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English filmscript


They came from England, across the great ocean, believing that they were on their way to a state of blessedness. They called themselves the "Pilgrim Fathers" and their ship was the Mayflower. It was the year 1620. But on board the overcrowded ship were not only puritanical Pilgrim Fathers, fleeing from religious persecution in their homeland. There were also merchants and adventurers. When they reached the coast of New England on November 11th, 1620, their first concern was sheer survival. Without the help of the native people - the so-called "Indians"- the experiment of a theocracy on American soil would no doubt have already failed in its first year.

The movie "The Witches of Salem" is set on the New England coast, in the village of Salem, founded in 1626. Based on a play by Arthur Miller, it describes life at the time of the first settlers. An important theme: the power of faith and superstition.

Rev. Parris: "Human stupidity is cruel! It can be conquered only by fear! If you fear the power that your pastor represents, if your fear of hell is stronger than your criminal urges ..."

Proctor: "Enough! Reverend Parris, you fail in your duty. We come to the temple to find God and you speak only of the devil."

Rev. Parris: "People of Salem! This man is a blasphemer! John Proctor, God will never forgive you for disturbing the peace in His house! I tell you: the parish must cast out its rotten members. Only then will we find strength to fight for God, our land and our country!"

Anyone who opposed the church was cast out. The strict Puritans did not tolerate non-conformists.

These people are also outsiders of American society. 300 years after the witches of Salem, the Gothic subculture constitutes a fringe phenomenon. "You Shriek", a band from Boston, plays Gothic sound, which can be as varied as the whole scene itself. But on one thing they all agree: rejection of America's prevailing "nonculture".

"You shriek": "The stuff on the radio was usually so horrible that there was a good excuse to try to make music that I liked to listen to and that people I knew I thought would enjoy listening to. Those are some of the main reasons why I'm doing it - continuing to make music and why I started it in the first place."

Gothic : pale faces, black robes, solemn expressions. The contemplation of life and death. Outward appearance is important - clothing, hair, styling. More important, however, is the content.

"You shriek": "Sorrow, sadness, the darkness inside , brought out in the musical form, frequently themes of despair, isolation, depression, sadness, things like that."

For almost twenty years, the "Goths" have been shocking the good citizens with their appearance and their "dark" themes. Parents wonder, "What's the matter with our kids?"

"You shriek": "A lot of people used to - maybe ten years ago - ask, "Is it the threat of nuclear holocaust that makes you this way?" And it was a big question in the Eighties for some reason and I don't think I ever saw the connection."

Gothic - a scene that wants to be left alone and doesn't propagate a message. Let's take a look on the inside.

This is Columbine's herb garden. She's a veteran in the Gothic scene. Years ago, she gave herself the name "Columbine". It stands for a new and freely chosen identity in a world of her own.

Columbine: "The name of a character in the old Italian Commedia dell' Arte that I like. She's a racy trouble-maker. It's the name of a favourite portrait by Richard Dadd. And it's one of my favourite flowers. And, most importantly, in the Victorian language of flowers, Columbine signified folly, so I'm the fool from the Tarot. Flowers are a big part of my symbology. I also make perfumes, so flowers are important to me in that. And also, as a witch, I learn about plants and flowers in healing and their medicinal and magical properties, so they're a big part of my outlook."

Columbine's wordly realm consists of a 130 sq. foot attic room, which she shares with a cat. Besides flower perfume, she also sells Gothic jewellery, which she makes herself. Bones and dark stones are her favourite materials. Columbine also posts a Gothic events calendar for the Boston area on the Internet.

Boston, Massachusetts, New England's largest city, with a population of more than half a million. In the last century, Bostonians considered themselves "the centre of the solar system". A great history, economic power and important universities, they felt, gave them the right to hold this opinion of themselves. Today, they take a more realistic view: Boston is a city of intellectuals, who don't shy away from looking beyond American borders. European culture and attitudes are appreciated here more than elsewhere else in America.

The universities on the other side of the Charles River benefit from this open-mindedness. The elite of the scientific world are educated here at MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and it would be hard to surpass the fame of Harvard, only a few hundred yards away.

Of course, Cambridge is the name of the place with the large universities. This is A. Dominique Cusrack's territory. Cusrack is also a fantasy name and it means "Goth", from head to toe. Despite the liberal atmosphere of the university district, Cusrack, the eccentric, is often accosted because of his slouch hat and musketeer boots.

Cusrack: "Generally you'll have a verbal assault from very rude and unintelligent people, which in America is extremely common, OK?"

Cusrack is an impresario of Goth culture. He organizes concerts and parties and publicizes them, door to door. This is how he earns his living.

