The Suspended Step of the Stork (1991) - full transcript

Alexandre, a TV reporter, is working for a few days in a border town, where a lot of refugees from Albania, Turkey and Kurdistan are packed in. Among them, he notices an old man and thinks he is an important Greek politician who disappeared mysteriously a few years ago. Back in Athens, he asks this politician's former wife to come and identify him. A slow and dry meditation about inhumanity of borders.

Travelling on an assignment
to the frontier,

I kept thinking about the
incident at the Pireas.

Bodies of asian refugees in the sea,

after Greek authorities refused
to grant them political asylum.

Their determination to jump to their deaths,

from a Greek ship,
in the open seas...

after they had been discovered,
while crossing the Pacific...

How does one leave?
Why? Where to?

Is it like in that old poem?

"And don't forget
that the time to leave has come...

The wind will carry your eyes far away."



Lt. Tsakiridis Manos, at your orders!

- How are you, Lieutenant?
- Very good, my Colonel.

Soldier Kouvanos Michael.

It's not the border that frightens me,
but a wrong step which could be fatal.

I fear only one thing.
The sound of the river at night.

Do you know what a border is?

Greece ends at that blue line.

If I make another step,

I am 'outside'...

or I die.

Can you hear it?

No.

Come with me.

This is the third time
I catch you doing this.



Be careful.
If I find you once more, I'll book you in.

Don't you understand or what?

A year ago, a packet of cigarettes
flowing in the river

got us in trouble with those
from the other side...

Ten deaths.

Can you see where the trade here leads?
Nothing can stop them.

Go, scram. Beat it!

- How are you, son?
- Very good, Colonel.

Can you see that snow-covered little village?

The closest village to the border.

People around here
call it "the waiting room".

You know why?

An abandoned part of the village
has been a shelter

for a few years now,
to refugees from various countries,

neighbors or not:

Kurdes, Turks, Albanians,

Poles, Romanians, Iranians;

who crossed the border illegally.

The Greek government housed
them in that part of the village...

but, over time, they took
over the whole village.

They are waiting for their papers
to start a new life elsewhere.

And, for them, that 'elsewhere'
acquired a strange meaning...

Mythical.

- Where have you been, old chap?
- Just looking around at the market.

Are you with them?

Do I know you?

- Ah... I saw you on TV, is that right?
- That's right...

One.

One?

One.

Three.

Seven... seven... seven...

Nine.

The day was misty,
wet and cold.

For a moment,
an unpredictable ray of sunshine,

and then the sky
is covered with clouds once again.

- Are you filming?
- Yes.

A Kurd:

We had to leave our country
under the threat of chemical weapons.

When we arrived to the river,

at the greek-turkish border...
we could not go any further.

An Albanian:

My Calvary started
when I crossed the border.

As I knew that I had left
death behind me,

and that I was to regain freedom,

I ran like never in my life.

I could not believe
that I had the strength to run so fast.

An Iranian:

I would have never imagined
that one day I would want the Moon to die.

I can clearly remember
the moment that I did...

so that she wouldn't show,
and betray me with her light

and get me caught.

I can say... without a doubt,
that was the fear of death.

Probably because the road behind me
was a synonym for death.

The death that awaited me...
had I not been able to escape...

Why twice?

- I'm sure that I know that man.
- So what?

Nothing. Continue.

When you are done, return to the same image.

Here are other Region E photos, and there too.

- Do you need anything else?
- No.

Thank you.

Excuse me, but I never mastered Greek.

- Can we speak in English?
- Yes, but I don't have much time.

I'm sorry to disturb you,
but this is my job.

May I have a cigarette now, please?

Thank you.

It's about your ex-husband.

I'm interested in any information
I can get about him,

about his disappearance.

Doesn't make any sense now.

The disappearance of a politician
doesn't happen every day, you know.

Especially not the way it happened.

All of a sudden,
for no apparent reason,

he just gets up and walks
out of the halls of Parliament.

But why now?
After all these years, it's the past.

I have a new life.
What do you want from me?

A lot has been kept in the dark.

He returns after 40 days...

And says he can't remember anything?

All I had to say...
I told the police at the time.

Even if you refuse to help me,
I will continue.

He'd just received an award
for his book.

"Despair at the End of the Century".

Excuse me, my husband may be looking for me.

Shall we go?

Tonight's programme presents an event...

