Man on the Train.
Dir. Patrice Leconte. France, 2003.
MONDAY: TWO STRANGERS MEET.
- Montage of shots during the credits—visuals focus on blue-lit images of a
man’s hand, views out the window of a train, and finally—a close shot of
one of the two main characters, Milan, watching the view out the window from his
seat. Cut to a blurred view out the window, and then back to a wider shot of
Milan—now bent over in pain, his hands over his face. Closer shot as he rubs his forehead, then reaches for a bottle of pills, and reacts to the empty pill container. The train arrives at the station, and Milan exits—we get a good look at his leather jacket and his weathered face. Wide shot: camera tracks left across the edge of the building and then reveals Milan
exiting the station, looking around, and walking the streets.
- At a pharmacy, just at closing, he asks for some aspirin—when an older man, Manisquier, notices him in the store. He asks for some medication, but the pharmacist is out of stock—so Milan asks for aspirin. Manisquier follows Milan outside, and when Milan realizes he was given soluble aspirin, the old man offers him some water—at his house nearby. Again the scene is blue-lit. The town is all quiet. Milan says nothing to the old man until they reach the gate of his house. Inside the gate, the camera shows a large two-story house towering above them. Inside the house, we see Milan’s POV as he looks around at the Victorian froufrou stuffing every corner of every room. The old man admits, “It’s ancient.” He says he prefers a different style—Japanese, “Zen minimalism.” But “It would have killed Mother to see this go.” Manisquier’s mother died 15 years ago. Then he admits, “I must not like change either.” A quick cut to a baby picture of Manisquier. Milan sits down, lights a cigarette, and tells Manisquier he likes the place—“It’s full of the past.” But Manisquier refers to the “boredom” of the place. The old man tends to babble, and he even shows off a nude painting that he used to masturbate to when he was younger. “Do you fancy a drink?” Manisquier asks. But Milan holds up the aspirin—that’s why he came here. “You’re not much of a talker,” Manisquier says, but Milan responds, “I tend not to ask questions.” Close shot of the soluble aspirin in the glass of water. Manisquier says, “I always wanted to be a silent onlooker. I walk into a bar. I don’t say a word. But everything changes suddenly. The women mostly. They check their reflections. Yet I do nothing, just by being there, I’ve sown confusion in their minds.” They are sitting directly across from each other, and the editing compares close shots of their profiles. Milan says you’ve watched too many movies. Off he goes. Reaction shot of Manisquier shows a complex set of reactions—he seems a bit forlorn.
- While Manisquier does the dishes and readies himself for bed, we intercut shots of Milan walking downtown and finding a hotel closed. This town is dead. He sits on a bench. He returns to the old man’s house. Manisquier is seated, looking through an old album? He hears the noise of Milan closing the gate. Camera tracks in on him, as his face is in profile. What is he thinking? Cut to Manisquier’s POV as we see Milan enter the living room. Manisquier admits he knew the hotel would be closed—“tourists are scarce in November—just as they are in July.” He shows Milan upstairs to his room. Along the way, on the stairs, he shows off some paintings of family members. Note that the walls really need a new coat of paint. He sums up his not-so-heroic ancestors, including one fellow that blew his head off by accidentally discharging his weapon on the field of battle. “I’m very fond of this absurd old fellow! Grandma said I take after him. I believe it, given my tendency to undermine the highlights of my life.” Milan stands there and takes this all in—patient of him. The tour is over. But the old man still can’t shut up. He opens a bedroom door. If the color scheme of the exterior scenes was a gray-blue, then the color scheme of the interior of this old house is a dull yellow. The bedroom has wall covering that is peeling away. Milan asks if he can stay until Saturday, and Manisquier says he has a task on Saturday, too. He says change the room if Milan likes—but at least this room doesn’t have a leaky ceiling. Manisquier still wants to have a drink with Milan—but the latter declines the offer. “I would like to drink, if I could”—and he points to his heart. He offers to have lunch with him tomorrow. Finally, the old man exits. Milan begins to unpack—and then he drops two automatic weapons—and then a third one—on top of the clothes in his open bag. Downstairs, the old man turns out lights. In the bedroom, a quick insert close shot of an open bureau drawer with the three weapons laid out side by side. Then Milan covers the guns with some clothing, closes the drawer, locks it, and pockets the key. He lies on the bed, smokes, and thinks.
