- Foreword and Screenplay by Sally Potter
- Introductions by John Berger and Pankaj Mishra
- Q&A with Sally Potter and Joan Allen
- 16-page color photograph section with 28 photographs
Read an Excerpt
YESScreenplay and Notes
By Sally Potter
Newmarket PressCopyright © 2005 Sally Potter
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Screenplay
YES is set in the present in London, Belfast, Beirut and Havana.
SHE: An American scientist of Northern-Irish descent (born and raised in Belfast), married to Anthony and living with him in London.
HE: A Middle-Eastern man, originally from Beirut where he worked as a doctor, now living in exile in London, and earning a living as a cook.
ANTHONY: A disillusioned English politician, once an idealist, married to SHE.
GRACE: The teenage goddaughter of Anthony and SHE.
KATE: Grace's mother, an old friend of SHE.
CLEANER: Works for Anthony and SHE.
VIRGIL: An Afro-Caribbean kitchen-worker.
BILLY: A Scottish kitchen-worker.
WHIZZER: An English washer-up.
AUNT: An Irish communist and atheist, now living in a nursing home in Belfast.
Note: The screenplay which follows has been edited and amended (following its evolution through the shoot and the rigours of the cutting room) to match its final form on the screen.
Microscopic images of the smallest visible particles of matter dance and float across the screen. They are as abstract and indecipherable as drawings, but undeniably alive.
The particles become dots and lines, electronic lines ... that become ... cells. These are quivering cells that float, randomly and catch the light ... not cells, now, but grains-tiny grains of dust-drifting and sparkling in a beam of sunlight.
The dust is being shaken vigorously out of a sheet.
House / Bedroom - Day
The cleaner, the woman whose hands had shaken out the sheet, turns and speaks confidingly to the camera as she continues to make the bed in an immaculate white bedroom.
Cleaner: They say my cleaning is the best (to camera) They've ever known. But cleanliness of course Is an illusion. Those of us who clean As a profession know the deeper source Of dirt is always there. You can't get rid Of it. You cannot hide or put a lid On it, as long as human life is there. It's us. The skin we shed, and then the hair....
We hear footsteps-angry footsteps-as someone comes up the stairs.
The cleaner picks up a hair from the bed and gingerly examines it as a woman (SHE) rushes angrily through the bedroom, and slams the door. The cleaner comes closer to the camera and whispers.
Cleaner: I think of what I do as therapy (to camera) For homes. You know I often see the pain Imprinted on a bed. You spot a stain That should not be in there; of course you know
At once what's going on. But then you go Into another room, the one he keeps His papers in, or so he says ... he sleeps In there from time to time as well....
House / Study - Day
A door opens, briefly, onto a small, bare room. The room has a desk, with some files neatly stacked on it, and a single bed. Anthony is sitting, despairingly, on the edge of the bed, his head in his hands. Some music is playing, very loud; a guitar solo, the blues.
The cleaner, carrying a huge bundle of sheets, closes the door quietly and looks knowingly into the camera.
House / Staircase - Day
The cleaner dumps the sheets into a laundry basket and starts to climb the stairs, then hesitates and turns back to the camera.
Cleaner: What was I saying'? Yes. It all relates. (to camera) The evidence on things like dirty plates And socks and underwear and other things shouldn't mention....
House / Lavatory - Day
She appears in the lavatory, bends over and stares into the pan.
Cleaner: ... that he sometimes flings Into the toilet and thinks I won't see- Ah-because he flushes, but unfortunately He doesn't check it's gone. It's down to me To try again- sometimes I fish it out....
She lowers her hand into the pan, gingerly removes a used condom and throws it into a pedal-bin.
Cleaner: It's quicker in the end; it floats. I doubt They'll ever realise I know it all. They think that those of us who clean are small Somehow, in body and in mind; we fall Out of their line of sight; invisible, We work our magic. Indivisible One from the other; we're a mass, no soul, No rights to speak of, just a basic role To play in keeping their lives looking good. Cosmetic artists. That is what we should Be called. Or ... dirt consultants.
Limousine - Night
SHE and her husband, Anthony, are sitting as far apart as possible in the back seat of a large, shiny limousine, each staring out of the window. The atmosphere between them is taut with tension. We hear her chaotic overlapping thoughts.
SHE: Nobody warned me, nobody said That losing love is like being dead ... Or deaf and dumb and blind and strangled.... How could you? In our house?
She turns to her husband, angrily.
SHE: How could you? In our house?
Anthony: Oh, don't.
SHE: Don't what?
Anthony: Don't make a scene. Don't make it worse.
SHE: I'm not.
She turns and stares out of the window once more.
SHE: Where? Our bed? The sofa? Or perhaps a chair?
