Mr. Sleeman Is Coming (1957) - full transcript

Herr Sleeman kommer (Mr. Sleeman Is Coming) is a 1917 one-act play by the Swedish author Hjalmar Bergman. The main character is an orphaned young woman who is about to be married off to an unappealing but rich old man, Mr. Sleeman, at the instigation of her aunts who have taken charge of her. Bergman infuses the situation with overtones of rueful pessimism concerning life in general.

Mr Sleeman Cometh
by Hjalmlar Bergman

- Imagine what happiness...
- You can say that again.

- At such a tender age.
- Just a child.

- Sister Bina, what about if we...
- What?

If we should ask him to wait a year.
She's so young.

A girl is never to young to be happy.

But we've seen examples of those
who are too old.

- Alas, yes...
- A year is a long time.

- You never know what can happen.
- No.

There are many temptations for
a girl. Sister Mathilda for example.

- Don't talk about it.
- Then don't bring it up.

- Shouldn't it be four cups?
- I told you three cups.

- And the best set?
- The best.

- She's so curious.
- She's got every reason to.

Here, sister Mina,
is the good fortune of Anne-Marie.

Yes. Imagine, in a small envelope.
Let me see.

- And all types of cookies?
- Yes.

- But not too many.
- Three of each kind.

- What manly handwriting.
- He hasn't written it himself.

- Hasn't he written it himself?
- No, he's got writer's cramp.

In his position, he doesn't
need to write anything.

Only his name,
and he does that with a rubber stamp.

- And that other thing?
- What other thing?

- His legs.
- That's another illness.

Well, he doesn't need to walk much
by himself.

Are we drinking coffee in
the drawing room on a weekday?

And the best set and all sorts
of cookies. Someone's visiting.

You're right. Someone's visiting.

- Tonight?
- That wouldn't be appropriate.

- A man at this hour!
- Is it a man?

A gentleman. Pour it up.
Two lumps for me, please.

- Three for me.
- Do I know him?

Could be... Yes, you've seen him.

And you've heard us praise him.

He used to be your mother's guardian
and only support.

- So it's an elderly gentleman.
- Middle-aged.

- Without him, your mother...
- What's his name?

- Mister Sleeman.
- There, now you know.

Yes, I remember him, Aunt.

She remembers him.
A good sign.

Wasn't it he who walks like this?

Don't make fun of those who are ill.

- Is he ill?
- Not ill, but sickly.

- Poor him.
- So he needs support and care.

- He writes to us...
- The coffee's getting cold.

- We're drinking to your happiness.
- So we are.

- You're so funny tonight.
- Here's to you.

- I'll read his letter to you.
- Is it about me?

Yes, it's about you.

"Highly esteemed Miss Bina.
Honoured Miss Mina. "

- "Honoured" he wrote.
- "Esteemed" is equally good.

"As a reply to your letter
of the 28th of May",

"I'm informing you that I've duly
considered your complaint".

I wrote and explained how badly off
we were.

He replied: "Three persons won't live
royally on 1200 crowns,"

"even for decent elderly women
with small and decent pretensions. "

- But we're doing so well.
- Really? Don't interrupt me.

"But I've considered this
from all angles,"

"and see no possibility
of increasing your allowance. "


"It only remains to see whether
some of your costs can be lowered. "

"I think I have found a way. "

"You know well that my health
leaves much to be desired. "

"In these circumstances, I find
bachelorhood more oppressive. "

"I have therefore decided to find
a tender and faithful companion"

"for the remainder of my life. "

- Mina, can't your sighing wait?
- All right, I'll wait.

"I would like to announce"

"that I have chosen the unfortunate
daughter of Mathilda,"

"your niece, little Anne-Marie. "

- Why? He doesn't know me.
- Just wait.

"I have reached this decision
after lengthy considerations. "

"It's first and foremost based on"

"the photographic portrait
of your letter,"

"but also on the glowing testimonial
that Anne-Marie,"

"being an innocent young person,
still untouched by the world,"

"with a happy
and friendly disposition"

"in addition to being domesticated
and not without musical talent. "

You got this pretty testimonial
from Aunt Bina.

Thank nice Aunt Bina.

Thank you very much...

"At the same time as lifting
a heavy burden from your shoulders,"

"I thus realise my own plan"

"by inviting little Anne-Marie
to my household. "

But I'm fine here.
Do I really have to?

I'll re-read the sentence.

"At the same time as lifting a heavy
burden from your shoulders... "

Don't you want mr Sleeman
to lift this burden from us?

