Klara and the Sun (2021)

Choosing the setting and characters to explore the theme of your story is a task in itself, maybe as important as finding the theme. These choices will ultimately define how your ideas become the narrative, the elements also by which the audience will hold on (or not) to the journey you’re proposing as a writer. And although many themes have been explored similarly throughout narrative history, some of them becoming tropes reutilized to exhaustion, there’s always some space for original interpretation. Something rare these days, I know.

Klara and the Sun is such a story.

This magnificent novel, by Nobel prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro, follows the adventure of one Klara, a robot designed to be a companion of humans. An AF or “artificial friend” built to address a growing problem amongst the human population, loneliness. But the story only uses loneliness as an anchor to talk about something else, for this story ultimately talks about “the human heart”, which some believe is a synonym for love. I’m not sure about that myself, maybe love is a too general topic, especially for a theme. In my view, the author is searching for that capacity that goes beyond self-interest, which is assumed to be an “only human” characteristic. Yet, he cleverly gives it to the protagonist of the story.

Yes, the artificial friend.

Klara is a robot who, as I said before, has been built to accompany humans. To help them. She starts the story impatiently waiting to be chosen by a human, at the AF store. From the beginning, we notice her personality traits, conveyed because she’s the one telling us the whole thing, as she acts as the narrator of the novel. We quickly get her curious and insightful personality as she tries to make sense of the world she experiences, not unlike we as humans would do but far more conscious about the process. Patterns and intuitions appear in her mind, prompting her to make assumptions in an ever-enduring necessity for understanding.

And yes, she gets picked by some Josie, a girl who falls in love with her and wishes to have her as a companion. And from this point forward, Klara gets to experience the world of a dystopian human society where extreme and cold rationality seems to have taken all places of society, leaving almost no place for feelings and higher callings (aka. spirituality). A place where children are genetically modified to perform better, with serious health implications for them, and a place where human labor is secondary to machine efficiency. All contrasting ideas merge into the spinal plot line of the story; Klara wants to help Josie, who’s currently dying because of ill-used genetic modification and she believes something incredible, the Sun can help her recover. With the little knowledge Klara has about the world, she believes the Sun to be a sentient being looking out for us, having magical powers that can heal the ill. She believes this so much she makes her life work to convince it to help Josie.

The plot gets quite complicated by the midpoint of the novel, turns out the mother of Josie wants to make Klara copy all of Josie’s manners and then when the time comes for Josie’s departure, take her place as the daughter.

Nuts, right?

I don’t think the idea here is for me to tell you the story, I think you should read it. And that ending… oh God…

If the capacity for love is the capacity to selflessly care about those whom you love then it doesn’t matter if it’s a human or anyone else who has it or does it, right? Just as long as it still exists in this world, which seems to be something were forgetting so fast. I hope many people have the chance to read Klara and the Sun, just to remember what it feels like to go beyond oneself, to go beyond getting something out of it, you know, to love.

The Jackal

This one started only as an exercise, the idea was to emulate a scene from a famous movie. The thing is, as I was planning the script I went off to create a distinct scene that deserved to come to life. This was also the first time I took the time to do good pre-production and storyboard of the whole thing, which made the shooting fast and juicy!

Halcyon Days (Chapter I)

EXT. ROAD IN THE MIDDLE OF THE MOUNTAINS – NIGHT

Echoes of drifting wheels, to one side and to the other. A faint light is lit in the intense darkness.

As we get closer, the light reveals the outline of the street, the rows of trees around it.

It’s a winding road through a mountainous and tree-covered area, seen from the heights.

The light comes from the headlights of a BLUE NISSAN ALTIMA.

We continue to approach from the heights, the echo of a violent blow, the car crashes against the protective barriers and falls in the middle of the forest.

We keep descending, the car crashes into a tree. The horn sounds without stopping.

There’ s a person lying on the grass, bleeding.

We get closer.

