To Challenge Fate

FADE IN

EXT. HYPNOTIC MONTAGE - DAY

Dead silence.  A jeweled RING on a man's finger twinkles in the sunlight.  
An ADOLESCENT FARMBOY, in the middle of an empty field, stands perfectly 
still as if in a trance.  The hushed, casual voices of MAX and ANATOL can 
be heard over the entire montage.

				MAX (v.o.) 
		I am amazed at you, Anatol.

				ANATOL (v.o.) 
		No reason to be.

				MAX (v.o.) 
		No, no... I am astonished.  I've always 
		considered it a sham, a fraud.  But there was 
		the proof, right before my eyes. You put him to 
		sleep, you tell him to dance, and he dances. 

The adolescent boy jerks to life and begins to dance -- like a puppet.

				MAX (v.o.) 
		Then, you tell him his sweetheart is dead, and 
		he cries.

The jeweled ring glistens.  The adolescent boy stands still again --
distraught, tears rolling down his cheeks.

				MAX (v.o.) 
		Then, that he's a judge, and he pardons a 
		criminal. It's amazing.

The jeweled ring sparkles.  The adolescent boy draws himself up solemnly,
bangs an imaginary gavel and mouths a pardon to an invisible criminal.

				ANATOL (v.o.) 
		It is, isn't it?

				MAX (v.o.) 
		It makes you a kind of sorcerer.

FLASH CUTS of other people under hypnosis -- young and old, men and women, 
in fields and city streets --  dancing, crying, waving imaginary things in
their hands like so many magic wands.

				ANATOL (v.o.) 
		Everyone is to some degree.

				MAX (v.o.) 
		Still, it's so... difficult to accept.

More sparkling images, not of the ring but of something similar: Orbital 
views of the dark side of the EARTH as it rotates, the SUN glimmering on 
its horizon.

				ANATOL (v.o.) 
		What isn't?  Look at the discoveries of the 
		past few centuries. Had we been able to prove 
		to our ancestors that the earth rotates, they 
		wouldn't have accepted that.  It would have 
		made them dizzy.

				MAX (v.o.) 
		No, no, but... this... this... phenomenon is 
		stranger than planetary rotation.

Closer to the Earth's surface: a glorious SUNRISE over the ocean.

				ANATOL (v.o.) 
		Strange, because it's unfamiliar.  How would 
		you react to a sunrise having never seen one 
		before?

The sunlight shines through the leafy branches of a TREE.

				ANATOL (v.o.) 
		Or to trees putting out new leaves in spring? 

Under the tree, a YOUNG COUPLE smile at one another.  They stroll down 
a sidewalk in a late nineteenth century CITY.

				ANATOL (v.o.) 
		Or to...  What about to falling in love!? Hah, 
		there's one! How did you react the first time 
		you fell in love?  Hard to accept?

The montage ends.

								CUT TO:

EXT. ANATOL'S BALCONY - DAY

The sun is going down fast. Anatol and Max, sit on the balcony of Anatol's
apartment in the heart of the city. They drink wine, smoke, and watch any
number of young couples pass by on the streets and sidewalks below them.
Anatol is an idle, young bachelor, and like many of his species, is devoted 
to material comfort and novelty.  Max is Anatol's best friend -- rather less
materialist, less romantic, more level-headed. Their conversation continues
without missing a beat.

				MAX
		Alright, point made.  But the thing with 
		Mesmerism...
 
				ANATOL
		Hypnotism...
 
				MAX 
		...hypnotism, is, it's so... dangerous.  I 
		don't know how to put it, but I could never 
		allow myself to be hypnotized.

				ANATOL 
		Why not?  What's to be afraid of?  You lie down, 
		I tell you to sleep...

				MAX 
		... and that I'm a chimney sweep, and pretty 
		soon I'm in the fireplace ruining my clothes.

				ANATOL 
		Those are just parlor tricks.  What's exciting 
		about hypnotism is its enormous untapped 
		scientific potential.

				MAX 
		Scientific potential?

				ANATOL 
		Absolutely!  

Anatol's efficient manservant FRANZ quietly appears on the balcony with a 
fresh bottle and a clean ashtray.  He sets them on a table between Anatol and 
Max.

