The Sheltering Sky (1990) - full transcript

The American artist couple Port and Kit Moresby travels aimless through Africa, searching for new experiences that could give new sense to their relationship. But the flight to distant regions leads both only deeper into despair.


terra ferma.

We must be the first tourists
since the war.

- We're not tourists. We're travelers.
- What's the difference?

A tourist thinks about going home
the moment they arrive, Tunner.

Whereas a traveler might not
come back at all.

You mean, I'm a tourist?

Yes, Tunner.

And I'm half and half.

12, 13, 14...

No profession?

Not that I'm aware of.

Madame is a writer.
Monsieur Tunner is a businessman.

My wife wrote one play, monsieur,
five years ago.

I thought it was wonderful,
but the reviews were guarded.

Mr. Tunner's only business
is giving dinner parties.

One at a time.

Monsieur, my husband's a composer.
He chooses to be modest today.

An artist.

How long will you be staying?

Mr. Tunner will stay
three to four weeks...

but my wife and I will stay on
for a year or two.

A year or two?

In this place?

That's it!

The Italians have agreed
to give women the vote.

We can take the train to Boussif.
From there we have to take buses.

You've been to North Africa.
Kit and I will just follow.

- My only plan is, I have no plan.
- Right.

Whatever you say.

Because neither Kit nor Port...

had ever lived a life of any kind
of regularity...

they had made the fatal error of
coming to regard time as nonexistent.

One year was like another.
Eventually, everything would happen.

I had a strange dream last night.

Port, please. Other people's dreams
are so dull.

I know it's boring, but I'll forget it
if I don't tell it. I was...

traveling on a train
which I realized was going to crash...

into a mountain made of sheets.

Consult Madame La Hueff's
Dream Dictionary.

Shut up.

I knew it was going to crash, but...

Why do you go on
when you know it's boring?

Maybe Tunner would like to hear it.
Would you?

Dreams are my cup of tea.

At some point...

I felt I could stop the crash if
I could only open my mouth and scream.

And then I realized it was too late
because I had reached up...

and broken off my teeth
with my hand...

as if they were made of plaster.

I started to sob.

Those kind of terrible dream sobs...

that shake you like an earthquake.

It's all right. Leave her.

Is she crying?

Kit has days when everything in the
world is a sign for something else.

A white Mercedes can't just
simply be a white Mercedes.

It must have a secret meaning
about the whole of life.

Everything is an omen.
Nothing can just be what it is.

I got them from the bellboy. He said
they belonged to General Montgomery.

I thought they might be Monty's.

Excuse me.

Are you staying at the Grand Hotel
by any chance?


Oh, good. I'm Eric Lyle. Hello.

I don't suppose you could lend me
20 centimes, could you?

I haven't enough change for a sherry.

- Thanks awfully.
- Eric!

You filthy toad!

What are you concocting?

Hello. I was
just going to buy cigarettes.

You wretched little liar!
You are imbibing!

You know what the doctor said.

- What, sweetie?
- Nothing.

Why did you tell your dream
in front of Tunner?

I was telling it to him.
As much as I told it to you.

I realize you think dreams are boring,
but good God!

Why do you have to take everything
so seriously?

- What is a dream?
- It's just that I don't trust Tunner.

- He's such a gossip.
- Tunner?

Who might he be gossiping to here?

Port, you seem to forget
we'll be back in New York someday.

We may, someday.

I don't care if he tells it
to the whole Eastern seaboard.

Who gives a damn?

And what do you mean,
you don't trust Tunner?

I never felt at ease with him.

You might have said that
before we crossed the Atlantic.

- You invited him.
- He invited himself.

We let him come.
You let him come.

Don't misunderstand me.

He's tall, he's very rich,
he's handsome...

I like him very much.

What does it mean,
you don't trust him?

- That must mean something.
- Of course I mean something.

It's just not important.

I'm going for a walk. Want to come?

No, thanks.

I'm really enjoying this room
after all that sea.

- I'm going for a walk. Want to come?
- No, thanks.

I'm really enjoying this room
after all that sea.

- I'm going for a walk...
- No, thanks.

What do you want to do?

Isn't it time for you to rub my tummy?

I know what you're thinking.

That's a nice scent. What do you mean
about not trusting Tunner?