Cusrack: "I could be twice as intelligent as I am now and fully qualified to do any job, but if I walked into an insurance agency and said, "Let me work here" they would look at me like this and say, 'Maybe not.'"

Goths are outsiders. In Boston, they are allowed to live their way - even if not as insurance salesmen. But Cusrack knows that the Goth culture depends on this kind of biotope.

Cusrack: "If was to go out into the rural South of the United States, I'd very much be beaten senseless immediately because they're very much 'I don't understand it - let me kill it.'"

"Enter to grow in wisdom" - this is the cradle of American intelligence: Harvard. The oldest university in the USA. Tomorrow's elite studies at Harvard. To this date, 29 Harvard professors have received the Nobel Prize.

The pinnacle of American intellectual life is moulded by the ideas of the Enlightenment. This is a point of pride and one deliberately distances oneself from the "American Way of Life". An oasis in a society that's becoming more and more superficial. But the admission fee is not cheap. To send your child to Harvard, you need to come up with about $30,000 a year.

This young woman - Heather Morgan - doesn't want to go to Harvard, but to Yale, the country's second elite school. There, she wants to study art. Painting is her passion, preferably in dark colours.

Heather: "I was constantly being repressed and reprimanded and I was told ... I was sort of raised in a negative atmosphere and it sort of caused me to withdraw into myself and ever since then I've always been interested in really dark things."

Gothic art. Painting and sculptures - if that's what you can call Nicole's work. "Angels' Skeletons" made of wood, metal and ropes and locked into plexiglass boxes, are her latest installation. "Dust" is the name of the exhibition she's presenting together with Heather Morgan in a former Boston warehouse. There are those themes again: death, impermanence, angels. Typical Goth. And, of course, one person just has to be on the scene - Cusrack is trying to talk the artists into exhibiting at one of his Performance Evenings in a club. He's always on the move, looking for new impulses to intergrate into the Goth scene. The main thing is: they have to be dark, esthetic and interesting.

Nicole: "I think that, especially when I was a child, I wanted to enclose everything and keep like memories in boxes and in jars and things like that. And as I got older, this idea kind of went through a process where I realized if you enclosed wonderful things even wonderful things decay."

Although it may look like it: these are not the witches of Salem, who are later to be convicted.

Betty: "Eat! - to make him love you!" Abigail: "Are you going to eat it too?" Betty: "I don't need toads to make people love me."

Betty: "This is for me." Abigail: "It's red." Betty: "It's blood! And I'm going to drink it! I want someone to die!"

The young girls, meeting in the woods to flee a regimented world, are playing "Witches' Dance". They are discovered. Cornered, they denounce others, who - they claim - cast a spell on them. This is the beginning of the hysterical witch hunts.

A professing witch of today. In a Gothic shop, Columbine is looking for the right outfit for the big "Hell Party" on the weekend. The play of dark and unusual materials and clothes is very important. The Goths, too, show who they are through their clothing - some, in lacquer and leather, with chains and corsages. That most of the things are black, is one aspect. The other is individual fantasy.

Mimi: "It doesn't have to be black, but it has to have a sense of creativity, a sense of elegance, a sense of being different from the norm, that can expand into kind of a ... a ... sensuality, I would say. Almost every Goth person that I know has a really enormous sensuous streak."

The realm of fantasy - for Goths, this appears to be mainly the realm of darkness. Shocking the good citizens with their outfits is only a side effect. Goths spare no effort to make themselves look beautiful and to find themselves beautiful. The black angels of death are just as important as Columbine's "Victorian Language of Flowers". And she likes to slip into the role of Jenny Greenteeth, a mythical English water witch.

Columbine: "People are beautiful, each of us in our own way. But the overall culture - the post Judeo-Christian thing - says that it's wrong to acknowledge that you're beautiful. We deny that. Daring to be beautiful is important."

Concord, Massachusetts. In the last century, gathering place of all those who dared to think differently. Non-conformists, weirdos, world improvers. Some of the greatest personalities of American intellectual life were to spring from this group of transcendentalists. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and Nathaniel Hawthorne fought the restrictive spirit of Puritanism. In idyllic Concord, they lived close to nature. They propagated a philosophy of freedom and experimented with alternative ways of life. The theme of Thoreaus's treatise, "Civil Disobedience", was the duty of the individual to refuse obedience to the state; years later, it was to influence no one less than Mahatma Gandhi himself. Thoreau retreated to the woods, living in a home-made hut and refusing to pay taxes. In "Walden, or, Life in the Woods" he wrote about his life. To this day, the "green philosopher" of Walden Pond has lost none of his credibility. On the contrary.