The leaders of the three major political parties,

assembled together for the first time. Historical.

Hopefully through this
we can overcome our differences.

"Despair at the End of the Century".

As a preface:

"Why couldn't we assume
that at the moment that I'm writting this,

it is December 31, 1999?"

Let's start again.

Should we play the music,
or keep on with talking?

I repeat.
Our programme...

One.. two... three..

Are you still there?

What about the big boss?

- He is trying to outdo politicians' desires.
- There he comes.

I was looking for you.

I need the crew for another
two or three days.

We'll see.

I uncovered something.
Something very important.

Why are you sitting in the dark?

I'm dead tired.
Ten hours of repetition.

I've never seen anything like that.
And then, the music was out of synch.

Are you leaving again?

Listen how his book ends,

with a question:

"By which cues could we spark..."

"...a new collective dream?"

May I come in?

Do you have a record player?

This is the last message
I received from him.

I found it on my answering machine,

three days after he'd gone
for the second time.

"I wish you good health and happiness,

but I can't take part in your voyage.
I am just a visitor."

"Everything I touch hurts me deeply."
And yet I'm sure it's his voice.

"And then it doesn't belong to me."

The door was open.
We are waiting for you downstairs.

"I don't have anything that is mine,
as I arrogantly said one day."

"Now I've learned
that nothing is nothing."

May I borrow this?

When he came back,
after his first disappearance...

We resumed our daily life...

He was like a stranger.

Absent.

I was so desperate...

I suggested we relived his journey together.

He tried to remember...

He didn't argue.

He agreed.

Who was that?

Ah... sorry!

I'm going out.

Christmas time was near again.

He stopped in front of a shop window.

I don't know what he was looking at.

The Three Wise Men...
or the Holy Star.

He walked towards the street.

He stood there, waiting.

Then he took the bus,
heading out of town.

During the whole time of the trip,
he looked by the window.

I could see he was becoming
another man.

Little by little.

No, just... pretend they're not there.

He asked for a room.

Number seven.

He went towards the room.

He opened the door.

It was the same light,
same time of the day...

Except for the soft glow
of a lampshade...

We made love that night.

Violently, silently.
As if we didn't know one another.

Like two strangers,
who had meet for the first time...

...in the darkness
of a moviehouse.

When I woke up in the morning,
he was gone.

He never came back again.

I was in such a pain
when I lived with him.

I couldn't breathe...

I was lost.

He had a secret wound.

The fact that he didn't share it
with me was unbearable.

It nearly drove me mad.

I often dreamt he would die.

No! Go away!

All this is useless...
he died.

I don't know where or when,
but he's dead.

Months after his first disappearance...

Strangers kept calling me from
various parts of Greece...

Claiming they had seen him...
Once, in a railway station.

Another time it was a peddler
selling flowers in front of a cemetery.

Someone saw him working
on a construction site.

Somebody else reported that he was doing...

...factory work in Ptolemaida.

A woman saw him
sitting in a square smoking.

Others recognized him
in a religious procession...

...praying for rain.

Sometimes here, sometimes there.
But always heading towards the north.

- That's screwed.
- What are we going to do?

We'll carry on.

Later, I kept thinking
about the reason...

Was it the city,
or him?

His face would constantly
appear in the darkness.

How does one leave?
Why? Where to?

- Morning.
- Hello.

Listen, I'm looking for an old man,
who sold you some potatoes some time ago.

What do you want me to say?

- Do you know who I'm talking about?
- From what I know...

...he's a refugee from Albania.

He lives in the refugee quarter.

Every two-three days
he sells me some potatoes.

That's all I know.

Why don't you go
to the coffee shop he frequents?

- Which coffee shop?
- That one there.

Us locals, we don't have
much contact with them.

That way.

- Lately, you can't stay out of trouble.
- But... why did he leave?

Why leave and let everything fall to pieces?

If he really is who you are looking for.

- Just a moment! What are we interested in?
- Whether he left or if it was him at all?

- Billiard!
- Right on!

- Let's go!
- Where?

We'll see.

- And you?
- I'll catch up with you.

Excuse me.

I've been told that the refugees of Greek origin...

frequent the tavern back there.

I'm looking for some information about one of them.

Do you understand me?

We're waiting for you.

Coming.

It's day already.

You called me by some other name.

Who is that?

Sorry... I have to go.

I have to go.

I'm soaked and I lost my way.

I wouldn't want to disturb you.