Let's just not talk about it.

Okay, baby.

Anyway, Tunner is much more
your business than he is mine.


My name is Smail.

I was in the 5th Battalion
of sharpshooters.


I fought the war. Much people died.
Nothing to eat, that's all.

- You are sad.
- No, I'm tired.

You live a short time.
Have fun.

Yes, I know.

I will take you to a friend of mine.
A girl.


More than the moon.

- You mean a whore.
- A whore?

Come, monsieur, come.

See for yourself.

Monsieur, listen.


It is very late. Where are we going?

Down here. That's her tent.

Come, monsieur, come.

- Why don't you take off your shoes?
- No, thank you.

You pay her because you take up
her time. That's all.

Why are you whispering?

Because of the men in the other tents.

Her name is Mahrnia.

Stop it! Stop it!


- Who is it?
- Me.

Are you awake?

Not very.

It's the best time of the day.
You shouldn't miss it.

I'll be there in a minute, Tunner.

You all right?



- Hi.
- Hello, Tunner.

Are you holding a seance in here?

You're in a disgustingly good mood.

I'm looking at you.

Where was Port?
I waited up for him.

- You waited up for him?
- We had sort of a date at the cafe.

Then I read in bed until late.
He hadn't come in by 4:00.

Then he didn't sleep much.
He's gone out.

- You mean he hasn't come in yet.
- Will you order some petit dejeuner?

I'd like some of their awful coffee
and plaster croissants.


You're a very curious person.
It's hard to understand you.

Tunner, stop trying to be interesting.
On you, it looks terrible.

You're too good-Iooking.

Are you ready?

- I'm taking you shopping.
- Are you?

Yes, before it gets too hot.

Didn't you say you wanted to buy
a mosquito net?

That was yesterday.
I'm exhausted today.

I don't know what I want.

You dress.

I'll wait in Port's room.

I'll even shut the door.

Do you and Port ever share
the same room?

When you travel for months on end,
you have to set it up this way.

And the first rule of marriage is,
never confuse sex with sleep.

Besides, Port usually works at night.

You mean he snores. Or you do.

Bore, bore, bore.

May I come in?

Well, of course.

What happened to you?

- Port...
- What is that?

- It's Tunner.
- What's he doing in my room?

You know what, Kit?
I've decided that you need me.

He was just waiting for me
while I got dressed.

- Stop it. Stop it.
- Go ahead and finish.

Well, well.

- What the hell is all this mess?
- Back from the wars, eh?

And do you look it.

Kit and I were just going for a walk.

God, man, have you seen yourself?

Yes, I need some coffee. Would you two
get out of here and go on your walk?

See you later, old man.
Get some sleep.

Feel quite wretched today.

I suspect the malaria is coming back.

He looks just like
that young murderer...

that went about slicing up little
children. Remember?

I think the murderer, his appearance,
is more wholesome.

- What revolting water.
- Then don't drink it, you sissy.

I'm so tired of all your talk
about dirt and worms. Don't drink it!

Nobody cares either way.

They are both monsters.

She's a travel writer. Guidebooks.

But they own that Mercedes. And they
do happen to be driving to Boussif.

Oh, God! How awful!

We'll have to choose between tortures:
taking the train or driving with them.

I wouldn't suffer over the choice
before they give it to you.

- Great! Another omen.
- Oh, not again.


Yes, please, I would like...

yeah, kebab with some...

What was all that about with Tunner?
It looked as if he'd slept in my room.

I didn't want Tunner to know
that you hadn't been back last night.

- Is that objectionable?
- No, it's considerate.

Except you haven't said
why he was there.

You haven't said
what you did last night.

And you haven't asked me.

And I'm not going to.

I'm sure they're going to ask us.
And I'm terrified of trains.

I hate choices.

Rather than try to ease whatever
tension might rise between them...

she determined
to be intransigent.

It could come now or later,
that much- awaited reunion...

but it must be all his doing.

You were right. The young monster
woke me up.

He says they're leaving
in about an hour to Boussif.

And joy of joys,
they've asked us to join them.

I knew it.

It's much faster by car.
Probably 5 hours instead of 11.

Probably a lot safer too.
Certainly a lot more comfortable.

The trains are hellish.

- Why is it so dark out?
- It's not dark. It's beautiful.