To WILL (47), cuts on his face, shards of glass on his body, breathing hard, his eyes still, open.

CUT TO:

OVER BLACK: HALCYON DAYS

INT. BEACH HOUSE KITCHEN – DAY

The waves calmly hit the shore of the beach and recede, their sound is heard faint, low. The image of bluish tones is contemplated by Will from the window partially fogged.

Steam escapes from the neck of the kettle.

Will pours two cups, arranged on the table. He removes the bread from the toaster, places it on the plates.

EXT. OUTSIDE THE BEACH HOUSE – DAY

The door of the house opens and hits the frame, driven by the sea wind. Will comes out covered by a blanket, his bare feet in the sand.

He walks across the sand, ahead, near the shore of the beach, a small boat.

The crests of the waves rise. Cloudy, flat sky.

Will takes a deep breath, turns and looks back.

In the kitchen window of the weathered white wooden house he can see SOPHIA (45) with a cup in her hands. Next to her, CHRIS (8) waves effusively.

Will smiles, continues walking through the sand. He reaches the boat, leaves the blanket inside.

Then pushes the boat into the water, pushes hard against the onslaught of the waves.

He manages to get into the depths, until he can no longer stand up underwater.

Will climbs into the boat, takes the oars and places them in their positions.

He forcefully pushes himself out to sea, paddling again and again, pulling away with each embrace. Until the coast is no longer visible.

The boat stops in the middle of the sea.

Silence.

Will wipes the condensed water from his nose. He picks up the net from the floor, prepares to throw it into the water.

Suddenly.

A slight whistling sound catches Will’s attention, he looks around, he can see nothing but the calm sea.

The whistling intensifies.

From above. Will looks up at the cloudy sky. Nothing.

The whistling intensifies even more.

The clouds open up, a fireball pierces the sky, its downward trajectory takes it towards the sea.

Will watches in amazement, following the rapidly descending fireball until it hits the surface of the water.

The blow causes a wave, which comes rushing towards the boat.

Will has no time to hold on to the boat, the wave hits him and throws him into the water.

As the wave passes, Will returns to the surface, grabs the edge of the boat and climbs back up.

Looking up at the impact site, Will can see a SPACE SHUTTLE floating on the surface of the sea.

CUT TO:

FLASHBACK

EXT. OUTSIDE WILL’S HOUSE – NIGHT

Will’s car pulls up to the curb, he gets out, waves to a neighbor who is walking his dog.

Will walks up to the house, a BLUE NISSAN ALTIMA is parked in the driveway.

Will sighs, walks over to the driver’s window. Inside the Nissan sits Sophia, with both hands on the steering wheel.

Will knocks on the window twice, Sophia lowers it.

WILL
Honey, when did you get out?

SOPHIA
Don’t talk to me that way.

WILL
I just want to know.

Sophia turns to look at Will.

SOPHIA
I’m fine.

WILL
You don’t look fine.

SOPHIA
I just want to talk, okay?

Will nods, he looks to the side, tries to contain his emotions.

SOPHIA
Can you get in the car?

WILL
Why?

SOPHIA
Please.

Will takes a deep breath, walks around the Nissan.

Gets in the passenger side.

WILL
What do you want to talk about?

Sophia starts the engine, the Nissan backs into the street, drives away from the house.

END OF FLASHBACK

CUT TO:

EXT. BEACH SHORE – DAY

The tip of the boat hits the shore of the beach. Will jumps onto the sand, runs toward the house.

WILL
Sophia!

Will stumbles on a mound of sand, but manages to keep his balance.

WILL
Sophia, come out!

He looks toward the—

BEACH HOUSE

Where Sophia walks out the door.

SOPHIA
What happened?

Sophia looks at Will, looks towards the boat, where an ASTRONAUT, with a helmet covering the face, is lying down.

WILL
Come help me! Quick!

Sophia covers her chest with the sides of her vest, crosses her arms, walks towards Will with a serious look on her face.