				ANATOL 
			(to Max)
		Why, look -- on the power of my suggestions 
		alone, Franz here traveled to a dozen different 
		worlds in the space of an hour.

				FRANZ 
			(helpful)
		A hundred.

Anatol gives Max a look of triumph.

				ANATOL 
			(to Max)
		A hundred!  Imagine if we could do that for 
		ourselves!? 
			(to Franz) 
		Thank you, Franz. 
			(to Max) 
		To send ourselves to other worlds.  

Franz exits with an empty bottle and a full ashtray.  Anatol pours himself 
a glass.

				MAX 
		Have you tried?

				ANATOL 
		Mmm.  No luck.  I'm stuck in this one.

				MAX 
		Poor Anatol.

				ANATOL 
		I wave my hand in front of my face...

On Anatol's hand, we see the jeweled ring.

				ANATOL 
		...and say to myself, "sleep, sleep, when you 
		awake all your torment over Cora will seem like 
		a bad dream..."

				MAX 
		And when you wake up?

				ANATOL 
		I never go to sleep.  

Anatol downs his drink.

				ANATOL 
		It's Cora.  She's driving me mad.

								CUT TO:

EXT. CORA'S MONTAGE - NIGHT

CORA, an irresistably pretty woman dressed in the latest styles, unhurriedly
threads her way down a busy sidewalk in the shopping district.  She is in 
her early twenties -- though she easily passes for much younger -- and wears 
a mild grin on her thoroughly honest face, trying to maintain the air of
unstudied shallowness expected of her.  The voices of Anatol and Max continue
over the montage.

				MAX (v.o.) 
		You're too suspicious.

				ANATOL (v.o.) 
		No. it's way beyond suspicion, I'm absolutely 
		convinced that she's cheating on me.

				MAX (v.o.) 
		You're dreaming.

				ANATOL (v.o.) 
		I have proof.

Cora pauses on the sidewalk and stops smiling -- as if she could somehow 
hear what was being said.

				MAX (v.o.) 
		Oh, really?

CUT BACK TO Anatol and Max sitting on the BALCONY. The sun has gone down. 
Light from the nearby street lamps bathes them in a warm, fuzzy glow.

				ANATOL 
		I do.  If what I fear is the same as what I 
		feel, and what I feel is the same as what I 
		believe to be true, then what I fear, is true.

				MAX 
			(confused)
		What was that?

				ANATOL 
		Logic.

				MAX 
		Ah,  I didn't recognize it.

Anatol scowls at Max.  Instantly, we return to CORA, frowning on the sidewalk.
She's been looking in the window of a book shop, unsure whether or not to
enter.

				ANATOL (v.o.) 
		Oh, Max!  It logically follows; girls have 
		affairs, therefore, they are always unfaithful.   
		I read two or three books at a time. They keep 
		two or three men at a time.

Cora enters the book shop.

				MAX (v.o.) 
		Alright, if there is another man.  Who is he?

Cora thumbs through some books.  

				ANATOL (v.o.) 
		How on earth am I supposed to know?  It could 
		be anyone!  A prince she met on the street.  

One book is called "Fairy Tales": a prince turns into a frog and back again.  

				ANATOL (v.o.) 
		A poet she saw from a window -- anyone!  And 
		there's nothing wrong with that.  She just 
		wants to have a good time like... most people, 
		and when she declares her love -- or her 
		fidelity -- she means it... because at that 
		moment she's not thinking about any of the 
		others.  And I understand that. 

Another book, whose title is partly obscured, is called:  "The Erotic Poetry
of...": Cora lingers over the photograph of a ruggedly handsome POET on the
dust jacket. 

				ANATOL (v.o.)  
		Anyway, who in their right mind would announce 
		to their lover that they're carrying on with 
		someone else?

A third book is "A History of Polygamy."  Cora walks out of the shop with 
two or three books, continues down the sidewalk, and disappears into the
crowd.

				MAX (v.o.) 
		But suppose... suppose she actually loves you?

The montage ends.

CUT TO:

EXT. ANATOL'S BALCONY

Franz brings a small oil lamp and places it on the table between Max and
Anatol, then steps back and quietly awaits further orders.  But the two men
ignore him, wrapped up in their ongoing conversation.

