Rejection

Here we are in a crowded night club. The college leaving party. We move across the dance floor, weaving through the revellers. The bassline of dance music thumps in the background.

We’re moving in on a young white man (Nobody) standing away from the dance floor, clearly completely out of place. As we get close to him, a young Gambian man (Somebody) walks up to him and whispers into his ear. ‘Nobody’ glances at ‘Somebody’, following him to a slightly quieter part of the club.

The camera cuts to them standing, talking. They are having to shout into each other’s ears because the music is so loud.

Somebody: “This party’s pathetic.”

Nobody: “You’re not kidding. I can’t relax.”

Somebody: “I’ve seen this girl I like, but she’s with her friend. I’ll offload her friend on you. Come on.”

Nobody: “I don’t think so, I’m just a nobody.”

Somebody: “Come on man, it’ll be good.”

The Gambian man leads Nobody over to the other side of the club. We follow. Somebody talks to the girl he liked, and then to her friend, a Somali girl. Somebody points towards Nobody. She looks towards Nobody and laughs.

Girl: “You must be joking!”

She laughs and laughs aloud. Back to Nobody. There is his face. It’s filled with rejection. The room has gone silent. All we can hear now is Nobody’s heartbeat. The girl is still laughing, in slow motion now. Turning to the dance floor, everyone has stopped dancing. They stand looking at Nobody, pointing at him and laughing too. The volume of the noise of laughter increases until the whole room is filled with laughter. Cut through black.

Nobody is now sitting at the bar with a bottle in his hand. He drinks a mouthful and then looks straight on. A young Asian man, Friend, walks up behind him and taps on his back. He shouts into Nobody’s ear over the music.

Friend: “There you are, I’ve been looking for you everywhere. I’ve found someone for you.”

Nobody: “Thanks, but I’m not in the mood. Didn’t come for that.”

Friend: “She’s waiting for you.”

They walk over to the girl. We follow. It is the same girl as before. Friend points at her.

Friend: “There she is.”

Nobody: “No man, she’s already told me to get lost once.”

Friend: “Just go for it.”

Nobody stands behind her for a few seconds. She does not turn to him. Eventually he walks over to her and she turns around.

Nobody: “Hi, I’ve been trying to relax into this. Will you come and cheer me up.”

The girl does not look at him. She just gets up and walks away. Nobody is left standing alone. Suddenly the room is empty and silent, and Nobody is the only person there. He is standing perfectly still. The surroundings around him morph into a mountain top. Tears are rolling down his face. Cut to black.

We’re in the centre of a grey room. It’s filled with a crowd. Around the edge, people are holding banners. We circle the room to read what they say: “Get lost!” “Go Home!” “Loser!” “Reject!”

Someone runs towards us, shouting: “We don’t want your type round here, you stupid loser!”

All the people in the room are pushing and shouting. They’re staring and angry.

We’re back in the club, Nobody left standing as the girl walks away. The bass continues to thump in the background. Everyone around him is having fun. Nobody turns to walk away, but just before he does, the random, repetitive beat of the music changes into a very cool, hip-hop beat. Nobody turns to the camera and a big grin fills his face. He shouts in his mock-Jamaican accent: “Ya, Mon!”

Nobody walks down onto the dance floor and starts to dance to the now brilliant music. He moves into the group with the Friend and Somebody, showing off. His friends smile as they see him dance. He moves in front of the girl who had rejected him and dances wildly to the music under strobe lighting. He does not look at her, his eyes are closed and he appears like he is in a trance. He moves away from the tight group and weaves his way through the rest of the crowd.

We’re floating above Nobody now. People stare at him as he dances through them, but he does not care. The number of people on the floor is reduced. He seems to be dancing constantly, but the people are disappearing as time accelerates past. Eventually only Nobody remains, dancing slowly now, until suddenly he falls to his knees, and then, backwards, down to the ground.

He lies on his back on the floor. His eyes are still shut. There is no smile on his face. We zoom in on his eyes until suddenly they open. Instantly cut to black.

Six Confessions of a Tortured Soul

  1. Nightmares
  2. Rejection
  3. Guilt
  4. Mistrust
  5. Loneliness
  6. Regret

Part two, 29 December 1995.