Yes, of course.
But what will I do at mr Sleeman's?

I understand your worries, child.

Maybe you think
that you'll be some kind of maid.

No, no... Listen to what
mr Sleeman writes:

"Already filled with
the warmest sentiments,"

"I hasten to meet my young bride
already tomorrow. "

Do you understand?

"From this day, I take responsibility
for all her expenses,"

"and in return hope to be received
in a friendly and happy manner. "

"I'm travelling
with the night train,"

"and will, barring anything
unforeseen, arrive at 8 o'clock. "

"In closing, I remain
your faithful servant,"

"J O Sleeman, county chairman. "

- Did he sign it himself?
- Yes, with the stamp.

- Aunt, it's eight!
- You little fool, it's tomorrow.

Imagine a fiancé
visiting at this hour?

- There are fiancés like that...
- Mina!

I'm off to see the sunset.

It's so beautiful above the forest.

Aunt Bina? Am I really
such a heavy burden?

Yes, my dear child.
Ever since your poor mother...

Aunt doesn't need to say more.
May I go to bed now?

Are you out of your mind?
Mina, she wants to go to bed.

- We have to discuss this.
- There's nothing to discuss.

- Mr Sleeman comes. That's all.
- Are you crazy?

What about the reception?

Do you know how to
greet someone like him?

- I take his hand.
- And shakes it?

Just like with that
green-clad person...

I've seen you...
But now that's finished.

Do you even know
what a county chairman is?

He is the highest official
in the county.

- Apart from the county governor.
- Is he really...

You don't seem to understand
what has come your way.

- Maybe not...
- He's infinitely above you...

Not that much above me and Mina.

Our father retired as a lieutenant.

- But your father...
- Spare me this!

No, since you don't seem
to appreciate how lucky you are.

Your father was just
an ordinary simple woodman.

- Maybe that's why I like the forest?
- Hardly!

You like the forest because
it's full of young hunters.

But if you don't watch out,
you'll end up...

- Bina, dear...
- What is it?

- This is a day of joy.
- Yes...

Or at least it should be.

In any case,
now you'll remove all the covers,

and then dust the furniture properly.

But don't stay up too long
so you go pale.

Mr Sleeman expects to find
a young radiant bride.

And now we have to think about
how to receive him.

Come, Mina. Don't stand there
and stare at the sun.

We should leave them alone
from the beginning.

- What do you say, Mina?
- No, Aunt!

Yes, we won't begrudge him
that little freedom.

After all, he's a mature man.

And Aunt Mina and I
have a little surprise...

You've ordered the flowers, right?

How could I forget?
The engagement bouquet...

Come, dear child.

Come and stand here by the sofa.
There, like that.

Mina will keep a look out
and tell us when he arrives.

You'll have plenty of time.
You'll hear his steps on the stairs.

He walks a bit slowly.

- Do you hear me?
- Yes.

Yes, I'll hear his steps on
the stairs. He walks a bit slowly.

You should stand like this

in a natural and spontaneous pose.

And then he'll knock. Mina, pretend
you're him and go out and knock.

The things that Bina come up with!

Don't stand lax like that,

Like that. Elegant, beautiful
and friendly.

That's more like it. Knock, Mina!

What do you say?

- Come in!
- Wrong.

"Please come in. "

At first, you can pretend
that you're surprised.

Then that will be transformed
into a smile of recognition.

And what do you do now?

No... Like this:

"You're immensely welcome,
mr Sleeman. "

That's it.

We'll put the letter here, so
he understands that you've read it.

That will make his proposal easier.

Now he'll take a few steps.

Say something, Mina. Make it up.

"My beautiful girl. "

You walk up to him.

Now. Like that...

You take his hand...


Should she kiss his hand? No.

That emphasises his age.

It's better that he kisses your hand.

You have to be extremely discreet.

And then you lift your hand.

But Bina, what if he kisses her
on the cheek or... on the mouth?

Shame on you, old girl!
To even think that.

Have you understood, Anne-Marie?

It takes a lot to catch a man.

Especially a man
with a prominent position

and a secure income.

We'll do it again tomorrow.

Make sure you remove the covers.
Mina, it's almost nine.

We mustn't look pale either.

Goodnight, dear child.

Just imagine that your happiness
gets closer by the minute.

Mr Sleeman is already on the train.

There. Goodnight, Mina.

You haven't forgotten
to put the flowers in water?

Then I'll say goodnight.

Aunt Mina, can I go to the forest?

- No, we'll have no more of that.
- Just tonight.