				ANATOL 
		Why would that make any difference?

				MAX 
		It logically follows; if she loves you, 
		she'll be faithful.

				ANATOL 
		That's not logical at all.  I love her, so how 
		come I'm not faithful?  I can declare my utter 
		and exclusive love to a girl -- despite the 
		fact that I've said exactly the same thing to 
		another girl the night before -- and feel 
		completely genuine about it. And I seriously 
		doubt that anyone, male or female, is any 
		different. So, it logically follows; I could 
		forgive Cora everything before she uttered a 
		word, beg her to tell me the truth, and she 
		would still lie. Girls have begged me and I've 
		lied, and kept a clear conscience. When lies 
		make people so happy, why tell the truth and 
		make them miserable?

Anatol looks at Franz as if expecting an answer but Franz doesn't know what 
to say.

				MAX 
		So, why expect Cora to tell you the truth?

				ANATOL 
		Because her lies don't make me happy.

				MAX 
		What would make you happy, then?

				ANATOL 
		To have a way of making a girl honest. That 
		would make me happy.  A way to make women 
		honest...

A pause.

				MAX 
		Like hypnosis?

				ANATOL 
		What?

				MAX 
		Hypnosis.  You put her under a spell and 
		instruct her to be completely candid.

Anatol stares at the ring on his hand.

				ANATOL 
		Hmm.

				MAX 
		Then you question her:  Where have you just 
		been?  Where're you going when you leave here?  
		Do you love me or someone else?  What's his 
		name? ...

				ANATOL
		Max! You're a genius!  That's it! 

Anatol rises, steps to the balcony's railing, and looks out at the city.

				ANATOL 
		That's the untapped scientific potential -- 
		power over women.

Behind Anatol's back, Max and Franz exchange uneasy glances.

				MAX 
			(to Anatol)
		Well.  It'll be an interesting experiment.

Anatol looks down at the sidewalk below, sees Cora -- carrying books, just 
as in her montage -- walking toward his apartment, and breaks into a broad
grin.

								CUT TO:

INT. ANATOL'S SITTING-ROOM - NIGHT

Moments later.  The room is dark.  But from the Persian carpets, the heavy
curtains, the abundance of unlit candles and lamps shaded in colored glass, 
it is obvious that Anatol is a romantic, possibly a hedonist. His paintings 
are just ahead of fashion, and the latest books which cram his shelves leave 
the impression that he craves... a fuller life.  Franz brings in the table 
and chairs from the adjacent balcony.  Max sits on the sofa calmly watching 
as a tense, expectant Anatol paces the room, hands in pockets.  He stops.

				ANATOL 
			(sharply, to Max)
		You don't think she actually has anything to 
		hide, do you? 

Max is about to answer when Cora abruptly enters.  There is an instantaneous 
transformation in Anatol's demeanor.

				ANATOL  
		Cora, darling.

				CORA 
		Anatol.

Cora goes to kiss him but stops when she sees Max.

				ANATOL 
		What?  Oh, it's only Max.

				CORA 
			(relieved)
		Hi, Max.  

Cora and Anatol kiss deeply and stay in each other's arms.

				CORA 
			(to Anatol)
		Why are you sitting around in the dark?

				ANATOL 
		You know how I revel in the twilight.

				CORA 
		Every word you breathe is poetry.

				ANATOL 
		You're all my inspiration. 

They kiss again and she breaks away.

				CORA 
		But I'm going to light some lights anyway. You 
		won't mind, will you?

				ANATOL 
			(to Max)
		Isn't she... beyond description?

Max smiles and nods.  Cora busily lights a particularly garish lamp with a 
red and green globe and a candle or two.  

				CORA 
		So you boys have been having a nice little 
		chat? Anything interesting?

				ANATOL 
		Oh, science.  A scientific discussion.

				MAX 
		Hypnotism.

				CORA 
		Not again! I'm so sick of hypnotism. Hypnotism, 
		hypnotism! I don't understand what all the fuss 
		is about...

				ANATOL 
		Yes, but...

				CORA 
		Maybe if I'd been hypnotized myself it'd mean 
		something to me, but as it is...

				ANATOL 
		You?  Well... 
			(to Max, as if he'd 
			 just thought of it) 
		That's an idea...