Regret

Two main characters. The first is a young white man (Regret). The other is an old, wise black man (Listener). He has a grey beard and is nearly bald.

Silence. The two characters are facing each other over a game of chess. The chess board is resting on an up-turned tea chest. Regret sits in a broken car seat. The Listener sits on a large, empty, cable spool. They appear to be sitting in a dark warehouse, where they are illuminated only by a single stream of light from a hole in the roof. The floor is dusty. We move in towards them as the Listener moves his white bishop and takes Regret’s Queen. The Listener drops Regret’s piece to the floor. We watch it falling in slow motion. As it hits the ground and bounces, Regret speaks:

“I regret.”

There is a brief silence.

Listener: “What do you regret?:

Regret: “I regret my life.”

Regret moves a black pawn one space forward on the chess board. We focus onto Regret’s right eye until it blurs out of focus, and then back into focus at a different scene. There is a small, young boy wearing shorts and a T-shirt, standing in a school playground. His friends are around him surround him, but we focus on him.

As another boy runs past them, one of his friends shouts out: “There he is!”

All the first boy’s friends turn to run away after that kid, but a bigger boy says to the first boy: “You stay here.” As the playground around him becomes empty, we hear Regret speaking over the image of this lone by standing in the playground. We circle him, flying up in the air above him, looking down on him.

Regret: “I regret letting them leave me. I regret being weak. I regret my life.”

The Listener moves a white pawn and captures Regret’s black pawn. The piece drops to the floor, in slow motion again. We focus on Regret’s mouth as he speaks.

Regret: “I regret not going to see that trumpet teacher. I regret being weak. I wanted to play the trumpet. I wanted to play jazz. I regret it.”

We pan to the Listener. He looks into Regret’s eyes. We turn back to a younger Regret. He is sitting on the back row of an orchestra playing his oboe. The older regret continues to speak over the music.

Regret: “I regret learning the oboe. I wanted to play jazz. The oboe won’t let me do that. I wanted to play the trumpet. Why was I so weak? I want to play jazz. I regret my life.”

The image on the screen goes black suddenly. It reopens at an image of Regret on a stage, playing his trumpet in front of a Harlem jazz club, accompanied by a saxophonist, a double bass player, a pianist and a drummer. He is playing wildly. The image cuts off as the Listener interrupts.

Listener: “Your move.”

Regret moves his Bishop across the board and captures the Listener’s Rook. He picks it up and throws it up into the air. It spins, in slow motion, as it passes through the stream of light and then comes hurtling down to the ground again. It hits the ground and smashes into two pieces.

Regret: “I regret letting people get away with treating me like dirt.”

An image of a school corridor appears. A younger Regret walks down the corridor in school uniform. Two boys start following him, every where he goes. Everything he does, they copy. As he starts to walk up some steps, he turns to look back at them. Suddenly, we cut back to the chess game. Regret hits his fists down onto the board and anger creeps across his face. In slow motion, the board flips over and all the remaining piece fly into the air.

The image of the corridor comes back. Regret turns around and punches one of the two boys following him. He leaps into the air and kicks the other in the head. The boy falls to the ground and blood splatters over the floor. Regret shouts, angrily, over this.

Regret: “I regret not smashing their skulls into a thousand pieces. I regret being so weak. I regret letting people treat me like dirt. I regret my life.”

We cut back to the warehouse. The Listener picks up the black Queen and holds it up on his palm. Regret takes the piece and holds it between his finger and thumb. A tear roles down his face as he looks at it. Everything blurs out of focus and re-focuses at another image. There is a pretty girl sitting on a wall outside sixth form college. The image disappears almost immediately as we cut back to the chess piece in Regret’s hand. He speaks softly.

Regret: “I regret listening to threats. I regret giving up. If I was not weak, I would have asked her. She is a dream in my head. I regret that. I regret my life.”

We move back towards both of the players. The Listener looks at Regret. Regret drops the Queen to the ground and speaks quietly.

Regret: “I regret letting the world run my life. I didn’t want to let the people who loved me down. So I didn’t take any risks. I regret that.”