There is one slight problem.

They can't take all three of us.

Well, that settles it then.
We can't leave Tunner.

What do you mean? He's not our guest.
We don't have to be with him, do we?

You don't have to, no.

You mean, you do?

I'm not leaving Tunner
to go off in that Nazi car...

with that redhead
and that criminal.

- Little criminal?
- He gives me the creeps.

But you can do exactly as you like.

I'm going on the train with Tunner.

Kit, you're terrified of trains.


But now I've made my mind up.

To go with Tunner?


Can you read in this light?

I'm just looking at the pictures.

I'm sorry. It's just that I get
very nervous on trains.

Now, listen...

I want you to forget about
all that stuff.

I am here to make sure
nothing happens to you.

They search our rooms, they steal
our things and they eavesdrop.

I'm sorry. Who does all this?

The Arabs! They are a stinking
low race with nothing to do but spy.

They hate us all. So do the French.
They loathe us most.

- I find Arabs very sympathetic.
- That's because they're servile.

- Once you turn your back...
- Once, in Mogadore...

Shut up! Who wants to hear
about your stupidity?

- Mother!
- How dare you speak to me like that?

You need a good smack on the face,
that's what you need.

How about some medicine
for the nerves?

Not champagne?

Oh, Tunner. Tunner!

- Just what the doctor ordered.
- We're saved.

- Port would have a fit.
- Yeah, well, Port isn't here.

Oh, look! A burro!

It reminds me of Spain.
That's a horrible country.

- Full of soldiers, priests and Jews.
- Jews?

They run the country, of course.

Only in Spain they call themselves,
"Catolico, Catolico!"

- No, we must make it last.
- Why?

Because it's magic.
It can stop a train.

Well, I've got lots of magic.

Is that a man singing?

Hard to tell.

Drink up.

- I think I was never meant to live.
- Now, Kit...

You're nervous.
It's why I got champagne.

Nothing's that important, you know?
Relax, take it easy.

- Who was it said...?
- No, Tunner!

No. Champagne, yes. Philosophy, no.

Gracious! Aren't we picturesque?

Yes, well, your presence
completes the portrait.

- Has your lovely wife arrived safely?
- Yes. She came in last night.

- But I haven't seen her. She's asleep.
- Of course.

We're off to Ain Krorfa tomorrow,

Apparently, there's
a fairly decent hotel there.

- Not as grand as this one, of course.
- Grand?

My dear Mr. Moresby,
this is positively luxurious.

They say it's the best hotel
from here to the Congo.

From now on, there's nothing
with running water.

Nothing at all.

Mr. Moresby?

Mind if I join you?

Pretty damn dull, isn't it, Boussif?

Even worse with Mother Lyle around.

I was wondering,
could you lend me something?

Just a little. Say 10,000 francs?

Five thousand perhaps?
As a loan, of course.

I'm not one of those stupid people who
think all Americans are millionaires.

It's just that my mother's mad.
She won't give me a penny.

So, what am I supposed to do?

Even 500 would keep me in smokes
for a fortnight.

I'd never get it back.
And I haven't got it to give away.

I can let you have 300 francs,
if that's any use to you.

I notice you smoke the local tobacco.
Fortunately, it's very cheap.

Oh, my God! Tunner!


Wake up!

- Wake up, Tunner!
- What? What is it?

- You're in my room!
- Hi.

- Hi. Get out of here.
- Jesus.

- What time is it?
- It's almost midday. I don't know.

What happened?
I can't remember anything!

- Tunner, I'll see you later.
- Yes, you will.

- Tunner! Any champagne left?
- What?

Champagne. I'm in a panic.

- Last one.
- Thanks.

Tunner, do I snore?

Snore? No.

- Hello.
- Hello.

Oh, Port and Kit
Oh, Kit and Port

I love you, Port and Kit

I love you, Kit and Port

- Will you trade me if my chain slips?
- No.

If Tunner didn't take such long
siestas, I'd never be alone with you.

I think he's in love with you.

- Port, don't be silly.
- Sillier things have happened.

The way he hangs around
making inane conversation.

The way he looks at you
when he fingers his DDT can.

What else?

- The way he counts your luggage.
- He counts yours too.

- It's not the same.
- Hey, look.