				CORA 
		Then I'd know what it's like. But, of course, 
		I'd trust no one but you to do it.

				ANATOL 
		I'm flattered.

				CORA 
		Well, who else am I intimate with?  No one!  
		At least not to where I'd let them go messing 
		around with my brain like that.

Max grins at Anatol who frowns back at him while Cora lights some more lamps.

				ANATOL 
			(to Cora)
		It's not something I'd do casually, but if you 
		really want me to...

				CORA 
		Well, just so I know what people are talking 
		about.  And why not?  It could be fun.  When 
		shall we do it?

				ANATOL 
		Now.

				CORA  
		Now?

Anatol flashes a dazzling grin.

								CUT TO:

INT. ANATOL'S SITTING-ROOM - NIGHT

Minutes later.  The lamps are out and only the candles are lit, making for 
an eerie atmosphere.  Cora, eyes shut, breathing deeply, sits in a comfortable
chair.  Anatol stands in front of her.

				ANATOL  
		Alright. Cora.  Cora, you will answer whatever 
		I ask you. What is your name?

				CORA 
		Cora.

A beaming Anatol turns to Max who remains seated on the sofa -- a moment of 
great satisfaction for Anatol.  He turns back to Cora.

				ANATOL 
		Cora, you're in the forest.

								CUT TO:

EXT. IN THE FOREST - DAY

Cora opens her eyes and sees that she is, indeed, alone in the forest.  
Sunlight shines through the leaves of tall trees, rather like in the film's 
opening montage.  A lark SINGS.  It's all quite breathtaking.

				CORA 
		How lovely... 

Cora turns to see Anatol standing before her just as he was in the 
sitting-room.

				ANATOL 
		Cora, you will always tell me the truth. What 
		will you do?

				CORA 
		I will always tell you the truth.

				ANATOL 
		You will answer all my questions, and you will 
		answer them truthfully and when you wake, you 
		will have forgotten everything. Do you 
		understand?

				CORA 
		I understand.

Anatol turns to see Max seated as he was in the sitting-room but on a fallen 
tree trunk rather than a sofa.

				ANATOL 
			(to Max)
		So, where do we start?

				MAX 
		How old is she?

				ANATOL 
		Nineteen.  Ah, good idea!  

Anatol turns to Cora.

				ANATOL 
		Cora, how old are you?

				CORA 
		Twenty-two.

Max laughs.  A grinning Anatol turns to him.

				ANATOL 
			(to Max)
		Shh!  This is phenomenal.

				MAX 
		She's apparently a very good subject.

Anatol takes a deep breath.

				ANATOL 
			(to Cora)
		Cora.  Cora, do you love me? 

Cora looks confused.  Max stifles his laughter.  Anatol inches closer to Cora.

				ANATOL 
		Do you love me?

A long pause.  Birds CHIRP and WHISTLE.

				CORA 
		Yes.

Anatol smiles happily at Max.  Max smiles back.

				MAX 
		Fine, but how about the big question? Is she 
		faithful?

Anatol turns back to Cora and looks her right in the eye.

				ANATOL  
		Cora... 

Another, longer, pause. Somehow, Anatol can't bring himself to ask the 
question.

				ANATOL 
			(to Cora)
		Would you excuse me for a minute?

A suddenly uncomfortable Anatol quickly crosses to Max and joins him on THE 
TREE TRUNK.  Max and Anatol speak rapidly to one another in relatively low 
voices with a motionless Cora visible behind them.

				ANATOL  
		I don't think that's an appropriate question.

				MAX 
		It isn't?

				ANATOL 
		No. You can't ask it right out like that.

				MAX 
		Why not?

				ANATOL 
		It's vague, we need to phrase it differently.

				MAX 
		Seems precise to me.

				ANATOL 
		No, that's just the problem. It's not precise.

				MAX 
		It isn't?

				ANATOL 
		"Are you faithful?"  It could mean anything!

				MAX 
		For instance?

				ANATOL 
		When are we talking about?  She might have been 
		in love with someone before she met me, and 
		since I don't specify exactly when she was 
		unfaithful, she'd answer no.
 
				MAX 
		How about, "Cora, have you been faithful since 
		we've known each other?"

