11c 1964 THREE HUSBANDS
dear friends, thank you for coming. Would you like something
you got anything to eat?
fear it is my sad duty to inform you of a tragic event that
struck the world at 5.42 a.m. yesterday, Eastern Standard
She has just left the world of the living, and passed away
to the realm of the Dead. She died peacefully in her sleep
in her house in Manhattan, New York. We have lost her.
have lost her, Walter. Speak for yourself. You have lost her,
because you are still alive. We, the Dead, we have won her
back . Now she is finally ours for ever! Isn't that right,
is not the moment to crack your tasteless jokes, Franz. Her
body is still warm and you're already mouthing off about her.
Who was joking? I was simply stating facts. Alma is going
to join the two of us, while Mr. Walter Gropius will have
to wait another five years before he can have the pleasure
of resting a few moments in peace at her side, if she will
allow him to do so .
Franz, will you?! I wonder if she'll allow you to rest even
a few seconds at her side.
FRANZ I will
bet a case of Cognac Napoleon XO that I'll be the first one
she embraces when she arrives.
I were you, I wouldn't make that bet.
stop it! When's the funeral going to take place? I want to
prepare the Angel's choir for the occasion.
think the funeral procession will start off at four o'clock.
on, hold on, why did you say if you were me you wouldn't make
you want me to tell you what Alma said about you?
did you meet her?
February 1919, It was shortly after the end of World War I.
mean, when she was still married to you.
But we were living separately already. It was two years or
so after the beginning of your love affair.
call it an affair. It was the beginning of a great love that
lasted more than twenty-five years, until my death.
on, Franz, you're a poet, but don't get carried away by big
words. We're talking about real life. We're talking turkey,
as you lot like to say.
did she tell you about him? I can't wait to hear it.
yeah. Just no Jewish impetuosity.
does he mean by that?
FRANZ I never
it probably means the opposite of Arian boredom ...
came to ask me for a divorce. We met in a tiny, romantic wine-cellar
FRANZ A tiny,
romantic wine-cellar? What rubbish...
are no tiny, romantic wine-cellars in Vienna. what was it
never met you to ask you for a divorce.
She sent you a letter. I helped her write it. I used to do
all her correspondence back then, you know? And you sent her
a divorce by mail. .
if you refuse to hear what she said about you, you probably
know why. But that's your business.
we finally hear what she said about you without interruptions,
it makes you feel good to listen to a piece of gossip, in
which every line is a pack of lies - enjoy.
you. (To Walter) What did she say about him?
set there in a dark corner of the tavern. Alma was sipping
in a wine cellar...?!
was getting drunker and drunker. And in the dim magical light
of the tavern she whispered to me that I was probably wondering
what she had been doing with you all the years when you had
been her lover, when you had been constantly
I don't want to go into too much detail just now.
she admitted that, if truth be told, she herself didn't know,
besides the fact that you had the advantage of being much
younger, the aura of an aspiring poet, and the great need
to be loved, admired
adored, respected, idolized
cut the shit! I'm warning you!
that you had a grandiose, sweeping ambition to achieve some
status you had not yet achieved .
won't listen to this rubbish anymore.
Franz, Franz! I know, the truth is hard to bear. But it's
the same for all of us, isn't it? What's the matter with you,
Franz? After all, we're all in the same boat. We all had that
grandiose, sweeping ambition to achieve some status we hadn't
yet achieved . This is what made us so desirable to Alma.
That is what attracted her to you as too, Walter, isn't it?
the truth. The naked truth. You've seen through it exactly,
my friend. It wasn't us as Men, but simply as creative events.
As shots of art.
that means nothing?
was our drive, our driving ambition that turned her on and
set her ablaze. That got her worked up. We were energy donors.
And sperm donors too, of course (laughs).
know that she said almost the same thing about you, Walter.
the hell do you mean? Are you crazy?!
After I discovered your little, unimportant love affair with
her - which wasn't hard, after all - (to Franz:) You know,
he sent his declaration of love to me instead to her, that
Arian smart-ass. - She swore to me that it wasn't you that
made you so irresistible to her, but that pushy streak, that
pulsing desire for advancement. That made you irresistible,
nothing else. I couldn't believe it, and asked her what else
was it you had which made her respond to your overtures, and
she didn't know what to say. She didn't have an answer. She
didn't have an answer! She asked herself time and again -
and in my presence - : "What the hell made me love Walter
Gropius, follow him like a puppy dog when he called suddenly
at inconvenient times, asking me to come to see him at some
third rate hotel, syphilitic hotels with rooms to rent by
the hour, public toilets, or in some tiny cramped sleeping
car, on a train from Munich to Paris? Shameless, with no dignity.
