A Rendering of “The Tempest”.
It’s 1918; the First World War is coming to an end. After five years of bloody attrition Europe has been obliterated and trenches stretch from the North Sea to the Alps. Despite the millions who’ve already died, small pockets of fighting still persist in a land ravaged by shot and shell.
In a forward listening post – separated from the German trenches by barely a hundred yards – two British officers stand watch. Their orders are to raise the alarm in the unlikely event the Germans try to make a desperate, last-ditch effort. The soldiers stand ankle deep in mud and filth and peer with their binoculars over the sand bagged trench. As they stare into the early morning mist a biplane – although in radio contact with the officer in charge – buzzes unseen above the clouds. The radio crackles – a static voice breaks the silence – and suddenly the ground in front of them comes alive. An artillery barrage erupts upon the enemy lines, sending huge columns of mud and debris into the sky. The elder of the two men reaches for his cigarettes, smiles and waits for the guns to abate.
The film is set during the First World War. The character uniforms are those of the protagonists of the period, the location the trenches of Flanders. The scenario touches on the events of the “Tempest.” The premise is that a small group of German soldiers evacuating from the front lines are caught in the final barrage of the war. Despite casualties the men manage to escape but because of the mist and the utter desolation of the environment they become increasingly disoriented. This leads to their desperate quest to escape the dangers around them and their eventual encounter with the British.
Rather than just another well-worn, mud-drenched soldier epic, this particular film will be filmed with lashings of psychological fantasy where each soldier is drawn, despite his personal demons, to relive episodes of his pre-war existence. These episodes will be similar to the scene in “The Shinning” when Jack Nicholson walks into the ball room at the Overlook Hotel, which although supposedly empty, is filled with the ghosts of a bygone era. The men will all experience surreal episodes that will make them question their sanity, as well as the nature of perceived reality; an allusion to the absurdity of the carnage experienced during the war.
After all, what could be more absurd than total annihilation?
Michael Caine – who else?
The Major is a sympathetic realist in his fifties who although, battle hardened, clings to the notion of a universal morality; that there’s more to life than blood and bullets and that by living one day at a time and soldiering to the best of his ability he will eventually earn the right to return to his beloved England.
Graves is a public school boy – that’s English public school – who thanks to conscription has been forced into the ranks during the final months of the war. A good looking boy from a well-to-do background who, although maintaining the pretense of a stiff upper lip and filled with faux “Boys-Own” bravado, is on the point of mental break down. Hand tremors and occasional outbursts are softened by the affection he holds for the Major who – through their shared experience and his protection – he’s come to appreciate as a virtual father to him.
There’s a nagging question of barely-perceptible homosexuality, but this is never satisfactorily resolved.
Is a disembodied voice that alternates from person to person. The spirit is the pilot in the unseen aircraft, the voice on the end of the telephone and the static in the radio. There is constant contact between the Major and the entity with regard to the observation, discovery and eventual capture of the enemy. The voice is everywhere and nowhere; the ghost in the machine and yet Major P’s only contact with the outside world.
Schmidt, Gruber and Schuhmaker
Liam Neeson. Tom Hardy. Peter Falk.
The soldiers are foils to the British characters; Neeson to Caine and Hardy to Law.
Falk is the chorus and embodiment of Trinculo and Stephano and offers comic relief.
Hardy like Law is a young man drawn into conflict and the pseudo love interest in the never declared homo-eroticism.
Neeson is just as grizzled as Caine; a man who’s been forever changed by what he once perceived as a just crusade.
Various walking shadows
Every good war movie needs a few death scenes!
• Falk lost in the mist turns a corner and suddenly find himself on the “Reeperbahn” in Hamburg. Girls and good times are everywhere and we experience the surrealism of pre-war Europe.
• A monster made from the corpses of all the dead of all the wars rises from the mud. Barbed wire hangs from its body. It chases the soldiers and although never catching them is constantly an entity at the corner of their eye and a perpetual threat.
• Law meets and chats with an airman who – to everybody apart from himself – is obviously a ghost.
• Caine finds himself – fishing rod in hand – at the edge of a mud filled crater reliving civilian life.
• Neeson reencounters his wife who was killed in a bombing raid by the British at the beginning of the war; the reason he joined the army in the first place.
• Random vehicles are seen to drive through the trenches, ice cream vendors appear alongside other tradesmen. The occasional prostitute is seen leaning against the side of the trench.
The idea is to create sheer terror with absolute ridiculousness. The trenches aren’t just filled with the dead but also their memories. The Trenches as it were are;
“ ….full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
The men finally unite after their horrors whilst lost in the trenches.
Law and Hardy have their brief, yet obvious moment of affection.
The men despite their different uniforms and political ideology come to a tacit understanding of universal brotherhood.
As the radio sputters to the sound of victory the air is filled with the roar of twelve-cylinder-Fokker- aero-engines. Machine gun fire rips through the trench killing them all.
The radio breaks into a music hall ditty.
The camera pans the bodies and lingers briefly on the outstretched hands of Law and Hardy.
The trench slowly transforms into the Reeperbahn which Falk witnesses – cigar in mouth – in his last living, breathing moments.
The paradox of reality and dreams is left unanswered.
Although the film parodies the book there is no intention of staying absolutely true to it or of using Shakespeare’s language. Although there will be allusions to the play – possibly in conversations between Law and Caine – there will be no direct link to it. The intent is to subvert the original play and at the same time doggedly adhere to it. By relating to it in the loosest of terms and without obvious reference the allusion will be maximized.
Do I have to mention that my idea is protected by copyright and that I’m also available for shooting next week?