Getting Emily – Script

EXT.CEMETERY DAY

MELANIE YORK, 20, meanders through a deserted, sunny cemetery reading the inscriptions on the graves with a distracted, slightly amused air about her.  The bag casually slung over her shoulder contains coffee in a flask, chocolate cup-cakes, and an ipod with a tiny speaker.  The cemetery is epic in scale Victoriana, and it is spring-time, with all the contrast of new life and old death for the camera to slake its thirst on.

INT.LODGE HOUSE

The cemetery’s groundskeeper, KATHERINE GREENSLADE, watches Melanie through the curtains of the lodge house.

KATHERINE

Must be Tuesday then. Always on her own. Queer fish, she is. College girl, I expect.

KATHERINE’S HUSBAND

(who we’ll never see)

Little Miss midriff?

KATHERINE

Not today she’s not.

EXT.CEMETERY DAY

Melanie drifts among the graves, sensuous, confident and profoundly alive.  She is curious of the mournful faces of the stone angels, and imitates them.  She runs her fingers over a grave-stone as she passes, pauses to read an inscription.  Her time is her own.

Finally she stops and leans up against a plinth, looking at one grave in particular.

WE SEE OVER KATHERINE’S SHOULDER.

KATHERINE

The Davison grave.  Must be one of them thar feministy types.

Melanie throws a blanket over the raised plinth, sits on it, sets up the tiny speaker on the gravestone attached to the i-pod, and presses play.

IPOD

“Women have not had the political experience that men have, and, on the whole, do not want the vote, and have little knowledge of, or interest in, politics. Politics would go on without the help of women, but the home would not.”

As it plays Melanie pours her coffee.  When it finishes she presses play again, and as the next quote plays she looks about her with a quietly mischievous sense of expectation.

IPOD

As a doctor, I can never lose sight of the fact that the mind of woman is always threatened with danger from the reverberations of her physiological emergencies. It is with such thoughts that the doctor lets his eyes rest upon the militant suffragist. He cannot shut them to the fact that there is mixed up with the woman’s movement much mental disorder.

A FEMALE VOICE, (ITS OWNER UNSEEN)

So it must be tuesday.

MELANIE

(Smiles – she’s here…)

Yep

THE VOICE

Chocolate cup cakes.  For lunch?  Nice?

MELANIE

(looks at her cake,and smiles)

Lovely.

Nice day too.  The trees are all sparlking with the wet of the rain.  Beautiful.

(As the next quote is delivered,The owner of the voice is revealed behind Melanie, as Melanie moves to lie on the plinth, with her hands supporting her head.

IPOD

“The Queen is most anxious to enlist every one who can speak or write to join in checking this mad, wicked folly of ‘Woman’s Rights’, with all its attendant horrors, on which her poor feeble sex is bent, forgetting every sense of womanly feeling and propriety”

THE GHOST OF EMILY

(pale, grey, dressed in period costume, and slightly ethereal, but not sinister, just clearly of another age.  Her eyes are closed, and she looks sorrowful, statuesque and introspective, like the angels on the graves we’ve already seen.)

EMILY

Our own queen…I’m here now – why stoke me up further?

MELANIE

You’re not looking.

Emily opens her eyes and looks around.  As she does so, Melanie closes hers.

her pov – the sky, the breeze in the trees, flowers growing and cut.

EMILY

It’s sad. A garden of death. How sad, to cut flowers and leave them here to die.

MELANIE

It’s gorgeous.  It makes me feel more alive, to be reminded that one day I’ll be dead.

WE SEE OVER KATHERINE’S SHOULDER. (NO EMILY, OF COURSE.)

KATHERINE

Lying on the grave, talking to herself.  Weirdo.

KATHERINE’S HUSBAND

If everyone who came here apparently talking to themselves were locked up for being weird, who’d change the flowers?

KATHERINE

She’s a weirdo.

KATHERINE’S HUSBAND

Hmm.  No Midriff on show, and cake.  Normally it’s sandwiches, with brown bread.

KATHERINE

Tch.  You and your theories.  You’re a man obsessed.

KATHERINE’S HUSBAND

And how often am I right?

KATHERINE

Not this time. I bet you the dishes for a week.

MELANIE

I heard on the radio that Tibetan monks are setting themselves on fire to protest the occupation of their homeland.