- Mr Sleeman comes tomorrow.
- Thank God for that.

Then I don't have to
take responsibility.

But once you're married,

you can be in the forest
as much as you like.

Then I might not feel like it.

That might well be...

Sleep tight. Dream about the forest.

"Dream about the forest... "

I have to get the covers off.

I can't look at the clock.

Poor me. Time just passes.

It passes. Mr Sleeman comes.

So this is where I'll stand.

I'll hear his steps on the stairs.

I've got plenty of time,
since he walks a bit slowly.

Then he knocks...

"Please come in. "

- Walther!
- Open up!

- I can't!
- Come out. The forest is beautiful.

The forest is beatiful... I can't,
Aunt Mina has locked the door.

It's over, Walter, it's over!

You must go. You must!

I'm going. But I'll be back!

are you talking to someone?

- Anne-Marie!
- She was speaking to someone.

She's talking to herself.

I was talking to Walther.
He asked me to come out.

- You do have the key?
- I've locked the door.

I don't think you're
watching over her properly.

As well as I can,
but thank God that Sleeman's coming.

Yes, thank God he's coming.

Just you...

Don't, Aunt. He's left, hasn't he?

- Make sure he doesn't return.
- Which way would he take?

You'll never know...

The linden stands green
The hunter gets his pay

In the forest...

Then I hear his steps...

He walks a bit slowly...

He knocks and then enters.

And then I'll do like this...

"You're infinitely welcome,
mr Sleeman. "

And then I walk up to him...

...and lift my hand like this.

Then he kisses my hand.

At exactly eight o'clock tomorrow!

Anne-Marie, Anne-Marie!

Open the window.

Look at the state of you, poor thing!

How did you get up on the roof?

I climbed like a cat.

It was easy. The fire ladder
reaches up to the roof,

Then I just climbed the ridge.
No problem.

You could do the same.

I'll help you, little Anne-Marie.
Come with me.

It's unbearable to sit inside.
Come, Anne-Marie.

What nonsense!
Me, with my wide skirts?

We'll make a bundle of the skirts
and throw them down.

I can't. For the sake
of my old mended stockings.

- No one will see them.
- I can't.

- I'm too heavy.
- I'll carry you.

I can't. I can't!

Because tomorrow,
at eight o'clock sharp,

- mr. Sleeman will come.
- Who's that?

You don't know him.
Come and sit over here.

No, over there.
So that I can see you.

- So it's beautiful in the forest?
- If you could only imagine.

There are lots of people out tonight.
It's a holiday.

Lots of people dancing
at the pavilion.

I'd rather be deep in the forest.
Only you and me.

- Why don't you do it?
- Because, because...

Tic-toc, tic-toc...

Tell me more. What else is happening?

A shooting range and
an old woman with talking parrots.

And best of all, a tame monkey.

- What can it do?
- A bit of everything.

It's dressed like a gentleman, and
does a stately walk on its hindlegs.

I know how it walks.
It walks like this:

- Walther!
- Anne-Marie!

Hush, we might wake them.

Come and sit over here. Like that.

I'll sit here,
and then you tell me something.

No, don't tell a story.
You have to say something to me.

- Say something!
- What shall I say?

- I'll go away, soon.
- Where?

Far away.

To a better family.

I'm so difficult.

I eat a lot and wear out clothes.

I'm a heavy burden for my aunts.

- I'd like to carry you.
- If only you could.

I'm so heavy.

But mr Sleeman can.

He's the most powerful
in the county, bar the governor.

- Then he must be old.
- Middle-aged.

He was very kind to Mother.

Mother was so unhappy.

Dad was just a woodcutter,
nothing else.

And Sleeman...
I don't know anything about him.

I just know that he's coming.

You have to hurry, Walther!

It just goes tic-toc...
You have to say something!

When I'm far away
with that nice family

I have to have something
to think about. Walther...

Look into my eyes. Properly.

Don't you see what you can say?

You have beautiful eyes.

That was nice,
but it wasn't that...

I hear his steps.
He walks a bit slowly.

What is it? Has anything happened?

Something happens each minute.

If you could only stop that.

That would be something,
to stop an old clock.

Its face looks so mean.
Is it stopped?

Until the end of time,
if no one starts it again.

You're so clever. So clever.

But you can't bear a burden
as heavy as this.

No, don't you try!

But say something instead.
Anything. Anything...

I love you, Anne-Marie.

Come and sit down.

I won't sit in your lap. That's ugly.

Like this, like I did before.

And say something more!

I'm so greedy, dear.
I want so much more.