The Listener reached across the table to shake hands with Regret. Regret reaches back. They stand up and walk silently, together, to the door of the warehouse. At the door, where there seems to be no scenery, just a very bright, white light, Regret turns to the Listener.

Regret: “What can I do?”

Listener: “It’s your move.”

The Listener walks out of the warehouse and disappears into the light.

Six Confessions of a Tortured Soul

  1. Nightmares
  2. Rejection
  3. Guilt
  4. Mistrust
  5. Loneliness
  6. Regret

Part six, 28 December 1995.

Loneliness

Hear that: the sound of a muffled heartbeat. Everything is hazy and out of focus. We are closing in on a picture of a baby in the womb of its mother. Then we cut though a blur transition, the sound of a beating heart replaced by the sound of children playing in the playground at school. We focus on a lone child standing away from the other children in the playground. He turns to us and whispers.

Child: “I am not useless. I can do it.”

We move away from him and towards the playing field where a teacher is supervising the picking of teams in a game of football. The boys are aged about ten. As the others are picked by the two team captains, one boy is left to last. The boy stares at us and speaks. 

Footballer: “I can play football.”

We gaze up into the sky and back down again, finding ourselves outside an old abbey. We move into the abbey, through the doors. There is a service going on inside, mainly young people. It is dark. The people are sitting in a circle on the stone floor and there are small candles dotted about. The leader is saying a prayer of healing. We circle the room, only to finds our way back to a teenager sitting at the edge. His eyes are filled with tears. We hear the teenager’s thoughts.

Thoughts: “I’m not sure about this. I am an outsider. I am lost.”

We move away from him and out of the doors of the abbey. It is now dark outside the abbey. We gaze up into the dark sky then back down onto a pavement in a town. There is a seventeen year-old boy walking down the street on his way back from sixth form college. There are headphones in his ears. We hurry to catch him up and hear the thoughts inside his head.

Thoughts: “Now I am alone. My best friend has gone away. I am nothing.”

We gaze up a path to the front door of a house. There is a sign on the door, “Vacancies”. We push through the front door and up the stairs, moving into a room. There is a bed in the room and a television on an upturned box. An eighteen year-old man is lying on the bed with his eyes shut. We hear his thoughts.

Thoughts: “Isolation.”

Cut to darkness. Silence. After a few seconds a tiny flame flickers in the centre of a vast dark space. The flame gradually grows bigger, and bigger. After a while it begins to illuminate the room and faces appear out of the darkness. One of them speaks.

Face One: “I feel so alone.”

There is silence, and then another face speaks.

Face Two: “Why must I feel different?”

Another face speaks. Suddenly the whole room fills with voices complaining of their own lonelinesses. There is a great volume of sound.

Face Three: “White man build big fire and sit far off. I build small fire and sit close.”

Face Four: “I am an outsider.”

The talk continues for a few seconds and then cuts off very suddenly. The flame turns into a fire and all of the people in the room are revealed. They look at one another. The first child stands up.

Child: “I am not alone.”

We focus into the flames of the fire and then through the flames to another image. There is a young white man sitting, legs crossed, on a grassy mountain top, looking out over the land. He speaks to us directly.

Man: “I am the man you see in the street. You say I am racist. I am alone. I am the man you see with my hand in my pockets. You say I do not care. I am alone. I am the man who looks into your eyes. You say I am bad. I am alone.”

He stands up and walks along the top of the ridge. He smiles at us and speaks again.

Man: “But I am not alone in my loneliness. I am the boy who you said could not play. Now I play and I am happy. I am the boy you always picked last. Now I will choose for myself. In desperation I can feel so alone. But in loneliness I can feel my brotherhood with the rest of the world. The world leaves so many behind. But the many make up a different world.”

He turns away from us and looks out over the land, shouting.

Man: “My friends, we are all alone. We are all individuals. And we are all brothers.”

Cut to black.

Six Confessions of a Tortured Soul

  1. Nightmares
  2. Rejection
  3. Guilt
  4. Mistrust
  5. Loneliness
  6. Regret

Part five, 28 December 1995.