- I've brought the bread.
- It wasn't worth the time.

Take off your shoes.

Bring me the straw.

These plants, they like the silence.
They are born and grow in obscurity...

You promised you'd tell me
the story with the kite.

- Now?
- Yes, now.

More straw.

When the earth starts to burn,
because it is scorched by the sun,

humans will have to leave.

Then, what history will call
"The Great Migration" will happen.

They will leave the countries where they live,

each as best as they could,

and they will gather again in
the desert of the Sahara.

There, a child will have released a kite,
very high in the sky.

Big and small will cling on to the cord,
and all the humanity will fly away,

in search of another planet.

Each one will carry a small plant,
a rose tree, a handfull of wheat,

or a new-born animal.

Others, all volumes of poetry,
written by men...

It will be one very,
very long voyage...

And how will that voyage finish?

All the refugees will take on
any name that they want.

Who is who? Try to prove it!

Remember that lame dog from the camp?
He follows me everywhere.

His owner, a peasant, went insane
because of a passing singer.

He cut the dog's leg and put his hut on fire.
He went in there and burned like a torch...

The dog stayed there for days,
howling in front of the burned cabin.

That's the one.

Here in this part of the country,
everything takes on another dimension.

Solitude, uncertainty.
A feeling of permanent threat.

People go crazy.

Night fell.

Later, in the refugee shelter...

I heard some children
who lit fires...

and shouted, in front of the flames,
in the frozen night.

I didn't know...

I didn't understand...

Oh! Who do we have here?

- Good afternoon.
- Good evening, rather!

Dimitri was looking for you.
You disappeared yesterday.

What happened? Upset?

I called his wife.

She will take the next train.

Straight to the heart!

Maria... Eleni... Wait for me!

Why don't you talk to me?

Have I insulted your mother or what?

When you arrived, you had nothing.

I gave you a place to stay and a job.
Now you are plotting against me!

Watch your mouth!

- Son of a bitch! Informer!
- I am not an informer!

Coward!

I am not a coward!

Blood! Blood!

Doctor! Quickly, a doctor!

To bed now!

Good night!

My mother died at the time
we were crossing the border.

My father is late tonight.

You? Are you lost again?

My back, my bones.
I am frozen...

All day long,
perched on a post like a bird...

The storm had cut the phone cables
along the border road.

Some of us will have to work
all night to repair it.

Would you like to eat, father?

Our home is your home.

Our home.

We crossed the border
and we're always there.

How many borders does one have to cross...
to find himself at home?

Would you like to have supper with us?

It's late...

Someone is waiting for me...

Good night.

- I am a journalist
- Go on, Sir.

What happened?

Chaos! Damn if I get it...

They crossed the border to be free,
then came here and set up new borders...

in this mud pit, and made the world even smaller!

Not a single word.
The law of silence.

Nobody knows if it's between
Christians and Muslims...

or between Kurds and Turks,

or between revolutionaries
and opportunists.

Lower him!

Thank you for coming.

Something happened last night.

There's been some trouble,
they're afraid here...

Number seven.

Where is he?

Every other day at noon
he sells potatoes next to the market.

See you tomorrow then.

I have some information.

The man you're interested in...

surrendered to the police
a year and a half ago,

at the same time as Albanian refugees,
and asked for the political asylum.

What's his name?

Nothing to do
with the name that you gave me.

- Political asylum?
- What is it? It haunts you, eh?

You see, your crew...

We are being ask to go back.
The director himself telephoned.

- When?
- Just a moment ago.

- So we came all the way here for nothing?
- Call him yourself.

Are you not going to film
the meeting at the river?

Which meeting? The bigwigs will complain, yes!

Let's see
what we can do with that.

Didn't you explain it to him?

I am a tragic character... In may case,
I am paid to supervise the border.

My wife is in Athens,
my daughter's studying in London.

Gipsies!

Who knows where I will be sent to tomorrow?

- Would you like anything?
- Such discipline, you see!

An ex-soldier of the Albanian army.

He explained it to me very well.

I'll take the risk.

We'll stay here tomorrow for this woman.
The day after tomorrow...

...we'll return to Athens after the meeting at the river.

Better?

Will you come with us, eh?
He is an OK guy.

Officially, I don't know anything.

We'll have fun.

Show us your scar.

Are you ashamed? Show it.

Come closer.

This is for the preservation of the race.

