8 pm

Fade in:

The opening sunset.

The modern cut glass door closes unexpectedly, hinges pushing forever forward, towards the chiaroscuro street and the humidity of the sprinkling on the light green grasses, on the blackened asphalt, on the unscathed puddles. And the barely occupied spaces of the sidewalks hide laughter, hide indecipherable plans for Thomas, a man of fine features and slender body, perhaps too slender and perhaps too relaxed given the situation. Truth is, for some time now, Thomas has felt that his life stops every time he occupies a place for a long time, as if his feet were buried in the ground and deep roots were taking him from below. This sensation provokes in him a slight impulse forward, towards the new, the different, towards the pizzeria, where the pizzas he hopes to enjoy on tonight’s date are waiting, the date… with his former girlfriend.

Cut to black:

Voiceover:

– Wait wait wait… you said he was running away to the new, the different, but it turns out he’s getting together with his former girlfriend.

– Steps my friend, these are steps he has to take, even though his life is moving into the future, paradoxically that future is shaped like his past. Perhaps because it is the barrier he has to cross before he gets to what is really something different.

– Don’t cloud me with your metaphysical logic. Okay then, I’ll play along, but I’ll be watching.

Fade to:

Flashback

The living room of Thomas’ apartment.

Thomas wakes up next to the sunrise in the window, for the third day in a row he has fallen asleep on the living room couch.  He gets up as quickly as he can to leave his sleeping behind. He goes into the bathroom and brushes his teeth, his eyes closing but he slaps himself a few times to wake up completely.

He rushes out the apartment door and into the hallway, where a group of people are waiting for the elevator to arrive.

Among these people is Gloria.

Thomas stops dead in his tracks on the ceramic tiles in the hallway, thanks to the rubber specially designed by the sneakers company to produce controlled braking on any surface (patented brand).

Escape options are limited, the most certain possibility of going unnoticed is to make a fleeting dash for the emergency door and descend to the first floor using the fire escape stairs. But the window of opportunity narrows with each passing second, a decision has to be made.

– To the ladder!

Thomas shouts without having thought about the possibility, very close indeed, that Gloria might hear him. Luckily he makes it across the threshold of the emergency door before noticing.

Ten or eleven jumps later, he makes it to the first floor of the apartment building, he happens to live on the third floor.

– I don’t think what I do is heroic.

– Whatever you say sir, have a nice day.

The concierge greets Thomas and bids him farewell at the exit door, but not before reminding him of something important.

– Sir, the common expenses.

– Yes indeed, the expenses. Very important.

– Sir… sir?

– Very important, thank you for telling me.

Thomas waves goodbye, walks out the glass door to the street and finds himself facing the sidewalks and the walls still tinged with light blue, the other colors still asleep and waiting for the sun to come.

Perfect time to start jogging to the end of the street and back to the entrance of the apartment. Thomas has been running every morning for a year and four months now, every step he takes is a mantra that propels him forward, towards the future he longs for.

Insert: a photo of a happy family hugging by the Christmas tree.

This image is the main reason why Thomas feels that his life is a failure, he doesn’t have a family, he wants a family, he wants it more than anything else in the world. So… Why did he avoid Gloria in the hallway?

Cut to:

Thomas’s love nest.

Thomas on top of Gloria, to Gloria’s side, underneath Gloria, they both naked and sucking each other’s bodies in search for pleasure. Then they rest lying on the bed. Gloria feels like talking.

– We should live together.

Cut to:

The chiaroscuro street.

Thomas, running alone down the light blue-tinted street after having escaped from Gloria in the apartment hallway, receives a phone call but does not answer, he is even annoyed because the incoming call interrupts the music he’s been listening, which is a fundamental piece of this whole “I want and I act to get it” narrative driving him.

As he reaches the end of the street, Thomas turns on his right knee, the one that still hurts so much after landing with his whole body on a large round stone on the beach.

Insert: Thomas landing on the round stone on the beach.

Thomas takes away the devastating image of the fall and continues to move forward, this time around the street goes upwards. The phone rings again, Thomas prefers to answer.

– Hello? (kinda annoyed tone)

– Thomas? Hello, how are you?

– Excuse me, who is this?

– Paula? You don’t remember my voice anymore.

(Off course he does)

– Paula… Paula! Hi! How are you, long time no hear.

( He has been preparing for this occasion).

– I’m fine, you?

– I’m great, I just love living, you know.

(Strange answer, also, he doesn’t like living so much).

– How nice to hear you so happy.

– Yeah, I’m so happy.

– Listen, I’m calling you because I’m in town for a few days.

– Are you? Great, if you want we can get together, do something.