Someday they'll kick
the French out of this country.

Well, with trousers like that,
who can blame them?

Can you make it to the pass?

Hey, wait! Wait!

- Bye!
- Wait!


You know, I miss times like this...

places like this,
more than anything in the world.

I know you do.

And this is what I wanted to show you.
This place.


Come on.


the sky is so strange.

It's almost solid.

As if it were protecting us
from what's behind. Look.

What's behind?

It's nothing. Just night.

I wish I could be like you,
but I can't.

- Maybe we're afraid of the same thing.
- No. We're not!

You're not afraid to be alone.

And you don't need anything.
You don't need anyone.

You could live without me.

You know that, for me,
loving means loving you.

No matter what's wrong between us,
there can never be anyone else.

Maybe we're both afraid
of loving too much.

Let's leave here.



Pearl Harbor, Tunner.
We're being attacked!


Well, that's it then. On to Messad!

Can't stay here a week. I'll be dead.

Good morning.

Good morning.

My God!

What are all these flies?

Welcome to Ain Krorfa!

It does have a smell
all of its own, doesn't it?

Do you think Port suspects something?

I think he knows.

But he doesn't know that he knows.

What is that song?

I keep hearing it.

"I am weeping on your grave."

I am weeping for my gin and tonic.

But according to Port,
one eventually gets used to anything.

If that were true,
it'd be the end of progress.

It's true. I just don't know
whether it's good or bad.


This may be the only hotel in town...

but I can do better at the market.


They're weevils.
Must have been in the noodles.

Well, they're in the soup now.

The bowl's thick with them.

You all can eat here
at Carrion Towers if you like.

I can find better stuff
than this at the market.

So long then.

All right.

It seems as if bad food is the only
way I can be alone with you.

It is fairly awful, isn't it?

- It truly is.
- Maybe they have eggs in the kitchen.

- Oh, no.
- Oh, yes.

Away with these little brats.

Come here, Mommy.

- Go away!
- Go away!

Sod off, you little bugger!

Could you be happy here?


Happy? How do you mean?

I mean, could you like it here?

How do I know?

God, I wish you wouldn't
ask me questions like this.

Really, I can't answer them.

What do you want me to say?
Yes, I'll be happy in Africa.

I like Ain Krorfa so much.

But I can't tell if I want
to stay a month or leave tomorrow.

You couldn't leave tomorrow
even if you wanted to.

- Hi.
- Hi.

I can't get any information
about how to leave.

No buses. Not even a fruit truck.
Nobody speaks English.

- Anybody for a nightcap?
- Not for me.

Well, then good night.

You sure?

That's kind of you. Thanks, but no.

- Good night.
- Port?

Good night.

Come in.

It's me, Eric.

I hope I'm not disturbing you,
old man.

Why are you tiptoeing?

I don't know.

It's about the money you lent me.
I came to pay it back.

You don't need to. It was a gift.

I'd like to all the same really.

It was 300...

Three hundred francs, wasn't it?

Mother and I are leaving
in the morning.

I knew you were here.
Hope you have change for 1000.

- Would you like me to look?
- Lf you could.

- Where are you going tomorrow?
- Messad.

You're kidding.

That is exactly where my friend
would like to go. Mr. Tunner.

- Oh?
- Yes.


Well, we're leaving before dawn.

I could go and tell him right away.

I mean, you wouldn't mind
giving him a lift, would you?

Could you stomach
one of my cigarettes?

Oh, yes. Thank you.

We can forget about the money.

Oh, well... all right.

If you really want to get rid of him.

Excuse me.

"K: Gone to Messad with the Lyles.

Maybe I can find you
some more champagne.

See you in Bou Noura. Love, Tunner."

- So, what happened to Tunner?
- Gone with the monsters.

- He left me his cushion.
- Good.

So the plan is to meet
in Bou Noura in a few days?

More or less, yes.

More or less?

Less, actually.

- Port, are you packing?
- Yes, I am.

- There's a bus to Bou Noura after all.
- A bus today?

It only leaves in the afternoons.

Strange kind of bus.
It didn't exist yesterday.

You know how transport is around here.
Always improvised.

This trunk...

You wrote Mexican Overture sitting
on top of this trunk. Remember?

- Did I?
- Yes.

So we're off on our own then?


