sea sometime.”

The scene changes and Gloria runs around her house, catching things in her hands that fly up from the floor and placing them back on shelves. She unrips magazines and unshatters vases and plates. Then she lies down on a bed and the scene lasts for a long time, even though it is rewinding at a speed several times faster than the play speed. She stares vacantly at the ceiling.

Gloria sits in front of a mirror, her fingers splayed across her face and she pushes her cheeks up and then down. She says something out loud that shows up as “What have I done?” She slaps herself. She punches the side of her head in speed-of-light repetitions.

There are scenes with many people in black. Hugs, handshakes, “I’m so sorry.”

What happened?” Cars drive backwards, out of a cemetery.

The police are in a room questioning Santino. Questioning Gloria. Questioning others.

The scene jumps to a speeding ambulance backing into a parking space along the street. The paramedics roll out a stretcher with the form of a body under a white sheet. Gloria runs alongside it, back into a house where they throw a lifeless woman on the floor, see if she is breathing, then rush backwards out the door. Gloria sits beside the body, screaming and crying, her fingers running through long strands of the dead woman’s red hair. The camera zooms in on each of their faces. The body, crumpled like a broken wing, is that of a middle aged woman the color of eggshell. Her eyes are closed. “No, no, no.” Gloria backs up and dials a number on a cell phone, “Fell down… Accident…” then she rushes back up to the top of the staircase. She looks down astonished. Her hands are behind her back, gripping themselves at the wrist, and then they push out in front of her.

The rewinding tape shows no movement for several seconds.

Then the woman at the bottom lifts herself up on her neck and begins to roll up the stairs. She uncrumples up the steps, supporting herself with a twisted wrist or the small of her back or the side of her neck. When she reaches the top she nearly jumps into Gloria who pulls her back explosively and then hits her in the face. The red head hits her back and they are pulling at each other and subtitles shout, “How could you? You stupid slut…I saw you.”

They both run down the stairs, dangerously backwards. They fight some more in the living room. Then Gloria sits down and waits while the red head looks at her, surprised and leaves.

The red head arrives at the house of the dinner party and looks both ways before slipping furtively through the front door. Santino is there and kisses her good bye and then they rush out of their clothes and into the bedroom making love with a fury that we sometimes imagine in real life, but doesn’t even occur in the movies.

We jump to the outside of that same house and Gloria runs backwards right in and up to the bedroom door, crying. She peers in through the slight crack where the two lovers left the door ajar. We see her eye and the O of her mouth from inside the room but the two, their faces in each other’s shoulders, are oblivious. Gloria backs away from the door and reverses to the front looking around like she is listening very closely and she lets out a tentative, “hello.”

She pauses right before she leaves. When the door shuts behind her she jiggles the knob and then knocks several times, but it seems there is no one home. She heads off down the street.

The scene cuts again. We see the two women eating at a fancy restaurant with many candles and paintings on the wall. Gloria is wearing lipstick and looks happy for the first time. She and the red head are laughing and they spit their food out with vibrancy and joy.

We start to hear the tape reach its end because the rhythm of the whirring sound changes like it has sped up or is slowing down. The last thing we see are two intertwined bodies in a bed. Two women, soft and dangerous as snow push and pull against naked limbs, red hair and chestnut hair swirling on shoulders, back and bellies. Lips closing and opening in reverse and opening and closing again, eyes holding the gaze as they slow down and begin. The subtitle is easy to read because it fades and pops up, fades and reappears, “I love you… I love you… I love you.” 

Alex Vikmanis

About Alex Vikmanis

Alex Vikmanis had a circuitous journey to becoming a writer including a degree in biomedical engineering and a stint in the Peace Corps. He finally got his MFA from California College of the Arts in San Francisco and has been published in Plaid Review as well as projects like The Super Pop-Up Shop and 2x2. He's also a contributor for KqedPop.

Alex Vikmanis had a circuitous journey to becoming a writer including a degree in biomedical engineering and a stint in the Peace Corps. He finally got his MFA from California College of the Arts in San Francisco and has been published in Plaid Review as well as projects like The Super Pop-Up Shop and 2x2. He's also a contributor for KqedPop.

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