– What a nice idea, we do have a lot to talk about.

– We do! I’m free in the evening, 8… 8:30 is a good time.

– 8 is fine. Will you send me your address?

– Yes, don’t worry. I’ll send it now.

– Great, see you soon.

(Cute pause)

– Bye.

Thomas hangs up the phone and resumes jogging with a smile that defies gravity and fatigue.

He walks quickly, forgetting the steep path at first, remembering near the entrance of the apartment, where he meets Gloria, out of breath.

At this point, she has barely reached the first floor after waiting for several minutes for her turn to get into the elevator.

Cut to: (minutes earlier)

The hallway and the long wait.

Gloria waits standing in front of the elevator, next to a group of people. The light on the ceiling flickers constantly, generating almost imperceptible spaces of darkness that feed the general “why the fuck do I have to get out of bed” kinda feeling in the air.

An exasperating buzzing sound from a busted light makes the wait increasingly unpleasant.

The elevator opens and is already practically full, people inside making the supreme effort to squeeze into the limited space to allow Mrs. Nicole and her two children access to the elevator.

– They are very late for school. Thank you very much.

Mrs. Nicole utters a couple of incoherent sentences before the door closes, Gloria wonders if the lady was talking to herself or to the rest.

She also wonders about the competitive advantages of having children, the operation reports positive results in favour of singleness.

A quick glance at the rest of the people and the epiphany is not long in coming… she will be the last to enter the elevator.

List of the other people in order of entry to the elevator:

– An elderly woman with no apparent direction.

– A rival woman very similar in appearance to Gloria, but with bigger cleavage.

– A guy in a suit with the face of a rapist (she’s not gonna enter with him).

A young college student eager to learn and see.

Cut to:

Outside the apartment and the unexpected encounter.

The gloom in Gloria’s mind has not abated after the long wait in front of the elevator door.

The accidental, though completely avoidable, encounter with Thomas leads her to experience contradictory emotions. On the one hand, she recognizes a bond with the individual, a special affection that she would like to protect. On the other hand, the reason Gloria preferred to wait in the elevator and not go down the stairs is because she saw Thomas avoiding her in the hallway.

– Hello Thomas.

– Gloria, good morning. How are you doing this momorning?

– Momorning?

– Sorry, morning. This morning.

– I’m fine, I’m actually running a little late, talk later?

– Yes, later.

– I think I’ll be back by 8 pm.

– Oh, you mean like today. Later today.

– Sure… Later today, can you?

– Yeah obviously… I mean no, I can’t today.

– Oh, are you gonna be busy?

– Yeah, busy. I have to go out… and come back. Out and back.

– Ah, a short thing.

– Not that short, I think. I’m not sure how long it’s going to take me, but I’ll be back, don’t worry.

– Okay, that was weird. I guess I’ll talk to you another day.

– Yeah, of course.

– Well, see you then.

Gloria says goodbye to Thomas without kissing him and heads to the curb, where her Uber ride awaits to take her to work.

Before getting into the vehicle, Gloria wonders if Thomas noticed her saying goodbye without kissing him.

(He didn’t).

Also, end of flashback.

Cut to:

The initial sunset part II.

Thomas arrives at the pizzeria in search of the pizzas he has ordered to celebrate with Paula, the woman who left his life a year and four months ago, the woman who left a hole of hopelessness in the center of the heart of Thomas’ compulsive dream of starting a family.

The toppings on both pizzas are Paula’s favorites, Thomas remembers them completely, as he still remembers countless details about her.

– I’m here to pick up some pizzas.

– In whose name.

– In the name of love, my friend.

The cashier stares at Thomas, his gaze intrigued.

– You… you’re a romantic.

– I think so, my friend.

– That’ll be 13.95.

– How do you know what order I’m getting?

– Pizza with ham, extra cheese and pineapple? Only a person looking to impress someone chooses pineapple, dude.

– Only an extreme rhetorician chooses dualistic arguments. Dude.

– Touché. Here are your pizzas sir, enjoy your evening.

– Thank you very much.

Thomas receives the pizzas with honest kindness and walks towards the exit of the pizzeria, the journey is interrupted by a phone call, it’s Paula.

He leaves the pizza boxes on one of the tables of the restaurant and answers.

– Paula, hi.

– Hi Thomas, hey, I’m outside your apartment, I’ve just arrived.

Thomas’s gaze crosses witheringly through the interior space of the pizzeria and stops nimbly at the clock on the counter, it’s 7: 50 pm.

– You’re early.

– Yes, is that a problem?

Mental pause.

– “She’s early, she wants to see me, she misses me, she needs me! Do I have any condoms? I think I have some left in the medicine box, at least one strip.”