We've been married a long time, Port.

I don't think 10 years
is such a long time.

- What in God's name are you doing?
- Celebrating.

I'm not sure what I'm celebrating,
but I am.

I felt like I was going to die
if I didn't see my things.

We've been living like refugees.
I haven't unpacked since the boat.

The only trouble is,
there are no mirrors here.

- So how do I look?
- Well...

Have you seen my glasses?
The ones with the clip-ons?

Have you seen my passport?
The one with the photo?


- I lost it.
- You haven't!

Well, in that case,
I feel much better. Yes, I have.

God, what a bore!

Have you seen anyone in my room
since we got here?

Are you sure
you looked through everything?

- Port, are you cold?
- Yeah, I am a little bit.

Well, I should notify someone.

The sooner the better, I suppose.

Do you think sooner is better?

By the way...

you look okay.


My passport wasn't lost.
Eric Lyle stole it.

I told you he was a criminal!

The lieutenant says it'll end up at
the Foreign Legion barracks in Messad.

It'll bring a high price.
That's exactly where Eric was headed.

I find it awfully peculiar that
someone could be constantly cold...

in the Sahara Desert in September.

I'll feel better
once we get to El Ga'a.

El Ga'a?

It's the most beautiful city
in the Sahara.

It's odd to be here
without official proof.

When are we going to El Ga'a?

We could have taken the bus
tomorrow, but it was full.

Don't worry. I'll pack your things.

So, what about our plans?
What about Tunner?

What about Tunner?

He'll catch up,
or maybe we'll still be here.

- We're standing in a cemetery.
- We are?

Look at the markers.

No names, no dates.
Just pieces of broken pottery.

Don't you ever think we should stop?

- Stay somewhere, at least for a while?
- Stop?

Really stop? Stopping?

Maybe we could in El Ga'a.

It's supposed to be very beautiful
there and much warmer.

Timbuktu, El Ga'a,
it doesn't make any difference.

But if you'll be happier or feel
better, then we'll go to El Ga'a.

Then we'll stay in El Ga'a.



Come on, get up.

Honey, you'll ruin your back. Get up.

Come, sit up.

Port, please.

Come on. Sit up. I'll help you.

Port, please.

Come on, Port. Come on.


Here, let me cover you.
You're freezing.

Is that better?

My God!

Something is really wrong with me.

What do you think it is?

When do we arrive? Until noon?

You need to sleep. Come on, darling,
put your head here.

You just need to sleep. Okay?

Can you rest?

You'll feel better if you sleep.
Can you sleep?

You haven't called me darling
for more...

than a year.

You all right?

- You all right?
- Yes, I slept well.

- It's great here.
- Oh, my God. It's wonderful.

Look at it.

And you've arranged my suite of rooms?

- I found the four-star restaurant too.
- Drinks on the veranda in a half-hour.

- I love them together like this.
- As opposed to individually.

I didn't mean that. Why must you...?

Port, what is it? What's wrong?
Port, can you get up?

Get up. Try to stand.
Just try to stand, please.

Can you walk? Please?

Are you here? Are you here?

- Yeah.
- Stand up. Put your arm around me.

I bit my tongue.

Right this way. It's all right.

I always wondered what
it would be like to bite my tongue.

Can you walk
just a little bit further?

If you stay in one place,
you'll be fine.

Port, stand up, please!

- Please! Are you all right?
- Do I have a fever?

Yes, sweetie, you're very hot.

Please, Port...

- Don't panic. I'll take care of you.
- What was that hotel in Salzburg...

with reindeer on those plates?
- Port, can you stay here?

I'm... Yes, I'm all right.


I'll hurry.

Hotel du Ksar?

- You're all right?
- Yes, good.

- I'm cold.
- Port...

I'll be right back.

- Open up, please!
- Who are you, madame?

You cannot expect me to let you in.

So far, we are free of the epidemic
in this hotel.

Madame, what epidemic?

You did not know?

Calm. I have to think.

We must leave here.



Shut up! Shut up!

Port, you...

You have to help me.
I can't do this alone.

- Play.
- Can you hear me?

Porter, can you hear me?
I found a truck.

It's going to a village called Sbâ.
They say there's a fort.

The Foreign Legion is there.
It's going to be all right.

It's going to be fine.

