When I started to write the screenplay for The Winter of Love (formally ‘A Quiet Desperation’) I was looking for not just story in the classical sense but I wanted to create a visual language that the film could inhabit – something that was truly its own language; body and soul.
Rumi’s famous saying of “it takes the raw to know the ripe” kept coming to mind. Although it was something that I had read 15 years prior to putting pen to paper, visually this image really stayed with me because you knew its essence was pain coupled with joy. I wanted to be able to illustrate that sense through framing; through the use of prime lenses; in the editing; the lighting; through its essential movement and with as little dialogue as possible.
Shammi’s (played by Shiv Grewal) world of prostitutes, memories and the need to get away all added to how the film naturally came together: to that of a non-linear structure. At the time of writing and indeed the final release, very few films were so structured. Now, I am pleased to say that the ‘non-linear’ has become a style in its own right that audiences have embraced.
Below is an extract from the screenplay of The Winter of Love, it is one of my many favourite ‘Shammi’ moments that the character traverses. The scene appears almost half way into the film:
INT. BROTHEL – NIGHT — PRESENT
Shammi enters a terraced house. A MAN stands at the bottom of the stairs, blocking it. As he walks up to the man, Shammi takes out some cash and hands it to him. The man counts the money and puts it in his pocket.
The end bedroom, upstairs. 30 minutes only. Understand? Understand?
Shammi nods his head, swaying. The man lets Shammi past, clicking his stop watch. He observes him walk up the stairs, pushing Shammi up as he sways, loosing his balance, then pulling himself along the banisters; we then see Shammi walking along a dark corridor pushing against the black and red of his surrounding, grappling with broken plaster on the walls for support.
INT. BROTHEL – DERELICT ROOM — NIGHT
Shammi stands in a trance looking at a PROSTITUE. The back of the prostitute’s legs cut through the frame and we see Shammi through her legs. He slowly starts to undo his trousers and the prostitute starts to swing her hips. Seductive music blares out of the speakers. Shammi as if in a trance, undoes his trousers as the prostitute gyrates to the music.
A crash-zoom brings a terrifying sound of a woman screaming.
FLASH CUT TO:
INT. FOOT TUNNEL — DAY
A very young Shammi and Yasmin walk hand in hand, through a back-alley leading to a tunnel.
Unknown to them, three men are waiting.
As they near the foot tunnel, one of the men grabs Shammi and throws him to the ground. Another throws Yasmin to the ground. He starts to kick her in the stomach.
EXTREME CLOSE ANGLE – Yasmin lies on the floor — boots fly into the frame, stamping and kicking her head.
Shammi tries to fight the two men off, and in his confusion he doesn’t see how badly Yasmin has been hurt. She lays on the ground, still and lifeless.
The three men run off.
As Shammi tries to get up, he sees that Yasmin unconscious.
He calls out to her. When she doesn’t respond he screams. The scream continues blending into the darkness.
EXT. SOUTHALL BROADWAY – NIGHT – PRESENT
…Shammi running, to escape the memory, the screams and away from the prostitute.
INT. SINGH RESIDENCE – UPSTAIRS CORRIDOR — DAY
All the doors are closed; with bolts and hooks – it’s deeply melancholic, almost haunted.
Originally published in the About Film Blog.