Columbine: "We get fed up with "sound-bite" culture, newspapers and television aimed at a fourth-grade reading level. We like to read, we like to play complicated games and have long, three o'clock in the morning, espresso-fueled discussions of philosophy. Most of us grew up intelligent and paid the price because that is a very costly thing emotionally in this culture. You're shunned, you're feared. We're taking that back as a good thing - to be smart, to be able to figure things out, and to have the guts to show it."

The Hexx Club in Boston. A refuge for the ostracized, the Goths. Here, in the darkness of their midnight party, they can be whatever they want. For this, dancing is an important form of expression. In Hexx, the Goths' fantasy world comes alive. Edward with the scissor hands meets Jenny, the water witch. As long as you like it, anything goes.

For the witches of Salem, there was no refuge, no place of retreat. In the historical case, the governor intervenes.

Woman: "The governor is coming!"

His motives are clearly political. In the play, "The Crucible", he unwittingly reveals his true nature. Arthur Miller wrote the piece in the 1950s, during the McCarthy Era, with its "witch hunts" against communists. "Witches"- the word stands for dissidents, non-conformists, political enemies. It could just as well mean communists or homosexuals.

Hale: "Your Honour, I am not sure, in good conscience ..."

Gov.: "I assure you - the girl is bewitched. The country is on the point of collapse! The enemy is in our midst! Your misfortune is the result of a powerful conspiracy. It extends as far as Boston."

Woman: "Witches!"

Gov.: "Yes, witches ! Mean, low-class folk, not afraid to sign a pact with the devil. This is our chance to expose them. I do my duty. As long as I live, these villains will not take control of our country!"

Witch Museum: "Welcome to the famous Salem Witch Musem. We are going to show you the witchcraft trails which took place in Salem Village in 1692. Do you believe in witches? Millions of your ancestors did. The law put itself at the disposal of this gathering madness. Before it was done, 19 will hang. So died George Borroughs, minister of the Lord, and 18 others in 1692, accused of witchcraft by enemies, superstitious neighbours, young girls in the grip of a vengeful hysteria."

The statue of Roger Conant, the founder of Salem and anything but a witch hunter. His goal was to establish a flourishing harbour town. Seafaring was to become the basis of Salem's wealth. On the "widows' landing stages", the women waited for the return of their husbands. At one time, the harbour was one of the busiest on the east coast. But, despite its economic success, to this day, the shadow of the Salem witch hunts hangs as a legacy over the city and its historical buildings. As Arthur Miller pointed out, it could be quite convenient indeed to find the devil within one's own community. After all, doesn't everyone have a neighbour whom he envies for his wife or possessions? A neighbour who's too smart, too critical, too different?

Rebecca Nurse was one of those "poor devils". She was one of the 19 innocent people hanged. By way of compensation, memorial stones were worked into the wall of Salem's cemetery.

A gravestone from the time of the witch hunts. Cemeteries, especially old ones, are absolute magnets for today's Goths. Cusrack tells us why:

Cusrack: "A person who is a Goth is someone who is attracted to a dark esthetic. Throughout the years, one of the places that is sort of a repository for the morbidly curious has been the art of gravestones, especially really old ones - skulls and cross-bones and sort of beautiful carvings. It's one of the few places that modern society still has existent that you can go and be surrounded by it."

Gothic youth is taboo in puritan America. The shiny surface of economic success must not be called into question. Clean, well-adjusted, successful - this is how a father wants his son to be. The piercing of patterns into the skin with the simultaneous injection of pigment is a painful process. Or put simply - tatooeing hurts like crazy! Many Goths are willing to bear the pain. The skin is included as a part of the total Gothic work of art. Cockroach, a friend of Columbine's, designed his tatoo himself. Naturally, the pattern revolves around the theme of the hereafter - death.

Nathaniel Cravenzola calls himself a "piercing artist". He earns a fairly good living from "apparently more and more people discovering the joy of pain" and having themselves tatooed in the unlikeliest places. Nathaniel simply likes the look of the body decoration - and so do many of his clients from the Goth scene.

July Fourth. Independence Day. America celebrates.

Far away from the bright fireworks, the Goths are celebrating in the dark Man Ray Club. They are celebrating themselves, because for them, the Fourth of July is a farce. In their view, only a small minority of Americans are truly independent - intellectually and culturally. The fast-food, Hollywood mass culture swindles them into believing in a kind of phoney pseudo-freedom.

Cusrack, the D'Artagnan of the Goth scene, lives for Club evenings. The people here understand him. "This is the only way I can survive in this dumb society," he says, at the end of the evening.