EMILY

(Nods)  There will always be a gap between the way things are and the way they should be.

MELANIE

But plugging that gap with the bodies of those who can see the difference?  Has that ever made any sense?

EMILY

You have a visitor.

(Katherine is walking towards them.)

MELANIE

(Irritated at being interrupted)

Joy.

KATHERINE

Must be Tuesday.

MELANIE

It is.

(She sits upright and lights a cigarette, and offers one to Katherine, who gives a no and a disapproving look all at once.)

KATHERINE

I see you here.  Every Tuesday.

MELANIE

You here every day?

KATHERINE

I’m the caretaker here.  I live in the Lodge over there, by the gate.

MELANIE

Creepy.  Ever see any ghosts?

(Emily smiles, amused.)

KATHERINE

I see a lot of squirrels and crows.  Sometimes they spook me – make me jump, you know?

Are you…pregnant?

MELANIE

(Somewhat surprised, but  with a  melodramatic affectation)

Yes.  I am with child.

KATHERINE

Damn.  How old are you?

MELANIE

Old enough to vote.

KATHERINE

And is that why you come here? Because Emily died for that cause? She was a very brave woman.

(Melanie rolls her eyes and smiles to Emily, who seems slightly conspiratorial with Melanie in contempt of this canard.)

MELANIE

Well, absent of fear, definitely.  But also… foolhardy.

KATHERINE

and smoking while you’re pregnant is an act of genius, right?  So why do you come?

(KATHERINE SITS NEXT TO MELANIE, GIVING US AN OPEN 2 SHOT WITH EMILY IN THE BACKGROUND BETWEEN THEM)

MELANIE

To gift her the smell of the coffee.  Because I’m like her.  And I want to be the opposite of her.

EMILY

She’s angry, you see.

(Melanie shoots her a look of disapproval.)

EMILY

(to Melanie)

She can’t hear me.

MELANIE

(To Katherine)

Can you hear her?  Close your eyes, and listen for her…she’ll tell you about me, but really she’ll be telling you about herself.

EMILY

She’s frustrated.  She sees injustice everywhere she looks and it infuriates her, and she’s powerless to stop it.  And the people who do have power laugh at her anger and frustration.  And that makes her even more angry.

KATHERINE

That’s very clever.  It sounds like a completely different voice.

And it sounds like it’s coming from over there a little too.

Are you at the University?

MELANIE

(nods)

Politics and Philosophy.

(She rubs her tummy)

This is my PhD project.

KATHERINE

(looks non-plussed.)

MELANIE

I think it’ll be my best and most creative work.

How could it not be?

But you’re right.  I shouldn’t be smoking.  That’s a modern “should”, isn’t it?   The tyranny of the expectation of other people.  That map we’re given with all the “should” marked on it. These days it’s “you should go to University and then get a good job.”  And is today’s map any more accurate than the one they gave her a hundred years ago?  All the “should” that they bombarded her with.  And all the “should” she fought back with.  What a waste of… passion.

(Melanie blows smoke toward the grave marker)

Doesn’t that strike you as being somewhat ironic?

KATHERINE

What?

MELANIE

“Deeds not words”.

KATHERINE

Why?

MELANIE

Because it’s an idea expressed in words, meaning that there are things more important than words.

EMILY

She knows what it means.  And so do you.

KATHERINE

It just means… you have to stand up for what you believe in.

EMILY

See?

MELANIE

Actually, it means you have to fight for what you believe in.  Standing up is rarely enough.  But how to fight, that’s the thing, isn’t it?  Nice day, don’t you think?  What’s your name?

KATHERINE

Katherine

MELANIE

Melanie

What do you believe in, Katherine, that you would be tortured and die for?  Try to tell me using no words.  You could try mime.

KATHERINE

She wasn’t tortured.

(Again Melanie glances conspiratorially to Emily)

MELANIE

She don’t know you vewy well, do she?

Emily shrugs a “what can you do” sort of shrug.

MELANIE

She went through hell.  And she brought it on herself.  She was sent to prison, where she went on hunger strike. Lots of the suffragettes did that.  And how did the Government deal with such a suffragette?  She’d be strapped down and force fed down her nose through a rubber tube.    They’d keep her in jail until she got too weak, then release her, just in case she died while in the prison’s care. Bad PR, you see. Then as soon as she got better, she’d be re-arrested.