Humiliating, disgraceful and primitive.
you crazy?! She never told you that, never! She'd have known
the answer, believe me!
she knew the answer. Her answer was quite clear: " I
don't know. Frankly, I don't know. I don't know. I don't know."
bloody bitch, the goddamned liar! That evil spirit of hers!
I don't know. I don't know. I don't know
knew it. I should never have gotten involved with her!
wrong, Walter? I thought it was so beautiful and wild and
passionate! What makes you so mad all of a sudden? So furious?
Is that little grain of truth that so unbearable to you?
truth? What truth? Alma and Truth! Oh! These are two parallel
lines that will never intersect .
lines cannot intersect one .
say never again!
is a born liar. It's her religion! If she happens to say a
word of truth, it's either accidental or a mistake. The few
years I lived with her polluted my life with so many lies!
It's like a cancer gnawing away at the most intimate tissues
of my soul.
exactly are you talking about?
talking about her deceptions, her subterfuges, her eternal
bargaining, her frivolity, the tears she shed too easily,
her capriciousness, her impudence, her verbosity, , her forgetfulness,
her unkindness, her ingratitude, her ability to say two contradictory
things in the same breath, her shifting moods, her pretensions
and arrogance, her pride and false modesty, her base submission,
her garrulousness and love of gossip, her readiness to exploit
all possible means in order to achieve her aims. Her irrationality
, lack of remorse, ability to pamper and delight you in intimate
moments and than to slander you in public.
All the lies and half-truths, all the tricks and intrigues
this woman concocted to bind us to her, all the horse-trading
she engaged in to keep us for herself, until her rose had
lost all its petals and the thorns fell out of her mouth like
rotten teeth! Her ruthlessness, her scrupulousness, her amorality,
the tears she shed oh so easily, her impudence and love of
gossip, her thoughtlessness whenever she wounded anyone, her
resentment of all other members of her sex, her joy in evil,
her ingratitude, her gift of talking so smoothly when she
meant something different, and all that in one sentence, in
sordid craving for all that is filthy and forbidden, her vulgarity,
her willingness to devote all her energies to reaching any
goal she was fixated on , , coupled with a complete absence
of logic and reason, infused with a complete absence of any
trace of regret over her misdeeds, and yet she could hug and
caress us, spoil and pamper us for that one precious moment,
for that tiniest instant of eternity - before emasculating
us, disowning us and utterly betraying us in public.
Walter, wonderful! Hey, Gustav, I'll put that in verse and
you can compose the score.
could make a wonderful aria. I have a name for the Opera:
"The Ultimate Woman"! "La Ultima Donna!"
We could sing it, the three of us! We could make a second
singing, improvising an operatic aria:)
Her devices, deceptions, ,
Her capricious misconceptions,
Her base submissions,
Her shifting moods
Lack of remorse
Her endless thirst for intercourse---
should have become a poet. Or a singer. Or a composer.
forbid . (Bangs on a table) Now stop it! You should be ashamed,
the two of you.
the matter? Have we done anything wrong? Have we said anything
that is not true?
to you, I was wondering if you were talking about Alma, the
real human being, or about some monster that has nothing to
do with the Alma I knew and loved.
Please, tell us about the Alma you knew and loved! Maybe we
found in Alma the opposite of all the qualities you listed.
The Alma I knew was a suffering lover.
not so surprised by your negative attitude, Walter. After
all, first she betrayed you with Kokoschka, then with our
dear Franz. It must be very painful for you to discover you
were the only one of us Alma never loved.
do you know?
I tell you in detail what she had to say about you, Walter?
was the first one who made her feel like she was a woman.
And that happened when she was still married to you, my good
So how come she found you so boring after such a short time
found me what?
she told you too ?
course she did. Very often.
exactly did she say?
wasn't much to say. She said that she found him tiresome,
not very stimulating, uninteresting, tedious, dreary, monotonous,
repetitive, sometimes even irritating with his obsessive German
punctiliousness. You see, she was spoiled by both of us, you
have to understand that.
you a complete idiot?!
said that she could barely spend two hours with him without
being at a loss for what to say or do.
and a half ...
put it in a nutshell: as a lover you were no Kokoschka, and
as a spirit you were no Gustav Mahler.
understand that in you she found a combination of the two.
could say so.
me, haven't you got a mirror at home?
got several. But I don't look in them.
let me tell you this: she said that as a man, you were far
from handsome. She said you were a rat ...
and a sinking ship combined. I know that. I never tried out
for any beauty contests.
me tell you a secret, you incognito Adonis: I was happy to
get rid of her. Happy and relieved! It was like a redemption.