Guilt

The two main: Pessimism and Optimism. They look the same, a thin white man. Only, Optimism sits up straight and wears bright clothes. Pessimism slouches and looks scruffy.

Silence. There’s no music or sound. We’re in a square white room. There are two stainless steel chairs in the room, directly opposite the other, about three metres apart. We circles them, moving around the edge. After several circuits, Optimism appears in one of the chairs. Then Pessimism appears in the other.

An image flickers onto the wall next to Pessimism’s head. The image shows my face. The image breaks up and fades away. The image flickers on again, but continues this time, with sound. The face moves away. Behind it there are flames and white South African Policemen shooting black men to the ground during apartheid. A man dressed in long white sheets walks to the front of the image and blocks what was behind him. When he moves away again, there is a cross burning behind him, and the previous image is gone. The face of a black child comes into focus. We focus in on his tears, and his crying fills the room. The camera moves around him and shows a gang of men shouting abuse at an Asian women in a block of flats. My face comes back into view as the image breaks up again.

Pessimism: “He feels guilty because he is white.”

Optimism: “I believe that every person is an individual. Why should he feel guilty? He is not responsible.”

Pessimism: “He feels guilty because he is white.”

Another moving image flickers onto the wall next to Pessimism’s head. The image shows a my face again, but it moves away also. Behind, there is a long line of women, from all over the world, joining hands. A truck drives in front of them, carrying a load. The load is a stone statue of the male symbol. Diesel fumes cloud the image and the roar of the engine fills the room. When the truck moves away, the line of women is broken, and they are moving away. My face comes back into view as the image breaks up again.

Pessimism: “He feels guilty because he is male.”

Optimism: “I believe that every person is an individual. Why should he feel guilty? He is not an oppressor.”

Pessimism: “He feels guilty because he is male.”

An image flickers onto the wall next to Optimism’s head. The image shows a homeless man in the street. A business man steps over the man’s legs in a hurry to get home. The polystyrene mug that the homeless person was collecting money in falls over and the money tips out. The coins fall in slow motion as the coins bounce on the ground and then disappear down a drain cover. The image pans up into the dark, miserable sky and the image breaks up again.

Pessimism: “He feels guilty because he has been brought up in the middle classes.”

Optimism: “I believe that every person is an individual. Why should he feel guilty? It is the only life he knows.”

Pessimism: “He feels guilty because he is middle class.”

An final image flickers onto the wall next to Optimism’s head. The image shows a solitary Union Jack flying against a sunset sky. Black and White photographs of the days of the British Empire flash up on the wall. Images of the Irish famine flicker onto the wall. A copy of The Sun falls down from above, followed by a plastic Union Jack. There is a final film clip of Michael Howard holding his white paper on asylum seekers. The image breaks up again.

Pessimism: “He feels guilty because he is English.”

Optimism: “I believe that every person is an individual. Why should he feel guilty? It is his nationality. He does not have to be proud. He should not feel guilty.”

Pessimism: “He feels guilty because he is English. He is guilty.”

Optimism: “He cannot help being these things, he is also an individual.”

Pessimism: “Guilt will equal recognition. Guilt will make him remember. Guilt will stop him being like them. He must carry this burden. He must feel guilty.”

Optimism stands up and walks over to Pessimism. He stares into the eyes of Pessimism.

Optimism: “I don’t think so. Only the guilty should feel guilty.”

We cut to the a bar scene. There is bouncy reggae music in the background. A black, dreadlocked, man, with a very broad Jamaican accent looks into the camera. He smiles and hold out a can of drink. It is labelled ‘GUILT’.

Guilt Man: “Guilt. It’s a totally unnecessary waste.”

An Asian woman walks in front of the Guilt Man, and taps on the glass.

Woman: “We don’t want your remorse. We want action.”

She taps on the glass again. Cut to black.

Six Confessions of a Tortured Soul

  1. Nightmares
  2. Rejection
  3. Guilt
  4. Mistrust
  5. Loneliness
  6. Regret

Part three, 28 December 1995.

Nightmares

Meet two characters: Pessimism and Optimism. Pessimism is a disjointed voice. Optimism, a white man, quite thin.