KATHERINE

I didn’t know that.  That sounds strangely harsh.

MELANIE

The state is made out of harsh stuff.

EMILY

We achieved what we set out to do.

MELANIE

Hear her?  She thinks her efforts made the difference.  Actually.  The war made the difference.  It would have happened anyway.

Shhh – close your eyes again – let’s see if we can get you to see her.

(to Emily)

You think if I pushed hard enough right now this baby would show up and do a little dance?  Some processes can’t be rushed.  You have to nurture them, you have to be patient. You let the powers that be own your mind with their rules, their ideas.  And you knew better. You were eloquent.  You could have spoken.  You could written.  You could have lived.

EMILY

And if I had, would you be here now?

I did what I thought was right.

MELANIE

Yeah.  Rebellion against tyrants is obedience to God.  But you believed what the tyrants told you. Die for your cause, and God will scoop you up with the Sunday School prize of a trip to heaven. So now you’re iconic for being run over by a horse.  Congratulations.  You’re a story-book character.  A freudian delight.  The innocent female who wants only justice for all, ravaged by the king’s sinewy monster, who wants nothing but selfish victory. .

EMILY

(Slightly pleased with this idea, and resigned to it at the same time.)

Beauty, slain by the beast.

KATHERINE

What do you believe in, Melanie?

MELANIE

Life.  Being alive… it’s awesome.

KATHERINE

You don’t think there’s anything worth dying for?

MELANIE

Sure.  Your children – but she didn’t have any. (She’s angry and contemptuous all at once.)

Emily’s face has once again become a mirror of one of the sorrowful angels.  Tears are gently rolling down her cheeks.

KATHERINE

Tch.  Such casual cruelty.

You’re angry with her –
like you’re family.
Like she was your sister.

MELANIE

Or like I was her mother.  Can you imagine, how heartbroken you’d be? If you loved her?  If she was your daughter?  Your angry little girl?

EMILY

So you want me to say sorry?  Is that it?

KATHERINE

Oh, my…

MELANIE

You see her, right?

KATHERINE

No.  I don’t see her.  Because there are no such things as ghosts.

MELANIE

Ah, you see her.  You know her.  You know how she should look. She’s all the sad faces of the angels here, dressed in the black of the crows.  And you know how she feels.  Men will be boys, so all emotion must be outsourced to women.  There’s not a single statue of a grieving man here.  The only emotion men are really allowed is the celebration of victory, and even that they resent sharing with us. And the most poignant twist of all – their war tipped the scales. Suddenly they needed more from us.   “Can you drive an ambulance, dear?  Build a plane?  Make munitions?  You can? Fancy that!  We thought you were just decorative items.”

She’s trapped with us, like an insect in amber.  She just can’t escape the perfection of the legend she’s preserved in.  The good princess from the big fairy tale.  Soulful, caring, love-lorn, melancholy, powerless, and when unfulfilled, suicidal.  Isn’t that right Emily?  Tell her.

(She stabs at the i-pod)

IPOD

“Give women the vote, and in five years there will be a crushing tax on bachelors!”

(This quote is met with a thundering set of hear hears and general snotty guffawing of the kind which can still be heard in the House of Commons today.  The laughter dissolves to the sound of the start of a horse race.  And now we see it too – the terrifying power of their many hooves churning up the turf as they explode into a gallop. We intercut their progress with the conversation and with snatches of abstract reconstruction of the events, and maybe shots of Melanie thoughtfully visiting the sites relevant to the story – her seeing the fantastic power of race-horses thunder by her, imagining what it must be like to try and run out in front of them.

MELANIE

A simple call for justice is just too dull to be noteworthy – everyone prefers a fairy tale.  Isn’t that right, Emily?  Tell her.

(Behind her Emily grows more vivid, more of our world, but at the same time she lapses into a manic reverie.)

EMILY

Derby Day. Then they’ll notice.

MELANIE

She never meant to kill herself.

EMILY

Their sport is their horizon.  And when it draws their eye…

MELANIE

She wasn’t suicidal.  She was as hungry for life as I am now.

EMILY

The King’s horse…

MELANIE

She goes to the headquarters of the Suffragette movement, and gets two banners.

EMILY

I’ll fix our standard to it. Fly our colours.  Everyone will know that we will not be silent until this… injustice is no more.