Continue.

– No, no. No problem. Wait for me there, I’m in front, at the pizzeria.

– I’ll wait for you then.

Thomas cuts the call, takes the pizzas and walks again towards the exit, but stops (again) when he sees Gloria arriving at the entrance of the apartment with another person, a man.

From the type of clothes this man is wearing, a leaden jacket with a typical white shirt and those shoes polished to a boiling point, Thomas deduces that this man is a fucking bastard.

– What are those, solar panels?

– Excuse me, sir?

The cashier enters the conversation.

– Nothing, I was talking to myself.

– Of course sir, why would you be talking to me.

The cashier leaves the conversation.

Thomas looks through the small windows at the top of the door, those little windows that allow him to see the street.

He stares at the entrance of the apartments, first he sees Paula standing near the edge of the sidewalk. Then he sees Gloria next to the unknown guy, saying goodbye to the Uber driver who has brought them back to the love nest that Thomas thought he was the only guest and now it seems he has to share with someone else.

Gloria and the stranger enter the building, clearing the way for Thomas to decide to come out of hiding, but unable to stop the pizza boxes from crashing against the door with the little windows that closes thanks to those hinges that are used to close to push people forward.

A determined movement with his arm and Thomas manages to control the boxes without losing the momentum that leads him to cross the street next to the passage of one of those cars that always pass by unexpectedly and whose movement produces a light breeze that moves the hair of both of them, Thomas and Paula.

A flickering flash unleashes forgotten emotions when the eyes of both of them meet, like an eclipse that unleashes parallel universes, mystical universes of an unreal nature where affection is law and where the concrete reality is completely shattered.

– Paula!

– Thomas!

– Hi, wow, you look good. Paula doesn’t hesitate to flirt with him.

– You too, hey, have you been working out? Thomas responds as freely as the situation allows.

– You noticed, yes, I have a routine that has worked wonders for me.

– I’m not going to deny the results. A mischievous smile from Thomas, more and more determined.

– So, what about you? Do you do weights?

 Paula gently strokes the upper side of Thomas’s left arm.

– No, no. Not that kind of exercise.

– What do you do, basketball? Tennis?

– No, no. I do… Hey, I’m glad you came.

– Yeah, I was in a meeting with some clients but I finished earlier than I thought, so I came, I figured you’d be here by now.

(Clients? the word resonates in Thomas’s mind like a thorn against his skull)

– You’re guessing right. But come on in, come on in.

Thomas invites Paula inside the apartment, in passing he uses his super fast gaze to take a mental picture of Paula’s body, those exercises have really done wonders for her figure.

The beauty in front of his eyes leads him to look up to the sky in an unconscious movement, towards the row of balconies that extends to the roof of the building, he stops next to the third floor balcony and finds Gloria looking down at him with an expression of disbelief.

Again that flash is triggered that invokes those emotional worlds that take over the spaces of all things and tinge them with colors and shapes that make sense only when you understand that Gloria and Thomas have actually just seen each other naked (metaphorically) for the first time since they met.

A shy response, a wagging salute on the fingers of his right hand is all that Thomas manages to conjure up in a supreme attempt to escape the blow of the judge’s gavel. Gloria finds herself in a similar situation, she prefers to let out a nervous smile and retreat into the interior of her apartment.

Cut to:

Tension mounts in the third floor hallway.

The elevator doors open, Thomas looks out before stepping into the hallway with that flickering light and that buzzing sound almost imperceptible to outsiders, but absolutely present and devastating to the locals.

He does so to make sure the place is clear. Paula is surprised by the “different” behaviour of her companion, but dismisses the matter.

They both walk down the hallway and every step they take echoes on the ceramic floor. Thomas remembers the properties of the rubber of his sneakers once again and Gloria bursts out laughing just as Paula crosses the threshold of her apartment door, which is on the way to Thomas’s apartment.

Gloria’s presence prickling in the hallway and urging Thomas to move forward faster, this time without hinges to push him through. Seconds later, Paula and Thomas stop by the last door in the hallway, inside, the lair of the man struggling to remain calm in the face of unfolding events.

– We have arrived.

The door opens, Paula goes inside, a pale sigh echoes through the walls of the corridor. Thomas enters and closes the door slowly. The hallway is silent.

Cut to:

The moment of truth in Thomas’s apartment.

Thomas enters the apartment and leaves the keys on the table, on top of the pizza boxes. Paula sits on the couch in front of the TV screen, where she finds a new planter on the edge of the table, topped with a beautiful bunch of lavender flowers.

– Yummy, I love lavender.

– Yes, they smell good.

– Strange.

– What’s that?

– I didn’t realize you were a flower man.