				ANATOL 
		Um... No. That's wrong too.

				MAX 
		Why?

				ANATOL 
		How could we have possibly known those first 
		few days that our love would grow to such 
		profound depths?  At that point we both thought 
		it was just a fling.

				MAX 
		So?

				ANATOL 
		So, she may have been in love with someone else 
		at the time. Who knows what she was up to the 
		day before we met? Maybe she had something else 
		going that she couldn't break off, and maybe it 
		went on like that for weeks, and how could I 
		blame her for that?

				MAX 
		That's very liberal of you.  How about this, 
		"Cora, have you been unfaithful to me since 
		we've been in love?"

				ANATOL  
		Well... We need to define "faithful".  So, for 
		example...  Picture her on a train, just 
		yesterday, and imagine that a man across from 
		her happened to let his foot touch hers...  

Cora overhears this and cocks her head slightly.

								CUT TO:

INT. ON A TRAIN - DAY

A crowded, fast-moving commuter train where Cora's foot is accidentally 
touched by a man across from her -- a dead ringer for the ruggedly handsome 
POET on the book jacket.  They make eye contact and smile at one another.  
Anatol and Max, seated just as they were on the tree trunk but now in wooden 
seats at the rear of the car, watch from a distance, and carry on their 
conversation as if the change of scene had never happened.

				ANATOL 
		Now, normally that would count for nothing, but 
		she is not in a normal state, the trance has 
		made her mind subtler than either of us can 
		imagine, so who's to say that she wouldn't 
		interpret what happened on the train as being 
		"unfaithful"?

				MAX 
		That's ridiculous.

				ANATOL 
		And she knows that if she so much as looks at 
		another man I view that as infidelity.  I admit, 
		it's a little extreme on my part, but it leaves 
		the whole question wide open to interpretation.

				MAX 
		What did she say when you told her that?

				ANATOL 
		About her looking at another man?  Oh, I don't 
		know...

Max calls out to Cora who is engaged in deep conversation with the poet.

				MAX
		Cora?

				CORA 
			(pleasantly, to Max)
		Yes, Max?

				MAX 
		What was your reaction when Anatol told you 
		that if you so much as looked at another man he 
		would view that as infidelity?

A glum Anatol and an amused Max watch as Cora starts laughing her head off.
She can barely answer Max's question.

				CORA 
			(giddy)  
		I laughed my head off.

Giggling, Cora resumes her conversation with the poet.  Max grins at a 
sour-faced Anatol.

				ANATOL 
			(to Max)
		Under certain external and artificial stimuli, 
		one can fall prey to a host of uncontrollable 
		and deeply buried urges that will surface in 
		spite of any efforts to maintain integrity or 
		control over the conscious personality.

				MAX 
		Could you make yourself a little more obscure?

				ANATOL
		All right.  Try this.  Imagine a room, dimly 
		lit and full of romantic atmosphere.

								CUT TO:

INT. ANATOL'S SITTING-ROOM - NIGHT

The candle-lit room as before except that Anatol and Max sit on the sofa.  

				ANATOL
		There she is, sitting with another man.

Cora and the ruggedly handsome poet snuggle in the comfortable chair.

				MAX 
		How'd she get there?

				ANATOL 
		Don't worry about that, these things can happen.  
		Now, imagine a glass of absinthe, the aroma of 
		spiced cigarettes, a crystal chandelier with a 
		golden glow, crimson curtains. Everywhere, 
		loneliness and silence.  Words are whispered 
		gently into the shell of her ear.

The poet whispers to Cora as the glass, the cigarettes, the chandelier, and 
the curtains materialize.  Cora tries to resist but the poet is silently 
breaking down her defenses.  Things are getting steamy.

				MAX 
		Oh really...

				ANATOL 
		Stronger women than Cora have succumbed to such 
		things.

				MAX 
		Well, you would know, I'm sure...  One thing 
		doesn't make sense.  If she's so in love with 
		you, how did she get into a room like that with 
		another man in the first place?

				ANATOL 
		Life is full of enigmas.

Cora and the poet kiss.  Max abruptly rises from the sofa and crosses to 
Cora.  By the time he reaches her, the poet is gone, Cora is in a trance, 
and the room -- and everything in it -- is as it was before the hypnotic 
suggestions.