(WE SEE EMILY’S VISION OF HOW THE STUNT SHOULD PLAY OUT – A RACEHORSE IN SLOW MOTION WITH A VOTES FOR WOMEN SASH ATTACHED TO IT, BILLOWING MAJESTICALLY.)

MELANIE

She buys a return ticket, and catches the train to Epsom. A return ticket, mind you…she wraps one flag around her…

EMILY

We are sick of just…being ignored or ridiculed!

MELANIE

And moves to the front of the crowd.

EMILY

I was a torch!  Not there to be extinguished – to set light to a beacon on a hill!

Melanie’s story, Emily’s reverie and the reconstruction of her journey to the side of the track come together and Emily is struck by the horse.    Her look of fear as she realises they are upon her faster than she thought.  The sickening thump as they run her down, and her cry of anguish and pain as she understands it’s all gone wrong, mixed with the crowd’s anger at her intrusion into the race and their horror at the event, and this horror and anger noise dissolves back to the house of commons laughter where we started from.  The noise tails off to the birdsong in the cemetery, and we arrive at the scene just in time to see Emily become translucent and evaporate to nothing, leaving Katherine and Melanie in the empty graveyard.

MELANIE

She dies from her terrible injuries a few days later.  Never regains consciousness.  The movement has its martyr.  And they build the standard martyr’s tale around her without her input or permission. The simple, mawkish, children’s version, with the neat ending that ties it all up and makes it all perfect, and steps around the messy and complex business of being alive.

(She runs her fingers over the carved letters that spell out Emily Wilding Davison.)

MELANIE

Oh, Emily…   all they celebrate about you is your death.

(Melanie looks around the graveyard.)

That’s her whole act.  Her deed is done.  Her voice is gone.

In her little purse there was a ticket to a dance.  A dance Emily had told frends she was looking forward to.

Do you like to dance, Katherine?  I do.

KATHERINE

So you already know this baby’s going to be a girl, am I right?

MELANIE

(Nods)  And I already know what I’m going to call her.

We go wide to see the two women, and dissolve from spring to winter over several shots of the graveyard.  As we’re seeing this we hear a baby cry out, and its mother shushing it and talking to it softly using the over-modulated tones we reserve only for babies…

Shhhh…

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury

Signifying nothing.

Melanie walks alone into the empty shot with her newborn baby held tight to her.

“here she lies – Emily – that’s your name too isn’t it?  All significant tale, but no sound or fury.   And the tale is a tragedy.  A story that teaches us how not to be…”

INT.LODGE HOUSE

KATHERINE sees Melanie through the curtains of the lodge house.

KATHERINE

Well, look who’s back, who’s been away.

EXT, CEMETERY,

MELANIE

See? – “Deeds, not words” –
You have to fight for what you believe in.

Melanie kisses her baby, and smiles.

MELANIE

(Whispers conspiratorially to her baby, like it was a secret between them that Emily can’t hear.)

Not die for it though. (She stands)

Fight.

To win.

(Katherine arrives and Melanie walks toward her – Katherine is keen to see the baby, and Melanie hands her the baby in the sling so she can hold it, and she does this facing away from the grave, while Melanie is still facing it. Melanie sees Emily’s ghost appear just behind the gravestone, and they acknowledge one another as Katherine is admiring the baby.)

Emily makes a deep curtsey.

MELANIE

Nods, and crosses her heart.  (In that cross my heart and hope to die way that goes with a promise)

KATHERINE (In a 2 shot, looking from Emily’s perspective.)

Can I help?

(Melanie snaps out of a thoughtful trance, and behind her the graveyard background is suddenly the interior of a library.  She’s been in a queue waiting to return a book.)

KATHERINE (who’s the Librarian)

Someone walk over your grave?

MELANIE

Something like that.

(She puts her book, The Life and Death of Emily WD, down to be returned.)

KATHERINE

Inspirational?

MELANIE

Thought Provoking.

I might take riding lessons.

(MELANIE BACKS AWAY FROM THE COUNTER AS WE HOLD ON KATHERINE’S NON-PLUSSED REACTION, AND FINALLY TURNS JUST AT THE SPOT WHERE HER EXIT FROM FRAME ALLOWS US TO SEE HER MISCHIEVOUS SMILE.)

KATHERINE

Weirdo.

CREDITS

 

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