Embassy / Staircase & Entrance Hall (CCTV) - Night
A CCTV camera records SHE and Anthony as they mount a staircase in a large ornate building surrounded by other guests in evening dress. Anthony hands his coat automatically to a uniformed woman in the entrance hall without acknowledging her presence.
Embassy / Banquet Hall - Night
SHE is now standing conspicuously alone in a huge banquet hall isolated from the other guests. She glances into a crowded ante-room where Anthony is standing with his hand resting on the back of a young woman, just a little too long for comfort.
A tall, dark man, HE, dressed in a tuxedo, walks out from the stark neon-lit kitchens into the candle-lit banquet hall. HE is heading for the long table laid for dinner, but then pauses, his attention caught by this elegant woman standing alone. HE stares at her for a moment and then approaches her cautiously.
HE: Forgive my question, but are you alright?
SHE: I'm fine, thank you.
HE: Are you sure?
SHE: Yes, quite.
HE: A woman left alone ... if it was me ... I wouldn't-
SHE: -wouldn't what?
HE: Let such a beauty Out of my sight. Not for one moment. No.
Some time has passed and SHE is now sitting at the long banquet table opposite Anthony and is listening, abstractedly, to an older man as he talks to her; but her attention is really focussed on Anthony, who is flirting with the young woman seated next to him.
Meanwhile HE is serving wine and food with mock seriousness to guests at the table. HE is performing-clowning, without the other guests noticing-for her benefit. Eventually he manages to make her laugh.
Embassy / Washroom - Night
SHE has retreated to the washroom. She stares at herself in the mirror as she recalls her conversation with the stranger.
SHE: A woman left alone ... if it was me ... I wouldn't-wouldn't what? Let such a beauty Out of my sight. Not for one moment. No.
And then she paces up and down as she recalls the conversation that followed.
HE: And let me add: I'd like to steal (v.o.) You from the man who cannot see That you're a queen. When are you free?
SHE: My God, you're fast.
HE: Oh no, quite slow. (v.o.)
She stares at herself in the mirror again, smoothing down her dress.
SHE: I don't believe this. I must say no, definitely.
Embassy / Staircase & Entrance Hall (CCTV) - Night
The jerky, CCTV camera image reveals HE and SHE in the entrance hall, moving around each other like birds in a courtship dance. She hesitates, momentarily, then reaches into her bag, pulls out a business card and hands it decisively to him.
Embassy / Kitchen - Night
HE is chopping vegetables, whistling, looking pleased with himself. A telephone rings.
Taxi (New York) - Day
SHE is speaking from her mobile phone in a tunnel somewhere in New York City.
SHE: It's you!
HE: You knew. (v.o.)
SHE: I guessed.
HE: That's good. (v.o.) I said I'd call.
SHE: I thought you would.
Alley Outside Embassy - Night
HE is standing, wearing a cook's uniform, in an alleyway outside the kitchens where he works, speaking into a mobile phone.
HE: You're over there.
SHE: Quite far away- (v.o.)
HE: You sound so near. And when are you-
Taxi (New York) - Day
SHE: -returning? In a day, or two.
HE: I'd like to meet. (v.o.)
SHE: Yes, where? You say ...
HE: Let's walk, somewhere, and eat. (v.o.)
She smiles to herself before responding.
SHE: And talk.
A siren sounds in the background, and the sound of a car door slamming shut.
HE: What's that? (v.o.)
SHE: My cab. I'm getting out.
HE: I cannot hear- (v.o.)
SHE: -we'll have to shout!
HE: I'll call again.... (v.o., shouting)
SHE: Oh, good, yes, do! (shouting)
HE: (v.o.) I'm glad I found you....
The line disconnects.
Plaza (New York) - Day
SHE crosses a plaza, walking towards an enormous glass building. A skateboarder flies past her as she heads purposefully towards her destination, smiling to herself.
Conference Room (New York) - Day
And now SHE is standing at the head of a huge shiny table in a conference room high above the city. She looks out, confidently, at the group waiting attentively around the table.
SHE: I understand that you've invited me To make a case that life begins at three Hours; or at one, or two, or maybe four, As if there is a moment when we can be sure That we are human. You'll want evidence. Material. Not big ideas, nor common sense, But what is measurable, what you can see. And not just once, but many times, repeatedly. For this is science and that's what we do.
She pauses and looks around.
SHE: But wait a minute. Is this really true? (cont'd) Could "objectivity" be just a point of view? We interpret what we see; and can see What we expect, in embryology. When a man first saw a sperm magnified He thought he saw a little man inside; And those that looked were sure that they could see One too; so eager were they to agree. Look at this. Man?
A slide appears on a screen. Some cells, clustering in a primitive embryological shape. And then a second ... a similar image.
SHE: Or mouse? The mystery (cont'd) (o.s.) Is that each cell knows its destiny....
House / Kitchen - Day
The cells become indistinct trembling shapes, which then come into focus as water gushing into a plughole.