TUESDAY: THE OLD MAN AND THE BANK ROBBER
- Next a.m. Look at the effect Milan has on the old man—he’s out in the yard lifting weights. The old man rattles away, as usual. He asks Milan if he has ever worked out before. “Never.” Milan leaves. Inside the bedroom, Manisquier looks around. The first thing he does is try on Milan’s leather jacket. He looks in the mirror and pretends to be a TOUGH GUY, acting out western dialogue. “My name is Earp—Wyatt Earp. I’m from Laramie. They ay I’m a tough one.” Then he whirls around, holds out his hand like a six-shooter, and says defiantly, “Who called Laramie boys assholes?” He fires off a couple of rounds and warns, “The next bullet’s for you, piss-face!” All during his monologue you can hear the sounds of voices—as if he imagines the sound-effects within his imaginary saloon. Then he “leans” over the rail of the bar and knocks back an imaginary shot of whisky. “Welcome to Tombstone, cowboys! I’ll make you shit bricks!” He’s a real tough guy! Then he shakes his head, smiles, and all of the sound effects disappear. He is back in the room again, free of his imaginary vision. His monologue shifts, as he begins to take off the jacket: “Pick up your exercise books . . . and write, ‘On the Pont Neuf (in Paris), I met—” Then he shifts his attention and spots a photograph dropped from the jacket—it shows a younger Milan astride a horse. Hmmm—a real Western hero, eh? Manisquier seems pleased he has found this image of Milan. He drops the jacket on a chair. Later, Manisquier works on a big picture puzzle spread out on the dining room table. We can hear the quiet strains of a Schubert number playing in the background.
- Another blue-lit exterior. Milan meets his accomplices. An old friend is the first to meet him, and it is easy to see that they have a long friendship. His friend points out the new guy, Sadko, their driver, who has one idiosyncratic behavior: he only says one thing a day at 10:00 a.m.). The friend tells Milan that their third partner, Luigi, arrives tomorrow.
- Manisquier working with a young man—studying French poetry. They are working in the old man’s house. The young boy seems sufficiently dense. Milan comes in just as the kid leaves. He heard the tutor referring to sweetness as a negative. “One could get used to it,” Manisquier says. “I don’t think things are sweet,” Milan says. Manisquier explains that he was a teacher.—and “not one pupil molested in 30 years on the job.”
- Later, at dinner at the big table, Milan sits at the head, while Manisquier sits next to him at the corner. Apparently Milan brought the food from a local grocery. Milan teaches him how to drink cognac—take a big mouthful, let it open the pipes, etc. It works. Notice that the scene began with a wide shot of the two men—but now we are at a close shot, and set up for POV/reaction shots of the characters large in the frame. The Milan makes a strange request: he asks if he can borrow a pair of slippers. His rationale: “I’ve never tried them.” Cut to a scene of Milan trying on a new pair of slippers—fresh from the shoebox. (Did Manisquier go out and buy him a pair? Or did he have an extra pair still in the box?) This is the first time Milan has ever worn slippers. “My life’s all wrong,” he muses. Then Manisquier explains, “The perfect slipper is almost in tatters—like a second skin.” Manisquier is enjoying this moment even more than Milan. Manisquier tells him to keep the slippers—as a gift. “I may ask you a favor in return later.” Milan looks around the room. He checks out all the books in the library. He picks up the picture of a naked baby—obviously Manisquier. Milan keeps checking out the books. Manisquier says, off-screen, “This is my life’s stage, from my first feed to my first cigar.” Milan asks him if he has read all the books. “Almost all,” he says. Shot of Manisquier: “I hated books at first, but everyone nagged me so much, I started reading. It was like a revelation.” Milan sits again and removes the slippers. He admits he is not a reader. Manisquier says, “Many people talk a load of rubbish, I think we agree on that. As soon as they write it down, it becomes gospel truth, and that’s a bad thing.” All of this with the two in the shot together. Manisquier asks to share another drink, but Milan declines. “Not a great conversationalist, are you?” He stands up. “Still, I don’t mind. Conversation’s my line. I could keep going until Doomsday.” He follows Milan out of the room.
