Thursday, March 14, 2013

Case Study No. 0847: Roswitha

salmonberries part 1
Androgynous young Eskimo woman Kotz (K.D. Lang) develops an unusual and unexpected relationship with German expatriate and town librarian Roswitha (Rosel Zech) in this classic and haunting tale directed by Percy Adlon. Together, Kotz and Roswitha find the freedom to face old demons and to express their hidden yearnings. 1991.
Tags: kd lang salmonberries percy aldon
Added: 4 years ago
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[scene opens on a lone Eskimo staring off into space, seemingly talking to himself]
BUTCH: And then she dies. But how she dies ... Death comes in these terrible waves. Grabs her, lets her go. Horrible. Her skin changes. Her smell, well, she smells like metal.
ROSWITHA: [from off camera] Butch ...
[cut to an older woman standing behind a bookshelf, taking notes, as the Eskimo continues talking]
BUTCH: And she's so beautiful.
BUTCH: So beautiful ...
[camera pans out to reveal that Butch is standing in a small library, as Roswitha the librarian continues to inspect her books]
BUTCH: Ohhh ...
[Roswitha takes off her glasses and just stares at Butch]
BUTCH: And the writing! So detailed that you need a blanket, that's how he sends the chills up and down your spine! These people become like me ... although they're French. Everything's so close. Yes, that's how it is with reading!
BUTCH: Okay, just the scene with the coats, that's all!
ROSWITHA: Butch, I still have to place all of these--
BUTCH: She is, she is in the coach with her young lover. Actually, she wanted to give him a letter, as a refusal that she doesn't him anymore. And on the curtains of the coach, clothes. And the people in the city see the coach for hours. Riding around, everywhere. And suddenly, it rides out of the city, the coach. And her hand appears from behind the curtain, opens, and paper scraps fly behind the coach. Like quiet butterflies.
ROSWITHA: Butch, I also read "Madame Bovary," and it is one of the most beautiful books ever.
[she walks towards the bathroom door and opens it]
BUTCH: One, one of the most beautiful ... ?
[he shakes his head]
BUTCH: One of the most beautiful--
[she slams the door behind her (as you hear the running water of the sink), but Butch simply waits for her to return ... and she eventually opens the door again]
ROSWITHA: But now you tell me what you want, 'cause there are no new books!
BUTCH: You know that doesn't matter to me, Roswitha. The main thing is that I reach my quota every night, so I'll set up again with "A." The books, they--
[she starts pushing him towards the shelves]
ROSWITHA: Butch, you know where to find "A", so go and get it yourself!
BUTCH: The books, they get better and better the more you read them.
[he pulls a book from the shelf, as Roswitha busies herself by turning off the computer]
BUTCH: Actually, that's not quite right. The good books, they get better and better. And the bad ones--
ROSWITHA: [yelling] Butch!
BUTCH: Yes, the bad ones don't get worse, they just stay put.
ROSWITHA: Check them out and then buzz off!
[he hands her his stack of books]
BUTCH: You're an angel, Roswitha.
[she quickly looks over the books and then hands them back to him]
BUTCH: If I wasn't reading so much--
ROSWITHA: Goodnight.
BUTCH: I, I ...
[she pushes him out the door]
ROSWITHA: Goodnight, Butch! Have a nice evening!
[she starts to put on some lip balm, then notices that there's someone (off camera) still in the library]
ROSWITHA: Oh, hi ... Have you already been waiting there for awhile? I'm going to close up now, I'm sure you don't mind coming back tomorrow.
KOTZEBUE: [from off camera] Kotzebue ...
ROSWITHA: The book about the city, sure. You can look at it tomorrow.
[she holds the door open]
ROSWITHA: Do me a favor and leave now, please. I'd also like to go home sometime.
KOTZEBUE: [from off camera] I need it now!
[she slams the door shut and angrily walks towards the shelf, instantly picking out the correct book and loudly slamming it on the table where the unseen patron is sitting]
ROSWITHA: Here you go! If you want to take it with you, you will have to enter your name, but hurry up.
[she turns and leaves, then the patron begins violently flipping through the pages (almost to the point of tearing them out of the book), which draws the librarian's attention again]
ROSWITHA: Stop that! You don't read books like that!
[the patron looks up from the book with a blank look on her face]
ROSWITHA: Do you even know how to read?
[the patron suddenly throws the book on the floor and moves towards the nearby shelf, tossing a number of books into the air (where they land on the ground in slow motion)]
[cut back to Roswitha, who quickly makes her way to her desk and dials the phone]
DISPATCHER: [over the phone] County police.
ROSWITHA: I am, uh ... There is--
[she looks up and sees that the patron has already run out the door]
DISPATCHER: [over the phone] Is this an emergency?
[she puts the phone down but continues talking]
ROSWITHA: It's nothing. Thank you.
DISPATCHER: [over the phone] Hello?
[she continues talking to herself (with the receiver nowhere near her face)]
ROSWITHA: It's okay ...




Adlon, Percy (Director). Salmonberries. Germany: Pelemele Films, 1991.

Starring: Rosel Zech (Roswitha, Librarian); k.d. lang (Kotzebue)

This film opens with an old Eskimo in winter gear presenting a heartfelt recitation in a dark, moody library. The middle-aged librarian is going about her business getting ready to close up. (You notice that when movie librarians are not shelving books or dancing on tables or fighting off bad guys, they're closing up the library.) She gets impatient with him, identifying his subject as the classic Madam Bovary. He wants something to read but has read all the books there, and decides to go back to the A shelf and start over. She demands that he be quick about it, that he knows where the A shelf is, and "there are no new books." He doesn't mind rereading the old ones, stating, "The good books, they get better and better ... the bad ones don't get worse. They just stay put." Out of patience, she barks, "Take them out and then buzz off!!" "You're an angel, Roswitha," he serenely replies, books in hand as she shoves him out the door. Roswitha (mid-40's) is erect and no nonsense yet feminine, with thick straw hair. Her accent is German and she is reserved and withdrawn. The story is how two isolated people with troubled pasts find each other and develop a relationship. Kotzebue (k.d. lang), usually taken to be a boy, was abandoned as a baby and wants the librarian to find out who she is, which Roswitha simply cannot do. Instead Kotzebue helps Roswitha come to grips with the horrors of her own past in East Berlin, where her brother's betrayal got Roswitha's husband shot while they escaped under the wall. Librarian themes are relevant in this film, with the familiar scenario of the library as refuge. In this case the dogged determination of another loner serves to help the librarian cast out her demons. This stylish film is strange and moody, with haunting vistas and no exteriors that aren't choking in snow. Not everyone's cup of cocoa, but you do get to see the young and frustrated lang throw books around the library.

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