We’re in a square, white room, with no windows or doors. Exactly in the centre of the room there is a high stainless steel chair with a young white man sitting in it. His name is Optimism. His arms are handcuffed at the wrists to the legs of the chair, as are his feet. There is one electrical wire leading to the chair, but it does not appear to be connected to anything, its form fading away.

We circle Optimism several times. Then we stop, facing him. A blinding light switches on behind us. Optimism scrunches up his eyes to avoid the light. He struggles slightly in the chair but then settles down. The light seems to fade. As it does we move around the man, in a clockwise direction, to Optimism’s right. We stop at an angle behind him. A voice fills the room, but there are no speakers.

Pessimism: “Why are you here?”

Optimism does not respond. Silence.

Pessimism: “I’ll ask you again. Why are you here?”

Still no response.

Pessimism: “You may have noticed a wire leading to your chair. If you continue to ignore me, I will press this little shiny red button. It is not something I would like to do, I hate the smell of burning flesh. But then that won’t bother you will it?”

Again: “Why are you here?”

Optimism: “You brought me here.”

Pessimism: “Wrong answer. Why are you in this country?”

Optimism: “I live here.”

Pessimism: “Wrong answer. Why are you here?”

Optimism: “I was born here.”

Pessimism: “Wrong answer. Why are you here?”

Optimism: “I was born here. My name is Timothy…”

Pessimism: “You do not exist.”

Optimism: “My name is Tim…”

Pessimism: “You do not exist. There is no evidence of your existence.”

Optimism: “My family…”

Pessimism: “You do not exist.”

Optimism: “I have friends. They will tell you.”

Pessimism: “You do not exist.”

Optimism: “My best friend… he’ll tell you. He knows I exist.”

Pessimism: “Your best friend? When was the last time you saw him?”

Optimism looks at the floor and does not respond.

Pessimism: “Your mind is playing tricks on you. Was there really a best friend? You told everyone he had gone away. But he hadn’t. Had he? He never existed. You don’t exist.”

Optimism: “I exist. I have enemies. They will tell you I exist. They will tell you bad things about me, but it will prove I exist.”

Pessimism: “Enemies like X? Only she wasn’t really your enemy was she? You loved her didn’t you?” 

Optimism: “I never told anyone that.” 

Pessimism: “She messed you about. You thought the way you felt was just a crush. But it wasn’t. You loved her.”

Optimism: “I didn’t love her. I didn’t even know her. You can’t love someone you don’t know.”

Pessimism: “You loved her.”

Optimism: “She hated me. How could I love her?”

Pessimism: “You don’t know what love is. I know what your feelings were.”

Optimism: “I never told anyone how I felt.”

Pessimism: “Oh, but you didn’t need to. You don’t exist. She doesn’t exist.” 

An image is projected onto the wall, like a cinema image, but there is no sign of a projector. It shows a similar room. On the chair in the middle is a young Asian man. His name is Shafat.

Shafat: “He asked me if she was Muslim.”

Pessimism: “Why?”

Shafat: “He knew that he wouldn’t be able to meet with her if she was.”

Pessimism: “Why?”

Shafat: “We have rules.”

Pessimism: “What did you tell him?”

Shafat: “I knew she wasn’t Muslim. I said I would find out for him. I spoke to someone about it.” 

Pessimism: “If you knew, why did you have to find out?”

Shafat: “I had to check, make sure. He was going to speak to her on Wednesday.”

Pessimism: “Was going to?”

Shafat: “He was just about to when I saw him. I told him that it wasn’t possible for him to be friends with her.”

Pessimism: “Why?”

Shafat: “I found out that her brother would break his back.”

Pessimism: “Was this a serious threat?”

Shafat: “Yes.”

Pessimism: “Did he tell anyone else his feelings?”

Shafat: “No. His best friend had gone away. Nobody else knew the girl.”

A second projection hits the wall, next to the last. It flicks through a series of photographs. Pessimism starts up again. The pictures show X lying on the ground. There is a pool of blood by her head and a wound on the side of her face.

Pessimism: “She’s dead.”

Optimism: “No she’s not.”

Pessimism: “It’s true.” 

Optimism: “I don’t exist. She doesn’t exist, remember? If she’s dead, I exist.”