- Later, the two are seated in the living room. Manisquier asks him if he has tattoos—after all, “I think that if I’d been you, I’d have had tattoos—an eagle, a dragon. Because a tattoo is—but he can’t finish the line Instead, he says, “Of course, you need to be—” and then gestures toward his shoulders, as if to indicate you have to be a big strong man with wide shoulders in order to have tattoos. Milan seems bemused by the old man’s line of thought.
- Later, they go out on the terrace and look at the stars, and we see a wide shot of the old house set against the stars. We hear Manisquier say, “Spare me the infinity line. Everyone who comes here goes on about infinity.” Cut to a high angle of the two men seated on the terrace. Manisquier goes on: “How they feel so tiny compared to the universe. It drives me up the wall. I suppose I have no cosmic sense. The stares bore me.” Closer shot of the two. Milan says, “Apparently, we all have our own star,” but then he admits that saying is an old wives’ tale. They are silent for a moment, and you sense the intimacy between them as they sit under the darkness of the sky. “What’s happening on Saturday?” Milan asks. “Nothing—just a quick tune-up. An open and shut case. One valve misfiring is enough these days for them to haul you in for repairs.” Then Milan’s response: “You’d rather not talk about it,” and he gets that right. They sit in silence.
WEDNESDAY: “THAT’S WHEN YOU KNOW YOU’RE
- The next day, more blue-lit shots, establishing shots of the streets in town, and then for the first time we see the exterior of the bank. The camera tracks left to show three of the men who will hold up the bank. They are checking it out. “It’s a piece of cake,” Milan’s old friend concludes. But Milan warns, “You can choke on cake.” It just looks too easy. “You haven’t gotten fat, but you’re old before your time,” his friend warns him. Milan stares at him coldly.
- Inside the bank, Milan checks out the security cameras. Suddenly we cut to a
first-person POV shot—and we follow the camera as the mystery person advances
toward the unaware Milan. Cut to a side shot and a man sticks two of his fingers
against Milan’s back and says, “Freeze!” Camera up to show
Manisquier standing behind Milan, who then turns around. “You again!”
Now both men face the counter, side-by-side, and Manisquier tells
Milan that he has always dreamed (40 years with an account here) of holding
up the bank. How ironic. He even says, “Hold-up!” aloud, and we
get a quick reaction shot of the clerks. “It gets my adrenaline flowing.
How about you?” But Milan says he doesn’t think about it: “
We don’t have the same nightmares.” Note the intimacy of their
shared space here. Manisquier dreams of getting away, not killing anyone,
and heading for the Bahamas. Outside, still in the blue light, note
Milan’s momentary discomfort as he looks toward the getaway car,
but then walks off with Manisquier, who can’t stop talking. Now
Manisquier tells him that he once had a lot of money—after his
mother died—and he went to Paris and spent lots of money. But it
rained two straight days, so he went to the cinema and watched 11 films.
They keep walking. “Getting through money is a real art,”
Manisquier says. “I bet you’re an expert.” “I’m
not bad,” Milan says. Manisquier invites him to have lunch—on him.
On the way, he tells story of his first kiss in the cinema, and of the woman
grabbing his privates and hauling him out of the cinema—for more action,
- Inside the café. This is the old man’s regular lunch stop for
30 years—to avoid the school’s cafeteria. Prompted by Milan,
Manisquier finishes his story about the girl—she dropped him hard for
someone else. They are seated in one of the booths. Then a guy accidentally
bumps hard into Milan, and he doesn’t react. Why? He tells Manisquier
the guy, along with his friend, are a team, and a guy can’t take on
two—except in the movies. Then he says, “That’s when you
know you’re getting old. Not long ago he would have apologized. There’s
nothing you can do.” Talk about sharing secrets! Manisquier wonders, “
Aren’t we a team?” Milan shakes his head, as if to consider the idea.