It is the point of view of the cleaner who is scrubbing out a sink in an immaculate kitchen whilst Anthony eats breakfast and reads the newspaper. The telephone rings.
Anthony: Yes? Who? Oh, Sister Maud, of course, hello. It's been a while. It has. How time does go.... No, she's not here.... Of course, I'll tell her, yes. I'm sure she meant to call.... Oh I would guess The weekend, but of course one never knows.... Yes, always working, that's the way it goes. And how is her aunt? Oh. Oh dear. How sad. Is it serious?
He is still reading the paper absentmindedly whilst the caller talks. And then his expression changes.
Anthony: Oh dear.... (cont 'd)
His tone has changed. He looks sombre and chastened.
Anthony: That does sound bad. (cont'd) Oh quite.... Of course ... I'll speak to her tonight.
The cleaner walks to the camera and whispers, confidingly, as Anthony scribbles a message in the background.
Cleaner: Except when she gets back he will be out. (to camera) That's how they organise their lives. I doubt If they will see each other for a week. They leave each other notes but rarely speak.
Anthony throws down the pen next to the message pad.
House / Hallway - Day
SHE throws down her keys onto a table in the hallway and starts picking up a pile of notes left for her by the telephone. She is about to read them when her mobile phone rings. She smiles when she realises who is calling her.
Park - Day
It is spring, and SHE and HE are strolling through a London park. The trees are full of blossom, the ground covered in spring flowers. There is a something studiedly formal in the measured physical distance between them as they walk and talk, as if they are keeping something under control.
HE: Where are you from?
SHE: I'm Irish. From Belfast.
HE: You sound-
SHE: I know. American. They took me there when I was ten. And you?
HE: I'm from Beirut.
HE imitates the sound of guns firing, bombs exploding. They both laugh.
HE: My land is made of stones ... (cont'd)
HE gestures at the blossom on the trees around them.
HE: ... but we have trees (cont'd) That blossom in the spring and then release Their fruit. We have cherries, plums and peaches And the queen of all, the tree that reaches For the sun to fill its seed with gold: The yellow fruit, the apricot. The old And wisest say this fruit will keep them young....
HE leans towards her.
HE: And you can taste her secret with your tongue. (cont'd)
Their eyes meet, briefly, and then she turns away.
SHE: Potato is our apricot. We bake We boil, we mash, we fry; and then we make A flour of it for dumplings in our stew Or bread or scones or pancakes.... The famine haunts us still, you see.
HE: We too are haunted by our dead, it seems. They speak to us in riddles in our dreams; So many killed. They ask the question-why? Did we have to die?
SHE: Look ... shall we think of something sad? (ruefully) This conversation's far too light HE: That's bad.... Yes. Absolutely. You are right.
They smile at each other, fleetingly. And then she touches him lightly, consolingly, on the arm.
SHE: My auntie in Belfast once said to me Survivors can't forget; the memory Is all that's left. We cannot let it go. If it is lost, then who will ever know? She brought me up. I loved her so.
HE and SHE are walking once again and SHE is talking volubly as HE listens attentively. It seems she has not really been listened to in this way for a long time; the words have been released and are flowing out of her.
SHE: My parents went away when I was two. (cont'd) They said they'd fetch me in a month, but then A month became a year ... my father flew Back home from time to time. I never knew When I would go. Do you believe in God?
HE is about to answer, but she continues, rapidly, her speech barely able to keep up with her thoughts.
SHE: She didn't: so I had to pray (cont'd) At school, then go back home and say I thought that reason was the way, The light, and that God was dead....
Streets - Day
HE is leading SHE down an alleyway between two crumbling mansion blocks, carefully helping her to avoid the broken paving stones, as she talks, on and on. It seems as if neither of them is really concentrating on what she is saving anymore.
SHE: This was a Catholic school; they fed Us catechism, fear of hell, And fear of punishment as well. They hit us hard to do us good And told us that we never would Survive without our faith. My aunt Said they were hypocrites. You can't Imagine how it was to be alone With such a split: but to atone For sinful doubt I searched for truth, With all the passion of my youth.
HE gestures towards a doorway, breathing heavily.
Apartment / Hallway - Day
HE and SHE are now standing in the small entrance hall just inside the front door of his apartment. HE is undoing the buttons on her coat, one by one.
HE: You found it?
HE looks at her, questioningly, for a moment.
HE: So you think that you Can penetrate the mind of God.
SHE: I do ... Not know ... if God has a mind. Or if there Is a God. I don't ... know....
They are standing very close to each other. HE touches her hair, lightly.
HE: Such golden hair.... (murmuring) We can agree-
Excerpted from YES by Sally Potter Copyright © 2005 by Sally Potter. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A world within a screenplay. Beautiful on the page as on the screen, required text for anyone admitting to despair at the current times. Rich with text and image.