You have to say something
almost as beautiful as just now.

- Don't you want to say anything?
- No, I can't say anything.

Nothing beautiful.

Then I'll say that Anne-Marie
is my dearest friend.

Without her I don't have any friends.

That sounded very beautiful.

And I'll say that Anne-Marie
is always on my mind.

And in my dreams when I sleep.

I wouldn't have thought of that.
Did you read that in a book?

- I'm reading my heart.
- More!

Only that...

...that I want to die the same day,
the same hour and second as you.

That sounded sad,
but very beautiful.

I'm so unhappy, little Walther.

If I start crying, I'll never stop.

Grief has many tears.

No, there won't be any tears.
Not this evening, not tonight!

I'll wait with my sighing.
Now I'll be happy.

Yes, damn it! Happy, little Walther!

Come, let's dance!
No, wait...

I want to dance alone. You've given
me so many beautiful things.

I've got nothing to say
to my beloved.

I'm too poor,
I've got nothing to give him.

I want to dance for my beloved.

I've never learnt how to dance,
but it'll be all right.

I'll curtsy, then take one step
and walk on tip-toe.

That's the way to my master's heart.
Then I'll turn round and round.

It feels like flying.

I'll fly far over the forest,
even though I'm heavy.

I can still fly.
Look at me, look at me!


Now age has caught up with me.
I'm a decent wife.


One step forwards, one step sideways,

and turns elegantly
in a pirouette.

I take one step... Step...

Do I hear his steps? Steps..?

He walks a bit slowly.

Anne-Marie... Come out with me.

Do you see the red glow over
the forest. Isn't it enticing?

Do you hear the music? No one
at the pavilion can dance like you.

You'll go in for free
since you're so beautiful.

It'll be my treat.
You'll see all the tents

and buy whatever you want.

And I'll get you a nice prize
at the shooting range.

I can shoot. Come, Anne-Marie.

- You're so poor, Walther.
- I've got money for tonight.

I've got two crowns and sixty ore.

That'll go far.

Far into the forest, there's no need
for money. I want to stay there.

You can stay all night.
That's several hours.

Many minutes, many seconds...

What do we care
who arrives at eight tomorrow?

Come, take me, Walther!
I'm so heavy.

Carry me far even though I'm heavy.
Far into the forest.

My poor boy, my friend...

My beloved, heart of my heart...

You'll say it a hundred, a thousand
times far into the forest.

The beautiful thing you said.

It'll sigh in my ears
like the trees in the wind.

It'll sigh in my ears
for the rest of my life.

I don't want to hear anything else.

"Infinitely welcome, mr Sleeman. "



- Bina, Bina.
- What is it?

Where is Anne-Marie? Get up!

Come here.

- She's not in her bed.
- I heard her just now.

She can't be far away.

Mina. What is this?

Look, it's a feather!

Has there been a bird in here?
The window's open.

You're in on this.
You've helped them.

No, my dear. I've lived 60 years
without adventure,

and I'm not about to start now.

- Witch!
- That'll teach us.

- If mr Sleeman hears of this...
- He doesn't.

- Do we say nothing?
- We haven't got the right.

- Isn't it our duty?
- And destroy her future?

- Old bag.
- Different folks...

If she's not here when he arrives...

She'll be here at seven.

- Old bat!
- Eight at the latest.

The linden stands green
The hunter gets his pay

In the forest...

Please come in.

You're infinitely welcome,
mr Sleeman.

Miss Anne-Marie...

Have you perchance read my letter?


- Maybe you carry it with you?
- No, I've lost it.

Lost it..?

I lost it in the forest.

But it's in any case
read and considered..?

What do you say about my decision?


Does that mean that

you will comply with mine
and your aunts' wishes?


Come, dear child.

I'm somewhat tired after my journey.

You exceed all my expectations.

Is anyone listening?

No one.

Then it's a good time
for me to declare myself.

I love you, Anne-Marie.

Maybe it seems odd that I say it
at our very first meeting,

but you have already been
in my thoughts for a long time.

Both in the day during my work,

and in the night, in my dreams.

I want you to be my dearest friend,

without whom I have no one.

How beautiful.
Have you read it in a book?

I only read my heart.

- Do you know anything else?
- What remains to be said?

I want you by my side
for the rest of my life.

I want to die the same day,

the same hour,
the same second as you.

That sounded beautiful,
but very sad.

And what do you say?

I'm so happy...

...but if I start crying now,
I'll never stop.


Anne-Marie, are you crying?

Fret not, my ladies.

Happiness has its own tears.

The End