“They’re getting on my nerves,” the old man says. “So go
and tell them to go away, Milan says. “If I did, I’d start a new life.
” So the old man goes over to tell them that,” Milan offers. Manisquier
ponders this offer. “If I did. . . . I would start a new life.” Milan
consoles him: “You’re right to hesitate.” Then the camera focuses
on Manisquier’s reaction—and suddenly he yells, “Can’t you
keep it down!” Cut to a wide shot and we see Manisquier leave his seat (
while Milan watches) and cross the room to confront the young guy. Manisquier grabs
him, turns him around, and repeats his complaint (note this shot is from
Milan’s POV). Great reaction shot of Milan (and a woman in the booth behind him.)
Back to the POV shot—and suddenly all the tension is defused when the young
guy smiles and begins to recite some poetry he learned when he was a student in the old man’s class. “You were my teacher in ’82,” he tells Manisquier. They shake hands and chat briefly. Quick reaction shot o Milan—he has enjoyed the irony of this confrontation. Back to the student, who tells Manisquier he enjoys poetry—primarily because of his old teacher. “You get 18 out of 20,” Manisquier says, and returns to his booth. Embarrassed, he says, “I suppose my time hasn’t come.” But Milan says, “That took guts.” Reaction shot of Manisquier: “I try to pick a fight and find someone who likes me.” Milan jokes, “You’d have preferred broken bottles?” Manisquier reacts, still disconcerted by this turn of events and laments, “It would have been something to remember.
THURSDAY: THE SECRET IS OUT
- The bank robbers together. Milan seems distant, unfocused on the job.
Suddenly, at exactly 10:00 a.m., the new guy—Sadko—the oracle,
speaks: “Revenge is misfortune’s justice.” Milan’s
friend explains that Sadko has been like this since his wife left him—
seven years ago. Suddenly Milan tells his old friend, Max, that they should c
all it off. Why? Max reminds him the bank job is a “pushover.”
Milan explains, “Luigi’s not here, this guy’s a clown,
nd you’re fat.” Max warns him that he’ll do the job alone
if he has to. Milan doesn’t respond.
- Manisquier, while returning home after some shopping, discovers a large
gate open, enters and moves through a small set of woods, and is suddenly
scared by an owl that flies right past him. He keeps walking, and when he
approaches his house, he begins to hear some strange sounds. Is it an intruder? A
quick tracking shot closes in on Manisquier and reinforces his sudden fear. But he
steels himself and moves along the perimeter of the house—moving forward with a
sense of purpose—and after breathing deep, ready to turn the last corner and
confront the unknown—a dog suddenly appears, growls, and then his owner—
the tree trimmer—approaches and gives his advice on one of the trees on the
property. Out of breath, Manisquier wonders why—although the tree trimmer has
been coming monthly for 20 years—“I never expect to see you.” The
trimmer says, ‘No one ever remembers a gardener.”
- Inside the house again, a close shot of Manisquier completing the picture Cut
to a high angle—and we can see the puzzle is a scene from the American West—
with two large buttes towering rover the desert and set against a blue sky. We can
hear the same melody from Schubert playing on the piano in the background.
- The music carries over to the next scene—blue-lit again, showing Milan
walking alone on the deserted street. The music changes to the bluesy theme that
began the film ( Milan’s theme).
- An ECU of the bathtub faucets. Then an ECU of the toiletries on a shelf above the
sink. There are two of everything. Milan reflected in the mirror. He comments on the
extra toiletries. We hear Manisquier’s voice, from another room, as he explains,
“There are two kinds of men—those who say, “I must buy a
toothbrush—I’ve lost mine.” Cut to Manisquier sitting at a desk and
writing something. “They’re adventurers. And those who have an extra brush.