Will runs back to the boat, grabs the astronaut from behind, tries to lift him up. Sophia reaches the boat.

WILL
He’s unconscious.

SOPHIA
Where did you find him?

WILL
He fell from the sky, take his feet.

Sophia grabs the astronaut by the feet, Will pulls and manages to lift him up. They both pull him out of the boat.

SOPHIA
What are you going to do with him?

Will looks at Sophia in confusion.

WILL
Help him.

Sophia looks away, both continue to move across the sand and toward the house.

(To be continued…)

Explosion of supernova feelings

The titanium alloy builded cabine of the interstellar rollercoaster vibrates upon warp speed entry as Johnny, a teenage pulsar dj practitioner, changes tracks once again, undecided about the atmospheric melody which he would like to listen upon death by suffocation, tossed imaginarilly into space and time after loosing the incoming dj battle he’s about to face. Yet, the rollercoaster arrives to the nearest star at lightspeed, alongside the new beat in Johnny´s playlist; “excitement of a burning star”. The tune hits the cabin, some dude in the back starts moving his head with a smile that fastly spreads to more and more, increasingly excited, people.

  • I bet they won’t toss me into space after listening to this killer track.

Johnny accomodates his vintage headphones and let’s himself be carried away by the melody, but he’s quickly interrupted by the harsh bass on Azeroth,  his contestant, hit track; “Cry of a pulsar”. The battle is on.

Johnny turns up the volume, along with the rising laser melody which welcomes the audience into the sudden fall of the rollercoaster and manages to take them away from the sad tunes of his adversary. But at the end of the fall, the melancholic pulse on the bridge of “Cry of a Pulsar”, pushes them back into the sadness of oblivion, conveyed by Azeroth’s feelings. Johnny concentrates on his previous sentiments, on the warm rising of the sun in the summer, but the melody only manages to upset the audience, completely caught up in sadness, and they love it. The rollercoaster spirals, taking Johnny off from concentration and giving Azeroth even more sad feelings to feed upon. Hanging in despair, Johnny notices Azeroth is looking right at him, probably feeding of Johnny’s desperation to add to his sad tune. And so, Johnny opens his safebelt and lets himself go in the middle of the rollercoaster spinning. The sudden fall of Johnny makes Azeroth laugh and the sad tune he’s conveing changes into an uprising beat, following his own feelings, and more so than that, merging with another rising tune, the hopeful arrangement that comes from Johnny’s heart, grabbing the side of the dj table and not letting himself go in the middle of the chaotic movement of the rollercoaster. Fighting for his own life, Johnny’s heart fuses with the melody from “excitement of a burning star”, transforming it into a new song; “Explosion of supernova feelings”. And the entire audience let’s themself go from their seatbelts,  and the rollercoaster travels through space with a multitude of people hanging from their chairs, fighting to stay alive and not letting go.

The spiral tracks are behind and the rollercoaster stabilises near the heart of a gigantic galaxy, purple mist and the birth of new stars accompany Johnny´s triumphant coda, as “explosion of a supernova feelings” hits the end. The audience goes back into their sits, a couple rejoice by the window, kissing passionately. Azeroth´s song has stopped for some time now, not that anyone notices it and Johnny is the only one to say goodbye to him, before the floor opens and tosses him out into space, to die. 

The End.

Eternal Dream (Part III)

V

The impression awakens Alfonso, what was that? A dream? The place is unfamiliar to him, the shelves with candy, the flickering light in the damp sky and the vibrant sound of the refrigerators on the side, the smell of gasoline in the air gives him a more or less convincing clue as to where he is and who has rescued him during the night. The bell rings with the opening of the door and a woman enters the store. Alfonso gets up to sit on the old red sofa, with some bites in the corners that reveal the boards that shape it. The woman introduces herself as Paloma, informs him that thanks to the big explosion in the middle of the night they have been able to find him in the desert, that he has been lucky because of that. Exalted, Alfonso asks about the old man, Paloma says she didn’t see anyone else, because the place was very dark and repeats that he was lucky they even found him. She remembers meeting an old stranger some time ago, perhaps it was the same person. But Alfonso is not satisfied with the answer, he insists on the old man, explaining that he may be seriously injured, that they need to go and look for him immediately. A second voice interrupts him and asks.