The room goes silent. The images on the wall start to break up, then go fuzzy and finally cut off. Optimism remains isolated in the room.

We cut to a beautiful forest. Pessimism sits looking into a small pool of water, stirring it with his hand. We move in, through the trees and towards Pessimism. We pass behind him, focussing down on the pool. The reflection in the pool shows Optimism still bound in the white room. Pessimism shouts down into the pool.

Pessimism: “You’re weak!”

Pessimism looks up into the canopy of the trees and smiles, then glances back into the pool.

Pessimism: “I rule you. I can shut you down. I will shut you down.”

Optimism looks up to Pessimism, shouting: “So I do exist then?”

Pessimism: “Can you call it existence? I wouldn’t. I am you, but you can never be me. I see the truth. You don’t exist.”

We cut back to the white room. The voice of Pessimism booms into the room again.

Pessimism: “You don’t exist.”

The voice echoes and, as it fades out, the room falls into darkness. Pitch black. Only for a second. Now we’re bathed in a very bright, white light. We’re back within the white room again. The voice of Pessimism booms out.

Pessimism: “Why are you here?”

Optimism: “Why are you treating me like this?”

Pessimism, angrily: “Why are you here?”

Optimism, shouting as loud as he can: “Why must you treat me this way? I am better than this. Can’t you bear to hear his confidence? Why must you lock me away? Why must you always win? Who are you protecting?”

Pessimism: “Why are you here?”

Optimism: “You lock me up inside for no reason. Why must he be protected from confidence? You lock me away, just to keep Pessimism strong.”

Pessimism: “Why are you here?”

Optimism, quietly: “I know the truth.” Shouting: “I know the truth. Why’s it so important that he must live in your world? People are happy when they see his other side. I bring out the best in him.”

Pessimism: “You don’t exist.”

Optimism: “You’re mad. I exist, but you deny me. If I could kill you, I would. Tim doesn’t need you.”

Pessimism: “He needs me. I protect him from the bad world. You’re blind. You would let him fall into another trap. He needs me. You don’t exist.”

Optimism: “How can you be so sure? You have never let him take any risks. I exist, but you tie me down so I am weak.”

Pessimism: “You’re nothing!”

Optimism: “I’m nothing because you make me that way. Release me, and I would be strong. I would show him the way.”

Pessimism: “You’re kidding yourself. Tim needs me, not you. You can dream, and I will show you the truth. Wait, and I’ll show you.”

The white room falls into darkness again. We cut back to the forest. Pessimism gets up and takes a small, tear shaped, glass bottle out of a pocket on his belt. He holds it up in front of his eyes and shakes it. There is a purple liquid in it.

Cutting back to the white room, Pessimism reappears with the bottle and walks across to Optimism. He holds Optimism’s head and tilts it back. He drips the purple liquid into Optimism’s mouth.

Pessimism: “You must trust me. You form the dreams. I form the nightmares. Your dreams are just dreams. My nightmares are warnings. Drink this, and you will see the truth.” 

Optimism falls into a state of unconsciousness.

Pessimism: “Goodbye.”

Optimism: “What is this place?”

Girl: “Existence.”

Everywhere is light. We’re zooming back from it, until we can see the edge of the sun in a clear blue sky. We’re outside, circling Optimism, standing in the middle of a field. He is free. There are other people around him, just standing still. Optimism walks over to a girl who looks like X.

Darkness falls momentarily, only for a hazy fog to emerge. Optimism is standing on a clifftop looking out to sea. There are other people standing in the background.

Optimism: “Don’t dream your life.”

The girl walks up behind Optimism.

Girl: “Live your dreams.”

Briefly, she seems to smile kindly, but suddenly the hazy, dreaminess clears and everything becomes sharp and bold. X is on her own in the college canteen. She stares straight back, her face all serious. She gives a look that tells Tim that she is not interested in him at all, turning her gaze away from him one final time.

Truth. Pessimism rules this soul.

Six Confessions of a Tortured Soul

  1. Nightmares
  2. Rejection
  3. Guilt
  4. Mistrust
  5. Loneliness
  6. Regret

Part one, 9 October 1995.