Okay? All right, baby? All right?

- Can typhoid kill you?
- Not always.

My men will bring a mattress.
It will not be very comfortable.

But what can you expect?

You are in Sbâ, not in Paris.

Give him the pills every two hours.

Be courageous, madame.

You have to take these.

There are two pills.
I want you to swallow them. Here.

And here's some water.

It's time for your pills.

Time for your pills.

Here you go.

Here they are.

Here's some water.

Try to swallow.

Did you get it?

I'm gonna go out, all right?

I'm going to get some air.

I'll be back in a little bit.

You feel cooler. Yes.

Why don't you try to have some soup?
It looks good.

Can you sit up?



Try to swallow it.

Try again. Here.

Please try some more. It's hot now.


I've put your pills with warm milk.
Please try to swallow it. Can you?

Can you try to swallow?

Just swallow. There's more, okay?

Swallow, honey. Swallow.

Can you swallow? I know, I know.

Can you try?

Swallow, please. Please.



I was trying to get back.

- And right now, I am.
- Yes.

- Is there anyone here?
- What?

- Is there anyone here?
- No, no.

- No, there's nobody here.
- Hi, how are you? Good to see you.

Is that door locked?


Because there are...

There are these things I want
to tell you, but I don't...

I can't remember them all.

Yes, well, a fever's like that.

Do you want some warm milk?

I don't think... I don't think
there's time. I don't know.

- No, I'll just go get it.
- Please, please, stay here.

I'm glad you're better.
I'm going crazy.

There's not a soul around.
I didn't have anyone to talk to...

I know that I shouldn't be afraid
but I am.

Because sometimes I...

I'm not here.

And there...

is so far away.

And I'm all alone.

You don't know, you know.
I don't think anyone could get there.

No, no, Port, you have to stay down.

You know how awful it is?

See, Kit...

all those years...

I lived for you
and I didn't know it.

And now I do know it.

Yeah, I know it.

- I'm right here.
- You're going away...

No, I'm not going away.
I'm right here.

I am here, Port. I am here.

Will you stay here?
Will you stay here?

Please stay in this room.

- Port, I'm here.
- I can't...

No, no!

Stay here. Port, please stay here.

Stay with me.

Look at me.

Here. I'm right here. See me?

Stay here, please.

Please don't go.

Please don't go. Please. Please.

Can you help me?
Is there a doctor?


Help me!

Can you help me? Please!

Can somebody help me? Please!

Can you put this up?

Please take it. Please.





Like it?


Oh, dear.

I say.

- It's that Tunner fellow.
- What?

- He's still here.
- Come on.

Come on!

Hello there. Hello.

I thought you'd gone back to America.

- How long have you been in Bou Noura?
- Three months.

Are you here with the Moresbys?
What charming people they were.

You heard from them at all?

Yes, they're fine.

Will you excuse me?

Here. Here.

Here, take it.

Take it, it's money. It's real.

It's French money, can't you see?
Take it all.

No! What are you...?

Watch it! No!
Can't you leave me...?

Please! Let me go!

Let me go, please!


Please let go!

Let go!

Oh, God!


I can't breathe.
I can't breathe!


Let go!


Mrs. Katherine Moresby?

I'm from the American Embassy.

You must be absolutely exhausted.

I flew all the way here
to bring you back.

How long have you been down here?

We're putting you in the Grand Hotel.
It's comfortable.

It's not good, but it's better than
anything in your neck of the woods.

A friend of yours, Mr. Tunner...

has sent the consulate wires
and letters for months.

He was very upset, so we let him know
we'd found you.

I hope you don't mind
my presumption...

but as soon as we were sure you'd
be coming, I wired Mr. Tunner.

I shouldn't be surprised
if he's in town.

Probably at the Grand.

Ah, then, here we are.

I'll keep the taxicab for myself.

Well, then, I'll go inside and see.


Are you lost?


Because we don't know
when we will die...

we get to think of life
as an inexhaustible well,

Things happen only a certain number
of times, And a small number, really,

How many times will you remember
an afternoon of your childhood...

an afternoon so deeply a part
of you that you can't be without it?

Perhaps four or five times more,
Perhaps not even that,

How many times will
you watch the moon rise?

Perhaps 20,

And yet it all seems limitless,