  • How long do you think it’s been since we found you?

It is a man with a grey beard and a trucker’s hat, who presents himself as Pedro, a strong man but beaten by the passage of time. Alfonso has no way of answering the question correctly, he wants to say “a few hours” but the heaviness in his head tells him otherwise.

  • You have been sleeping for a whole month.

Pedro replies and Alfonso gets up completely from the sofa.

  • What happened to Amelia?

Unanswered question, the woman approaches and tries to reassure him, explaining that no one else has been found in the desert, which is a very vast place and sometimes people simply disappear. Confused, Alfonso cannot believe the words he has just heard. How is it possible that they have not been able to find their car?

  • This desert is special.

Pedro answers once again, in that cryptic way that already begins to irritate Alfonso.

The sands rise up and sometimes form figures that seem real, but after a while the wind blows them away and they don’t exist anymore.

Words that confuse Alfonso even more.

  • Are you saying that I hallucinated everything? That Amelia doesn’t exist? And the old man?

Pedro has no answers. The ground and the sky revolve around Alfonso, confusion and dizziness lead him to run towards the exit door. The sound of the small bell on the door resonates and merges with the arches that Alfonso has outside the quickstop, the little he has in his stomach is expelled through his mouth and ends up spilled on the floor, where the sand, which moves in the wind, forms circular shapes. Alfonso stares at the movement, in his mind, the idea of illusion begins to gain strength. At least it takes away his responsibility for the lives of two people. But is he really considering believing that it was all an illusion? Peter walks out the door and approaches Alfonso, offering him a napkin to wipe his mouth. Alfonso receives the napkin and wipes himself without getting up.

  • You’ll be fine, I assure you.
  • I’ll be fine? We are talking about the lives of two people.

Alfonso responds without hiding his irritation.

  • Two people who may be an illusion.

Pedro comes back to the charge with his theory of illusions in the sand.

  • I understand you, believe me. Something similar happened to me, I also lost a person.

Alfonso wakes up half relieved that someone else shares the odyssey. Amelia’s face remains in his memory, impossible to believe that it was all just a dream.

  • But don’t worry, there is still something we can do.
  • What do you mean?
  • Well, I saved your life and you can now help me with something that will benefit us both.

Alfonso still can’t believe they couldn’t find Amelia, what about her car? What happened to it? Pedro indicates that details have never helped anyone change the reality of things, but that Alfonso does not need to despair, as there is still hope.

  • It is about the inhabitants of the desert, it is a tribe that, according to the legend, has a special connection with the creative principles of this universe, they know about the desert and illusions, they can help both.

Peter explains the whole mess and then goes off to tell the sad story about the disappearance of his younger brother, also “swallowed up or imagined” by the desert. Has he hallucinated him? He doesn’t know, as time goes by he can’t even remember if he really had a brother all his life. But what he keeps in his heart is the memory and affection for him, and that is what drives him to keep looking. And Alfonso listens to Pedro’s words with disbelief, the reality now seems so different to him than it was when he started the journey that now has him completely confused outside a gas station, who knows where.

  • What do you say?

Peter asks once again and Alfonso accepts, hoping to find, at some point on the confusing path that seems to hover before his feet, some answer that makes sense.