I was lucky that you came around, and Alma took you for her
FRANZ I was
not her pet.
boy, you were, and how. Her little Jewish pet.
gave herself to me with total abandon, in a way she never
did with any of you! I can prove it. It almost killed her!
Let me just say: Baby Martin. We made love, and she cried
and yelled: I am yours. Take me and do with me what
you want! Kill me! Kill me! My soul is yours! My body is yours!
what a soul! And what a body! Believe me Gustav: you should
have seen her five years after your death. You wouldn't recognize
her. She was no longer a beauty when she took Franz for her
next inamorato. Let's admit it. An overloaded frigate, with
that permanent sweet feeble smile on her surrogate vagina
and those eyes, dull and glassy from constant boozing!
just the sound jealousy rising from your throat.
took a magnifying glass to your latest picture with her, in
the newspaper. She is crushing you under her heavy paw. The
lower part of her body had grown terribly heavy. With the
years her face looked more and more masculine. Excuse me for
saying so, but you look like a tadpole being steamrolled by
can say what you want. It doesn't bother me. But there's one
thing you won't deny: When she loves you, she makes you love
yourself. She turns you into a different person. She makes
you believe in yourself. And all of a sudden your life feels
so full, so justified. She gives you the feeling that you
can achieve greatness.
you think you have achieved greatness.
is Alma who turned me into a famous artist! the only thing
missing was the Nobel Prize. If I hadn't met her, I would
have written another few poems, and then sunk into oblivion.
It is Alma who made me discover my inner resources . She made
made you? Made you what?
thanks to her that I've become a world-renowned novelist,
a popular playwright and a very successful script-writer in
a brief moment possibly. But your fame didn't last very long.
do you mean?
fame didn't outlive you, Franz. Let's face reality. You wrote
two or three best-sellers. You were a decent writer. But you
were never a poet. Never. Except maybe in your early poetry.
And she knocked all that out of you, didn't she?
before murdering another piece of you with her music.
Erkennende, I know. A dreadful piece. - But best-sellers
are no more than products of fashion. They fade away with
the changing trends, like worn-out shoes that were stylish
yesterday but already ridiculous today. Maybe Dante's "Divine
Comedy" didn't sell as well as "The Song of Bernadette",
but everyone's still reading it.
the hell reads Dante?! Who?! And none of your ridiculous houses
are left standing either.
the factories are still there.
just not producing anything any more ..
Of the three of us, the only one to attain greatness has been
Gustav Mahler. And he doesn't owe it to Alma.
me disagree with you. If you knew what my first years in Vienna
felt like... I arrived from a small town in Bohemia... A young
Jewish aspiring musician... when I landed in Vienna, I felt
buffeted in the wind like a leaf ripped off a huge tree in
a dense forest... I was three times a stranger: as a Bohemian
among Austrians, as an Austrian among Germans, and as a Jew
everywhere in the world. That was how I came to settle here,
in Vienna, a displaced individual who didn't know whether
he belonged there or here, starting over again from scratch,
alien to my country, even as I yearned to be one of the builders
of its culture. its strong people and their gentile customs,
dances and songs remained alien to me. And when I went for
long walks in the countryside, and saw its young peasants
working in the fields, shedding their shoes and shirts, exposing
their chests and linking their strong arms with the arms of
girls who rolled up their skirts over their thighs up to the
curves of their buttocks , and they stamped their bare feet
in their dances, I stood there abashed, observing this outburst
of youth, not daring to remove my shoes and expose my pink
feet... my soul longed for this freedom and release, but I
lacked the courage to cast myself into the turbulent waters
of another race . Yet my soul knew it belonged there, it wanted
to belong there, it had to belong there! - And then one day
there was Alma. Alma with her prominent cheekbones under her
slanting, green eyes, her thick hair flowing in waves over
her shoulders, and that flame burning inside her, and the
life bursting out of her, and her love of life, lust for life,
and the curves of her muscular calves and the shapely marble
pillars of her thighs revealed for a moment as she twirled
around in the dance--- ecco femina! This is Life! This is
the young, everlasting life, wild and daring, seductive and
dangerous, that I yearned for with all my being! She was Life
for me. Through her beautiful, supple body, but even more
through her fierce soul and noble free spirit, I finally succeeded
in establishing a connection with the place and the time I
lived in, and each time I made love to her I was making love
to the universe! And that was my salvation, my key, my connection
to this strange, unattainable, dangerous and fascinating world.
The Alma motif of Mahler's 6th Symphony explodes from the
sound system and its strains fill the air. Gustav sings the
melody with great enthusiasm. Franz and Walter observe him
with amazement and awe.
to interrupt you, Gustav, but I think it's time. We have to
go. Otherwise we'll miss the best part. I don't want to end
up standing in the third row! Let's go!