– Oh, I guess there’s a lot you don’t know about me yet.

(What she really doesn’t know is that it has been Gloria who has placed the planter topped with lavender on the edge of the table, after diagnosing Thomas’s apartment as the lair of a deeply depressed person).

Thomas takes a couple of beers out of the fridge, hands one to Paula and sits down across from her.

– So Paula, tell me, how have you been? What have you been up to?

Thomas swallows a long sip of beer before receiving the answer, perhaps it was the architecture of her silhouette, the golden earrings, the golden curls, the seasonal clothes or the combination of all of them that led to the foreboding conclusion.

– Well what have I done, so many things. As you know, I took that scholarship last year and I was studying abroad.

– I think I remember that.

Thomas takes another long sip of beer.

– It went well, I ended up finding a job in an international firm. Oh, you can’t imagine how many places I’ve seen. And the people, the best experience.

Thomas’ first beer is finished almost instantly.

– No kidding, that’s good, that’s great news. Quite a success.

– Yeah, taking that scholarship was the best thing I could have done in my life.

– Wow… that doesn’t hurt at all.

– Doesn’t it?

– Right, are you hungry?

Thomas opens the first pizza box, the irresistible scent of melted cheese over tomato sauce overtakes the apartment….

– No thanks. I don’t eat dairy products.

… And they are exorcised out of the place almost instantly.

– Relax, you can eat it if you want.

Thomas doesn’t take a bite of the pizza, preferring to close the box in disguise, Paula notices the movement, but prefers to continue the conversation.

– And you, how have you been? Tell me, what’s been going on in your life during this time.

– Well, I’m… I’m in my projects, you know, doing my own thing, moving forward.

– Oh, what are you doing?

– It’s complicated stuff, work stuff. I don’t want to bore you with the details.

– No, don’t worry about it.

– But tell me, Paula, why did you call me?

Paula smiles when she hears Thomas’ question, takes a sip of beer before continuing.

– I don’t know, I wanted to see you. I was with my parents, friends and acquaintances, but I thought, what is Thomas doing? So I came.

– Well, I’m glad you thought that.

– Yes, you can’t imagine the trouble my boyfriend gave me, he got jealous, can you believe it?

– Your boyfriend?

– Yeah, you’re gonna love him. I told him wonderful things about you, obviously.

– That’s great. I’m so glad.

Thomas does his best to endure the pain, the stab wound in the center of his heart makes it hard to breathe, the imaginary blood spills all over the walls of the apartment.

A keen eye tracks the position of the phone next to the pizza boxes, maybe there is still time to call an ambulance.

– I’ll be right back.

Thomas dismisses the initial panic and moves swiftly down the hallway and into the kitchen without wasting time to turn on the light, straight to the refrigerator, where he grabs another beer to drink almost half of it in one sip.

Stopped in the middle of darkness, partially illuminated by the line of light escaping from inside the fridge, Thomas makes a great effort to keep up appearances.

A hyper-massive black hole activates at the center of his thinking, threatening to absorb all the light in the universe. The spell fades when Paula receives a phone call.

Hi honey, yes I’m here. Everything is fine.

With Paula out of the “environment consciousness”, Thomas takes the opportunity to cross the room, goes to the balcony and indicates to Paula that he “will be outside” with a hand gesture, she gives a thumbs up, accepting the proposition, and continues the phone conversation.

Cut to:

Revelation by starlight.

The icy air and the echoes of the streets in the incipient night greet Thomas at the balcony, a new sip of beer and a controlled sigh do not deliver the calm that the movement was intended for.

Nor does the night seem to have endowed the stars with the loving light of hope that guided so many chosen ones and prophets in other eras.

The click of the lighter in Gloria’s hand leads Thomas to turn towards his neighbour’s balcony, there she is enjoying a puff of a cigarette.

– Thomas – She says.

– Gloria, I didn’t know you were…

– Me neither, I thought you were going out?

– Yeah, right, well, not really.

– She’s cute, is she your ex?

– Yes, how did you know.

– I didn’t.

The horn of a car honks across the nearby horizon, a shorter one follows suit. Gloria takes another puff from her cigarette. Thomas follows.

– I saw you arriving with a friend, a male friend?

– We’re just friends, I don’t like him or anything.

– He looks nice (he doesn’t), co-worker?

Gloria nods and puts the cigarette out in the ashtray, leaves it on the edge of the balcony next to the lighter and gets up from the chair, prepares to enter the apartment.

– Do you want to watch a movie later?

– Yeah, sounds good. I’ve got pizza, do you want some?

– Okay, I’ll wait for you.