				MAX 
			(to Anatol)
		You're the enigma.  You've got the key to the 
		greatest puzzle of all time.  You only have to 
		ask one little question.  You're being invited 
		to challenge fate, and you won't do it. Fine.  
		Torture yourself.  Delude yourself.  Wallow in 
		your romantic fantasies.  Wake her up, pass up 
		a chance to know the truth. ... What all this 
		comes down to is that you're not going to ask 
		her at all, am I right?

Anatol takes a long look at Cora.

				ANATOL 
		No, no, I'll ask her, I just have to...

				MAX 
		...dream up another objection? 
			(crosses to Anatol, sympathetic) 
		Listen, if you ask, kindly, lovingly, if she is 
		faithful to you, she's not going to think about 
		feet on the train or kisses under a crystal 
		chandelier. Besides, if her answer's not clear, 
		we can have her go into detail.

Anatol flinches.

				ANATOL 
		You're dead set on my asking her, is that it?

				MAX 
		Me?  You're the one who wants to know!

				ANATOL 
		I really want to ask her. Just not in front of 
		you.  It's not that I'm trying to hide anything 
		from you. You'll know if she's been unfaithful 
		because you'll never see her here again.  But 
		for you to find out now, at the same time as I 
		do, I couldn't stand that.  If I have to hear 
		an ugly truth, I want to be alone. 

A pause.  Max heads for the apartment's front room.

				MAX 
		I'll wait in there.

				ANATOL 
		It'll only be a minute.

Max exits through a door to the front room and shuts it behind him. Anatol 
takes a deep breath, rises, and crosses to Cora, still in her trance.  His 
face is mere inches from hers.

				ANATOL 
		Cora, do you... Cora, have you... Cora, are 
		you...?  

Anatol shuts his eyes.

				ANATOL 
		Oh, God! Cora... wake up and kiss me...

Cora wakes up.  She immediately kisses Anatol.

				CORA 
		Oh, my.  How long was I asleep?  

They stare into each other's eyes for a long moment before she looks around.

				CORA 
		Where's Max?
 
				ANATOL 
			(yells to Max)
		Max! 
			(to Cora) 
		You went into a deep trance.  You said things, 
		too.

				CORA 
		Nothing I shouldn't have, I hope.

Max returns.

				MAX 
			(to Cora, half-apologetic)
		He just asked you some questions.

				CORA 
		Did he?

				ANATOL 
		I did.

				CORA 
		Did I answer them?

				ANATOL 
		Every one.

				CORA 
		Tell me!

Anatol shakes his head.

				ANATOL 
		We'll try again tomorrow.

				CORA 
		Oh, no, we won't try again tomorrow.  I don't 
		like answering questions I can't remember. I 
		probably said a lot of silly things that aren't 
		true.

				ANATOL 
		Well, you did say you loved me.

				CORA 
		Did I?

				MAX 
		Amazing the silly things you say in your sleep.

				CORA 
		But it's not silly at all when I say it awake.

Cora rises and kisses Anatol.  Max takes the hint.

				MAX  
		It's getting late.  I think I'll be going.

				ANATOL 
		Going?

				MAX 
		Yes, I...

				ANATOL 
		Do you mind if I don't see you out?

				MAX 
		Of course not.  

				CORA 
		Goodbye, Max!  

Cora winks at Max as he leaves the sitting-room.

								CUT TO:

INT.  THE FRONT ROOM - NIGHT

A moment later.  Max crosses the tasteful little room to the front door. 
Franz helps Max on with his coat.

				MAX  
		What do you think, Franz?

				FRANZ  
		About what, sir?

				MAX  
		Lies told under hypnosis. Are they any better 
		than the usual ones?  Anatol says lies make 
		people happy.  So does it really matter at all?  

Franz and Max look at each other a moment, then observe Anatol and Cora 
kissing in the next room.

				MAX 
		I guess it doesn't.  

Max and Franz exchange smiles.

				MAX 
		Good night.

Max exits.  Franz shuts the door behind him and walks off.  On a little table
by the door lie the books that Cora bought earlier that evening.  The book 
on top is the one called "Fairy Tales".

									FADE OUT








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