The Act of Reading Short Film
Directed by Csongor Dombovari, 'The Act of Reading' tells the story of a recluse librarian who's life is interrupted by a girl who challenges his ideals about life and literature.
Added: 2 years ago
[scene opens with a young male librarian (brown hair, grey sweater, white undershirt) sitting at the front desk reading a book, when a young female patron approaches, and he nervously looks up from his book]
LIBRARIAN: Oh ... good evening. Um, can I help you?
PATRON: I would like to borrow some books, please.
[she smiles broadly, as the librarian nervously looks around]
LIBRARIAN: Um ... Well, there are lots here. Um, anything in particular?
PATRON: Hmm, anything really. Anything you can recommend, maybe something you like.
LIBRARIAN: [pause] Something I like ... Um, well, let's see.
[he gets up and walks off camera, as the patron follows him]
LIBRARIAN: Um ...
[cut to the librarian bending down next to a small bookshelf, as the patron stands over him]
LIBRARIAN: Yeah, uh ... here we have the--
[he pulls out a book, then stands up and hands it to her]
LIBRARIAN: "The Company of Headless Horses."
LIBRARIAN: And, and ...
[he bends down and pulls out another book]
LIBRARIAN: Yeah, the ... "The Flying Man."
[she takes the book]
LIBRARIAN: And ... ooh!
[he reaches over and takes another book off the top of a nearby shelf]
LIBRARIAN: Yeah, the ... the, uh, "Midnight Smoker." It's one of my favorites.
[she takes the book and smiles]
[she turns and walks off camera, as the librarian stares at the shelves with a distant look on his face]
LIBRARIAN: All these books bring back so many memories ...
PATRON: [from off camera] I guess that's what books are for.
[the librarian snaps out of his "day dreaming" and quickly returns to his desk]
LIBRARIAN: Um ... Yeah, I suppose so.
[he sits down, and the patron hands him the books]
LIBRARIAN: Thank you.
[he stamps the books, then (avoiding eye contact) hands them back to the patron]
PATRON: Um ... thank you.
[she smiles, but the librarian remains expressionless]
PATRON: [pause] Bye.
LIBRARIAN: Um ... Yeah. Goodbye.
[she turns and leaves, then cut to the librarian reshelving a book before returning to his desk and quietly reading]
[the scene fades to black, then cut to the patron returning (as the librarian is still reading at his desk)]
LIBRARIAN: Oh. You're back already.
PATRON: I read very quickly.
LIBRARIAN: So, uh ... what did you think of the books?
PATRON: I loved them! Remember how you said that they bring back memories?
LIBRARIAN: [quietly] Mm hmm ...
PATRON: Well, they do!
[she casually sits down on to of the desk (making the librarian even more nervous)]
PATRON: Oh, and I took the liberty of making a few notes while reading!
LIBRARIAN: Oh well, that doesn't matter ...
[she reaches into her handbag and pulls out one of the books (which now looks to be very beaten-up and possibly suffering from water damage)]
LIBRARIAN: Wait ... you mean in the books?
[the patron innocently smiles (as if nothing is wrong) and starts leafing through the book]
PATRON: Yeah! This one, "The Midnight Smoker," reminded me of the time I went to my grandparents' house by the lake!
[she hands the book to the librarian, who stares at it in disbelief]
PATRON: I used to spend my summers there as a child! And ...
[she continues rummaging through her bag, then casually points at the book]
PATRON: Oh, that I read underwater.
[the librarian continues staring at the book, dumbstruck, as the patron pulls out another book (with tattered pages and covered in paint)]
PATRON: Oh, and this one. I, uh ... "The Company of Headless Horses." Reminded me of the time I did those paintings!
[he hands the book to the flabbergasted librarian, then pulls out the final book (similarly beat up and filled with post-it notes)]
PATRON: And this one reminded me of my old English teacher!
[she hands it to the librarian]
LIBRARIAN: But ... but wait, no. These are your memories.
[the patron looks at him with a confused look, while he slowly leafs through the book and speaks as if on the verge of tears]
LIBRARIAN: Well, where are mine?
PATRON: Where are your memories?
LIBRARIAN: Well, they ... they've gone now, because of what you've done! You've just erased them!
[she gets up off the desk]
PATRON: Well ... how can I erase something that isn't there?
LIBRARIAN: But they were in between the lines and ... and every time I read them, they came back to me!
[cut to various quick shots of a room filled with tattered books and loose pages suspended from the ceiling on strings, then back to the librarian sadly flipping through the book]
PATRON: I-I'm sorry, but they say the act of reading is violent.
LIBRARIAN: [pause] You're sorry?
[he stares at her angrily, then slowly lowers his head]
LIBRARIAN: [quietly] I don't think you should come back here again.
[the patron stares at her, then cut to more quick shots of the room filled with books/pages, then back to the librarian (possibly after the patron has left) as he slowly closes the ruined copy of "The Flying Man" and stares off into space]
[cut to a shot of the librarian sitting in the middle of the room filled with books/pages, as he slowly opens a (pristine) book and begins reading]
PATRON: [in voice over] Not everyone carries out the act of reading in the same way, but there is a manner of reading comparable to the act of writing ...
[cut to a closeup of the floor, as torn pages from the book slowly fall to the ground ... meanwhile, the patron's voice (in a whisper and echoing) continues to narrate from a page of Helene Cixous' "Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing" suspended from the ceiling]
PATRON: [in voice over] It's an act that suppresses the world.
[cut to the chair in the middle of the room filled with books/pages, then quickly cut to the librarian sitting in the chair again]
PATRON: [in voice over] We seize the world with a book.
[cut to the librarian suddenly holding a book in his hand]
PATRON: [in voice over] You take the book you have opened, either knowingly or unknowingly ...
[cut to a shot of the librarian slowly entering the room filled with books/pages]
PATRON: [in voice over] But often with an imitation that this book may be an instrument of separation.
[cut to a shot of the librarian walking past the pages separated from the ceiling, as he finds the patron standing stone-faced in the middle of the room]
PATRON: [in voice over] We don't always think of this, because we no longer read. We used to read when we were children ...
[cut to the patron holding a book, as she slowly rips page after page out of it and throws them to the ground]
PATRON: [in voice over] And knew how violent reading can be. The book strikes a blow ...
[cut to a closeup of the floor, as the torn pages pile up at their feet]
PATRON: [in voice over] But you, with your book, strike the outside world with an equal blow.
[cut to a closeup of the patron tearing a page out of her book]
PATRON: [in voice over] The value of books lies in the content, not in the look.
[cut to the librarian kneeling down in the middle of the room filled with books/pages, then cut to the camera panning around the empty library]
PATRON: [in voice over] Books are for arguing with. Ownership is a fiction. And margins, like walls, are there to be written on.
[the camera stops on the doorway in the back of the library (as the librarian peeks his head out), then cut to the other side of the room (where the patron is waiting for him)]
PATRON: Hi. You okay?
[cut to a shot of the librarian slowly walking through the room filled with books/pages, then back to the library (where the librarian hasn't moved)]
PATRON: Look, I ... I'm sorry about, um--
[cut to a quick shot of the patron in the room filled with books/pages (as she tears another page out of her book), then back to the library as the librarian kneels down and picks some books up off the floor (while the patron kneels down next to him)]
LIBRARIAN: Don't worry. I ordered new copies for the library.
PATRON: So you got your memories back?
[the librarian (who had been avoiding making eye contact) suddenly looks up at her]
LIBRARIAN: I don't want them back.
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