The window opens and Gloria disappears into the long white curtains. Thomas smiles and sighs long. He stays on the balcony for a while longer, still a while after Paula finishes talking on the phone.

The end.

Casablanca (1942)

Wow, Casablanca, the classic of classics and I finally got to see it, after all those times I came across it on TV and immediately switched to another channel, after all those times I heard other people say it was a unique jewel in the world’s filmography, after all those times I threw up when I heard words like “romance”, “passion” and “impossible love” to describe the plot of this 1942 film, directed by Michael Curtiz and starring the charismatic Humphrey Bogard as Rick Blaine and Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa Lund. After watching it, I can say without fear of being wrong, that yes… this movie is really special, both for its story and its characters, but it is also interesting because of the space in which the events take place and how this space echoes with all the other elements of the story. I’m referring to the political and social context, the geographical point where the story takes place (from the city of Casablanca to Rick’s bar and everything in between), all elements masterfully orchestrated to produce a powerful story about how external circumstances tend to shape our decisions and how our emotions tend to prolong conflicts, up to the point where we decide to take charge of the situation and manage to change destiny.


But wait… what’s Casablanca about? Well it’s about this guy, Rick Blaine, who owns Rick’s bar, a place where a bunch of refugees (mostly) try to escape Europe in the middle of WWII. In Rick’s bar they find one of the only places to have a nice time in the midst of the chaos of war. The thing is that Rick starts the movie with a selfish attitude, he only thinks about saving himself and does not interfere in other people’s affairs, not even in favor of friends or acquaintances. Now, this attitude also serves him to maintain a close relationship with Captain Louis Renault, who is in charge of Casablanca and also makes him pass under the radar of Major Strasser and the troop of Nazis who have come to Casablanca in search of Victor Laszlo, an activist against Nazism and active voice of the European resistance against the Germans. It is here that Rick and Victor’s paths cross, though not because of the war, but because Victor Laszlo’s wife is Ilsa Lund, Rick’s old girlfriend who has jilted him in France on the day of the Nazi occupation, the day Rick begins his journey to Casablanca. At the beginning of the film, Rick gets hold of some stolen passports that will allow anyone to use them to escape from Casablanca. Victor and Ilsa’s goal is to escape Casablanca before they are killed by the Nazis, do you see where the whole thing is going?

Before we go any further, let’s talk a little about the character of Rick Blaine, played by Humphrey Bogart. As I said earlier, Rick begins the story with a selfish stance on the whole war thing and other people’s problems. Even when an acquaintance is captured by the Nazis, Rick merely says that he doesn’t stick his neck out for nobody. Rick also doesn’t usually drink with other people and doesn’t accept anyone’s invitation if he can help it. But the situation changes radically when Ilsa and Laszlo arrive in Casablanca. From this moment on, Rick cannot help but show a different side of his personality, one that is more empathetic, but also more passionate, to the surprise of his acquaintances and to Ilsa’s pain, since Rick does not delay in letting her know the damage she has caused him by abandoning him in Paris.
Now, what happened in Paris? The thing is that Ilsa was dating Rick when the Nazis came to destroy everything. Rick had a plan to escape with Ilsa and his eternal companion, the pianist Sam Wilson. But everything goes to hell when Ilsa doesn’t show up at the train station, instead she sends a letter tersely explaining the situation (basically that they won’t see each other again). It is from this moment that Rick decides to send everyone to hell and focus on living a meaningless life, sheltered in his bar from the calamities of the world.


But the arrival of Ilsa and Victor Laszlo brings other unforeseen consequences in Rick’s life. One of them is found in perhaps the most dramatic scene of the film. I refer to the scene where the Nazis have taken over the bar and are singing the German anthem, but are interrupted by Laszlo and the brass band, when Rick instructs them to follow Laszlo’s order to play the Marseillaise. It is here that the change begins in Rick, who no longer appears as an outsider to the political conflict, but takes matters into his own hands. After the Nazis decide to close the bar and ban the festivities, Rick learns the truth about Ilsa’s disappearance. It turns out that she was already married to Victor before she met Rick, but when Victor leaves to face the war and after a long time in which Ilsa has no news about his whereabouts, she makes the decision to continue her life with Rick, just then, she receives news about Victor, who is alive.

Is destiny nothing but a cruel machine of anticipated tears?


Well, I prefer not to tell you the end of the story so as not to ruin the experience, although being honest, I think that when you see the ending you will realize that you have seen it before in countless parodies and homages, because that final scene and its dialogues are already part of the DNA of American cinema. That’s Casablanca, a movie about a guy who doesn’t want to get involved in war because of heartache, living in a neutral place (not being a villain or anyone’s ally) until someone else comes along to remind him that there are things in life worth fighting for and that sometimes being neutral can do more harm than trying to take a more concrete stand.