VI

Early the next day, Alfonso and Pedro go into the desert, both of them cross the sand in silence, walking until they find themselves completely surrounded by golden mounds that reflect intense sun rays, indistinguishable from each other. The walk continues and Alfonso returns to that feeling of fullness that reminds him of the moment when he decided to start walking on the road, the starting point of his current odyssey. The first steps he took, moving away from the car and the woman who, while asleep, he hopes, he will still be able to see again, no matter how illusory it seems to return to her and with it still keeping the hope that she is still alive. Heavy steps in the sand, the tiredness reaches him faster this time. Pedro advances in a hurry, sure of himself, of the path, which for Alfonso is as diffuse as the sand itself. And then it occurs, first a light blow that raises a soft breeze that moves the surface of the desert, then it grows as a breath that becomes more and more agitated, until raising a whole wall of sand that moves quickly and wraps Pedro and Alfonso, making impossible to distinguish heaven from earth.

  • Is it all sand?

Alfonso tries to follow in Pedro’s footsteps, but the wall of sand that stands between them barely allows him to distinguish it from everything else.

  • Alfonso, let’s keep going!

Forward, where to? Alfonso doesn’t know. Thunder rumbles on the ground around them both, frightening the raised sands and taking over the sides of all horizons, invisible among so much sand. Alfonso shouts to Pedro, asks him about the origin of the thunder, does it matter? Pedro turns and smiles.

  • We are close!

Close to what? Alfonso has lost all confidence in the journey. A new roar is now revealed as a high-pitched scream and, a little further on, a figure stands on the highest dune on the nearby horizon, almost indistinguishable among so much sand. As they approach, both can see that it is a naked man, with his arms raised and his face angry, his words, incomprehensible to Alfonso, seem to curse the desert. The sands follow his movement, to the left, to the right, his cries provoke the wrath of the winds. Pedro indicates to Alfonso that the guy standing on the dune is his younger brother, that it is time to capture him, to stop him before the desert prevents them from doing so. Alfonso follows Pedro to the dune, but the brother sees them approaching and starts running, shouting louder, raising new storms that make it impossible to follow his trail. Pedro shouts his brother’s name over and over again.

  • Gustavo!

Alfonso orientates himself by following the sound of Peter’s voice, his eyes can no longer see anything but sand fluttering aggressively between the columns of wind that push him in all directions. Then, a sharp sound and an aggressive blow pass furiously through Alfonso’s left side, grazing his bare ear. A fast line that forms a tube between the sands, an opening that points the way of the object, embedded with violence, in the center of the back of Gustavo, brother of Pedro, who falls dead in the middle of the desert storm. Pedro reaches his brother’s body a few seconds later, too late. He takes him in his arms and sobs, trying, without success, to separate him from the arrow that has taken his life. Alfonso spins around tracking the direction of the arrow, his eyes set on a group of individuals standing about fifty meters away. People who look at him with inexpressive faces and naked bodies, except for the colors they wear on their skin, red some, blue others.

  • They are the people of the desert.

Pedro points to Alfonso and urges him to kneel in silence. By the expression on the man’s face, Alfonso understands that both are in extreme danger. Fear leads him to stutter some incoherent answer. Pedro falls to his knees, the tears that flow from his eyes are lost in the sand, it is his brother’s turn to mourn in silence. Alfonso follows him, trembling, manages to kneel down and lowers his head. A group of naked men surround Alfonso and Pedro, and between them they talk in a language that Alfonso cannot understand. One of them takes Alfonso by the hair and lifts him up to inspect him. Alfonso avoids looking at him in the eyes, and manages to count five of them in a quick glance to the sides. The men tie Alfonso and Pedro’s hands and feet, while another one approaches Gustavo’s body and, wielding a knife carved in stone, starts slicing him into several pieces. The blood flowing from Gustavo’s body stains the crimson red sands, the men wash the body with the blood of the dead man, looking up, they sing until the violence of the wind stops. The road clears, the sky appears again. Alfonso, obsessed with the events, cannot move his muscles, which are numb, and assumes with enough reasons that any suspicious movement could end up in his death. The men cover Alfonso’s and Pedro’s eyes with cloths cut from Gustavo’s torn skin, then leave for their village, dragging the prisoners through the boiling sand of the afternoon, both tied to ropes that two of them carry on their backs.