While still in cradle,
our mothers mark us with knives.

All Greek sons over there
carry this mark.

To save our race...

- Do you want anything?
- Another one! Two!

I hope you haven't been waiting too long.
Good morning.

He usually arrives by this time but...
I'm not sure about today.

He might not be able to get through
because of the police checkpoints.

May I have a cigarette, please?

He's coming.

It's not him.

It's not him.

The disappearance of a well known politician
continues to dominate the news.

His French spouse
and the police are continuing the search.

Meanwhile, different interpretations
of the motives for his disappearance...

...don't sound credible.

His reputation as a writer has
transcended Greek borders.

His personal life seemed perfect
and his political future brilliant.

A deputy, a Minister
in the government of the National Union,

which followed the fall of the Junta,

he looked like one of the great hopes
for revival in Greek politics.

However in 1980, the publication of his book
"Despair at the End of the Century"

caused a stir.

Today, recent international events
confirm the prophetic character of his work.

But his critique of the situation provoked
reactions from all political parties.

Let's see the footage of a scene
which precedes his first disappearance.

The grand chamber of the Parliament
was full that night.

We had been saying for days...

that he was going to make
an important statement.

All the political leaders were present,
including the Prime Minister.

There are occasions...

...when it is necessary to keep silent...

...to be able to listen to music...

...through the noise of rain.

Excuse me.

I am a journalist.

We shall overcome! We shall overcome!

What do you want from me?

"I wish you health and happiness,

"but I can't take part in your voyage.
I'm just a visitor."

"Everything I touch hurts me deeply.
And then it doesn't belong to me."

"There is always someone to say:
That is mine!"

"I don't have anything that is mine...
I arrogantly said one day."

"Now I've learned that nothing... is nothing."

"That we don't even have a name."

"And that each time we need to borrow one."

"Give me a place to look at.
Forget me in the sea."

"I wish you health and happiness."

It fled...

"Voyage... Everything I touch hurts me.
We don't even have a name."

Good evening, my Colonel.

Bring wine... and all as it should be!
Don't be tightfisted!

You know this place?

Ah! You are here? Good.

The meeting at the river
will take place tomorrow for sure.

It was hard to convince them
to let us film.

I insisted
and took all the responsibility.

But after that, we will return to Athens, promise!

You knew that there is also a marriage?
You hear them? They're already celebrating.

If you think about it, it's incredible.
A village cut in two.

One part in Albania, the other one here,

straddling the border,

they meet in secret once a year,
without regard for danger.

Our people often find
corpses in the river.

Here is the bride!

I warned you.
I told you that people here went insane.

I told you that...

It's the borders, the limits, that drive us insane.

Drink! I respect people who drink!

You'll leave and I won't
have anyone to talk to.

I have to go back to my regiment.

Good night!

All I know...
is to film others...

without fretting over their feelings.

My husband...

...and I have grown together.

We belong to the same race.

I can feel his hand holding me.

One night, he'll cross the river
and come to take me away.

I've never felt like this before.

Neither have I.

I suffer a lot.

Me too. A lot.

I don't understand.

Can you hear the river?

Can you hear it?

It thunders like that every night.

It thunders and it calls.

I don't understand.

Don't worry about me.
I am happy.

What are you doing here at this hour?

Have you come to spend
the New Year's Eve with us?

If I take another step...

A rural guard, riding by on his motorcycle,

very early in the morning,
saw him in the distance by the riverbank.

He was looking at the river.
He was carrying a suitcase.

The guard called him,
he didn't hear him.

The guard was concerned and he called the police.

The police say that at the same time
a woman saw him in the city.

He was waiting at the bus stop.

She remembers that
he was carrying a suitcase...

with a group of refuges who were repairing
telephone cables along the border.

Latest testimonies.
He was seen disappearing...

in the distance towards the border.

Police was not able to verify any of those allegations.

I don't know if that was the man
you were seeking...

It doesn't matter anymore...

I saw it.

You saw it?

I had taken the border road to
bring him bread and I saw it.

He walked through the water,
with a suitcase in his hand.

He went and went...

He crossed the demarcation line
and disappeared.

He has never finished the story with the kite.

- Maybe he wanted you to finish the story.
- Goodbye.

"Why couldn't we assume...

...that at this moment...

...it is December 31...

...1999?"

Original subtitles: quequetz

Resynched and updated: xyzyx (2017)