Spider

Victor notices the spider’s web swaying gently in the space between the rearview mirror and the body of the car. It is the eighth time in a month that he has encountered the same surprise, but it is the first time that Lucia notices it. An unimportant detail for her, who passes her hand without hesitation and removes the spider’s web at once.

– Don’t tell me, there’s a spider living in the car.

– Yes, there is. I think so at least.

– You think so?

– Yes, I think so. I remember one day I was driving back to the apartment when I saw a spider walking along the edge of the window. I slowed down to help it, so it wouldn’t fall out. It went through a gap in the door and I never saw it again, then these spider webs started appearing.

– You have to fill the inside of the car with insecticide and that’s it, it’s over.

Victor smiles without saying another word and gets into the car, Lucia does the same. The car leaves.

– Where did you say we were going? she asks.

– I didn’t say where we were going.

Victor keeps his gaze on the horizon that stretches vast and imperishable in front of his eyes. A couple walks down the left side of the street. Victor looks at them and sighs, he wonders if all couples are like Lucia and him, deep down he hopes this is not the case.

– Well, so, are you going to tell me or do I have to guess? Lucía continues.

– You know, spiders are not insects.

– So?

– You know that, right?

– Okay, spiders are not insects. Where are we going?

– You would think that an insecticide is designed to kill insects, but no… it’s just poison. It’s for killing and nothing else.

– Victor, I hate it when you do that, are you going to answer the question?

– No, I’m not.

The red light of the traffic light forces Victor to stop at an uncomfortable point in the conversation, experience indicates that refusing to answer a question can involve more time spent in circular conversations. Before Lucia can get another word in edgewise, he hurries to turn on the radio.

“Breaking news; the search for little Pedro, who disappeared almost a month ago in the outskirts of the city, will end tonight, when police officers conclude their efforts to find him.”

“The young boy’s mother wasted no time in giving statements about the disappointment caused by this decision.”

– “He is my son, I need to find him, do you understand me? I can’t continue my life if I don’t know what happened to him”.

– Dude, can I clean your windshield?

A homeless man approaches Victor’s window, waving his hands at the windshield marked by a series of dust and dirt smudges. The truth is that it’s been days since Victor has washed the car, made the bed, and a thousand other tasks that are still pending in his mind.

– Okay my friend, thank you.

– Don’t say yes, Victor, don’t you know? He’s going to spend the money on alcohol and drugs.

Lucia intervenes in the conversation with her classic angry tone that makes Victor’s stomach boil. The homeless man also listens to Lucia’s words, although he prefers not to react, perhaps because the promise of a few coins is enough to silence the voice of his pride.

– He is like you then. Victor responds after the initial seconds of discomfort.

– What did you say?

Victor bursts out laughing and the homeless man follows soon after. Thirty seconds remain until the light changes at the traffic light, enough time to make a new friend. The homeless man’s arm passes swiftly across the surface of the windshield, in a short time the glass returns to immaculate transparency.

– It is impeccable, here and thanks for the help.

Victor hands the coins to the homeless man.

– Thank you sir and God bless you.

– “God bless me…”

The phrase echoes in Victor’s mind as the green light returns to the traffic light. The car leaves once again, the sun’s rays escape from the side of a building and go to rest on the tops of the leafy trees that stand over the concrete walls of the metropolitan park, Victor smiles.

– Are you still laughing? Are you okay with ridiculing me in front of strangers?

Victor does not answer, he is not sure of his answer, the first thing that comes to his mind is to answer that yes, it is okay to ridicule Lucia in front of strangers. But at the same time, he realizes about the anger that slowly takes over his conscience, he prefers to keep silent. The light in the skies is lost between two large bodies of gray clouds, the day is tinged with pale blues and greens, with staggered grays. Victor steps on the accelerator as if trying to escape the growing melancholy that surpasses even rage, which at least demands some kind of affective bonding, that he felt before and that now is diluted among imaginary tears.

– Lucia listen, I’m not sure about this, but I think all the sentences you’ve said since we left the apartment have been questions.

– What does that have to do with it?

– I’m not sure.

– Can you slow down?

– Yes, but I don’t want to.

Another hint of anger escapes unconsciously and leads Victor to press the accelerator harder, even before he looks ahead, towards the next traffic light that is already yellow. The space left is not enough to stop, Victor continues the race and passes the next intersection accompanied by the incipient red light, together with the trumpeting of the horn of other vehicles.

– I want to go back to the house Victor, I don’t want to be here anymore.

– You are always here.

– Do you want to tell me something?

The sound of the police beacon interrupts the conversation, the flashing reddish beam pierces the interior of Victor’s vehicle, who prefers to stop at the side of the street before trying any alternative escape.

– What I really want is to escape the conversation.

Victor looks back in the rearview mirror, expecting to see the policeman, but in reality he stares at the traces of the spider’s web in the space between the mirror and the body of the car. He wonders about the spider, will it be sad after losing its precious web? The policeman also arrives at his side.

– Good afternoon, sir. Your driver’s license, please.

Victor takes the wallet and checks inside for the driver’s license. In the process he tries not to fix his attention on the mocking face that Lucia is surely making. He doesn’t succeed.

– God has blessed me…

– I beg your pardon? The policeman replies.

– Yes? Ah, no nothing. I was talking to myself. Here’s the license.

– Do you know how fast you were going?

– What are you asking me for? I guess you know. You’d better tell me how fast I was going.

– But I want to know if you know how fast you were going.

– I see, you’re not sure. Well look, I think I was going right at 60 miles per hour. Now, I recently saw a sign that said the maximum speed was infact 60 miles per hour. So I guess we’re good, right?

– The policeman takes a step back and scratches his head, it takes him a while to process the information, when he’s done he returns to the window.

– I guess so, all ok with the license. Have a nice day, sir.

The policeman returns the license to Victor and walks back to the police car, leaving the scene shortly after. Victor breathes a sigh of relief, turns the key to start the engine and prepares to resume driving.

– I don’t understand, what happened? – Lucia asks with an air of annoyance.

– Nothing, nothing happened.

– But you went through the intersection with a red light, you committed an infraction.

– Strange, I don’t feel like I committed anything.

The next song on the radio ends and the urgent news announcement returns.

“Breaking news, a stunning turnaround in the case of little Peter, as we had commented earlier, the police were about to call off the search for the boy, but now it has been confirmed that little Peter has been found by talent scouts in Hollywood, he has signed a million dollar contract to star in a new movie franchise. We have his shocking statements.”

– “Hello everyone, I’m fine. I’m here to fulfill my dream. To all of you who are looking for me I say, forget me, because we’re not going to see each other again.”

– What a nasty little boy. And so many people had been worried about him.

Lucia grumbles in front of the radio and then changes the dial, stops at another station.

“And God said to Moses; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” ….

– What is that? Victor asks.

– That is the bible, dumbass. You’ve never heard it before?

– No, it’s not that, it’s something else. It’s something that’s talking about what happens.

– What are you talking about?

– It knows what is going to happen.

– Cut it out Victor! I’ve had enough of you. You wouldn’t tell me where we’re going, you’re laughing at me and now you’re talking weird. What the fuck is wrong with you?

Victor is paralyzed, he keeps his eyes on the street but prefers not to make any false moves, he assumes that his life depends on it.

– Are you going to answer me?

– The spider… Victor answers almost without moving his lips.

– What spider?

– The spider is in my head…

The spider walks hurriedly over Victor’s head, moving from one side to the other without deciding which way to go, planted in the infinite center of a circle. Unexpectedly, the spider takes the lower path and now advances on Victor’s neck, who instinctively moves to protect his life, letting go of the steering wheel and losing control of the car. A new intersection is coming up and this time Victor does not even manage to see it, nor does he manage to press the brake pedal before receiving the impact on the right side. The car spins three or four times in the air before stopping in the middle of the street, Victor opens his eyes and finds the asphalt next to the window, the car is lying on its left side.

– Lucia… Lucia, are you okay? I’m sorry, I didn’t see…

Lucia is not inside the car. The sunlight shines through the gaps in the thick clouds and partially illuminates the long and little-traveled street, some people approach from a distance and murmur words that cannot be understood. Victor looks at the window frame of the windshield, the spider walks along the edge and goes back through the gap into the interior.

Greenland (2020)

Greenland is the plot of Deep Impact as seen from the point of view of 2020. What do I mean by that? I mean that director Ric Roman Waugh has decided to use a single point of view, more individual than the multiple characters that make up the plot of the second film, which I suppose had been used to present multiple sides to the problem of a comet crashing into Earth with devastating consequences for all life on the planet. I remember in that movie there was a president, some reporters, their families and a normal kid with a normal family. Now come to think of it, a president and reporters jump out at us if we think about how we would experience this cataclysmic event by watching TV (90s culture at a glance). However, Greenland does nothing of the sort, no one stares at the television (well, the people who weren’t selected I believe do), the characters are thrown into the adventure relentlessly from the moment they realize the gravity of the situation. It is in this space of time as the characters fight for the hope of surviving the apocalypse that they also face the limits of a selfish survivalist mentality, but also the limit in empathy and concern for others when faced with a situation of extreme danger.

But wait… what’s Greenland about? Well, well… it’s about John Garrity, a cheating father/husband and structural engineer, who is initially debating the purpose of life, being hung up on his family (almost losing them). Ironically, the catastrophic, yet initially interesting, situation of gathering with friends and family to watch an asteroid in the sky on TV gives him the budding opportunity to win back his own, when it becomes apparent that the asteroid will not only pass through the sky, but will fall on the earth and hard. Amidst the growing fear of the people, as they realize the gravity of the situation, John receives a phone message, he and his family have been chosen to be protected from the deep impact (not pun intended) inside bunkers that the government has had prepared since the the cold war. John convinces his wife Allison to take their son and leave quickly, to the confusion of the rest of his friends and family. He does so because he understands the gravity of the situation and is unwilling to complicate his own survival or that of his family. This leads him to refuse help to his neighbors, including a neighbor who begs him to take her young daughter. This initial conviction of “worrying about his own survival and closing his heart to the rest” is put to the test in several parts of the film and until the end, where this very debate of helping or not helping others becomes the key that opens the doors to the possibility of salvation.

Let’s think a little bit about the main character’s arc in relation to this idea to be discussed about saving oneself vs. helping others. John Garrick is a cheating husband, he was going through a complex situation in his marriage and decided for himself, he decided to be unfaithful. A morally glorified person might say that this makes him a bad person. However, if John were not a selfish bastard he might have thought of staying with his neighbors and sharing the same fate, he might have agreed to help the neighbor who was desperately asking him to take her daughter. Taking into consideration; A) that the plot of the movie is not structured in that way, B) that doing either of these two things would have greatly reduced his chances of survival (in fact he is almost left out himself in the scene where a plane can’t support any more weight and they can only carry 2 people) and more importantly, C) that John’s goal is to protect and save his family (that includes himself), it is interesting to learn the practical value of selfishness in pursuit of survival and let’s agree also, of the survival of the family. But that’s not the end of it, because nothing works the same way every time. When John and Allison lose the opportunity to enter the military planes heading for the bunkers and after being separated from each other, they both are forced to ask for help from other people, not to save themselves, but to find each other again. So… before they can save themselves, John and Allison have to find a way to get back together and this situation takes two separate perspectives for each character. For John this translates into the decision to get off the military plane when he realizes that his wife and son are down, that they have been taken down because John’s son has diabetes. So, John does not want to save himself if it means losing his family, demonstrating through this and in his desperate actions in pursuit of reuniting with his loved ones, that he is remorseful and that he loves his wife and son more than anything in the world. Allison’s case takes another turn, let’s say a more concrete one. After losing John at the military base, she assumes that she has lost her husband and decides to try her luck at her father’s house (demonstrating with this and with her nervousness that she is not prepared to face the situation on her own). This decision has two consequences, the first being that, by choosing a contingency plan and leaving a note in the car, should John arrive there, Allison lays the groundwork for the reunion. The second consequence is that Allison is exposed to a desperate couple who offer to give her a ride near her father’s house, but on the way learn that she is wearing a “Chosen” bracelet, as is her son. The desperate couple end up taking her son, the bracelet and throwing Allison out of the car and into her own mini-story within the overall story, the road to gain the strength to make the trip to her father’s house without help from her husband or her father (well she cheats in the end, but she came pretty close!). Along the way, Allison learns the differences between trusting a stranger when you have something of transcendent value (salvation) and trusting a stranger when you have nothing (which happens after losing everything, obviously). It is then that both Allison and we the viewers realize the value of people who dedicate their lives to public service, military and health personnel, the archetype they represent in the culture, the guiding and decisive figure in times of catastrophe.

The debate on selfishness and altruism ends after two scenes towards the end of the film. In the first, John manages to get his family to safety under a bridge in the midst of a meteor shower, then dives out into the open to save the life of a person trapped inside a car, burning his hand in the process. That burn finally becomes his ticket to salvation, when he has to beg the pilot of a small commercial airliner for a space for his family. So, after all this conversation, what can we say? Does empathy only work when it does not prevent survival? Is it that caring about oneself and nothing else is not enough to access salvation? From the way the ending is written I think the idea is something like “helping others brings us one step closer to salvation” if we think that every action of the characters that went in the direction of saving themselves might have initially seemed like a step towards salvation, but that in reality these actions took them further and further away from the goal and it wasn’t until they were both fighting for more than themselves, primarily for others (family) and ultimately for everyone (when John leads the rest of the people to the ultimate place of salvation) that the characters came close enough to the light to find in it the attainment of their goal.