” Then we hear Milan ask, “What are they?” Back to Milan standing
in front of the mirror. He has a huge tattoo on the side of his upper arm. We hear
Manisquier’s voice: “Planners at best.” “You have two of
everything?” Back to Manisquier: “No, three!”
- Milan relaxing in the bath. We hear that piano playing again—the same
Schubert tune. Then we see Manisquier playing the piano. Milan enters the shot from
the left. Manisquier says, “Apart from needlepoint, I have all the skills of a
well-bred, early 20 th-century young woman.” He nods to Milan to have a seat. He
asks Milan if he has any musical skills. “I had a harmonica once.” Back
to Manisquier: “Strangely, when you lay music, people think you’re enjoying it. ‘Ah, the happy moments he must spend at the piano!’ Playing the piano can be a dead bore.” Milan asks, “Even Beethoven!” Manisquier agrees. But Manisquier is ready for another rant. He gets up, moves around the room, turning on individual lights, and complains, “Schumann’s the worst! Chopin I can take. Then you forget the damn stuff! But Schumann! Layer after layer of syrupy twaddle, over the top with its sniveling.” Milan reacts—he has enjoyed this rant. Manisquier finishes with, “But I like Schumann. He appeals to my love of failure.” Then he sits next to Milan and checks out the bedroom slippers he is wearing. “They’re not you at all. It’s like me driving some sports convertible.” Then he laughs—impressed with his new-found wit.
- Close shot of Manisquier in the kitchen preparing the dinner. He yells in to Milan,
“As time passes, one’s more interested in the whether than in the when.
Aren’t you?” Milan responds in the negative. Manisquier sighs, “
Another certainty bites the dust. So much the better.” Then he sends Milan off
to fetch bread—but warns him that the clerk ALWAYS asks, “Anything else?
” and that it’s so annoying. Once he even told her that she did not need to
ask him if he needed anything else—he would tell her if he did. But the next time
he came in, guess what? She said the same thing. “Did you murder her?” Milan
asks, as he puts on his jacket. “No, but I buy supermarket crisp bread now,”
- Milan enters the small shop, and the first thing we hear from the clerk is, “
Anything else?” to the customer at the front of the line. She asks the same of
each of the next three customers—but when Milan makes his order, changing it from
one to two baguettes, she looks at him cross-eyed, a bit intimidated, and just asks him
for the price of the bread. But when he returns to the house, he doesn’t tell
Manisquier what happened. He says, simply, she was “incorrigible.”
- Dinner time. Milan sits at the head of the table again. Manisquier admits that he
know the salesgirl didn’t say it to Milan—but she says it to me. Milan smiles.
The Manisquier asks why Milan bought two baguettes. “There are two kinds of men.
I’ve joined the planners.” Manisquier smiles, as if to say, “Touchez!
” So why did Milan come? Milan tells Manisquier that he knows the old man knows
the reason for his appearance. So it’s all out in the open. “I know you have
guns.” Whoops! That gets a reaction out of Milan. “Is it the bank?”
Milan says he means no harm to the old man. “If I screw up, I won’t shop
you.” Manisquier smiles, and says, “That’s not what’s
bothering me. I wish I could help you,” Manisquier says. Then he apologizes
for asking, knowing he has had no experience. “I suppose it takes
split-second timing. You need experience.” Milan reacts. “It’s
much simpler than you think. We go in, grab the take, and leave.” Mesmerized,
Manisquier says, “Saturday will be a busy day.” Milan responds, “
You can say that again.” They eat in silence.
- Later, after talking on the phone, Manisquier says, “I enjoy boozing with you.
” (But I thought Manisquier was not supposed to drink alcohol!) “It forges
a bond—alcohol, the true key to communication.” He mentions that there will
be a woman dining with them the next night. “It’s my turn to ask for a favor
in return for the slippers.” Milan thinks Manisquier wants him to sleep somewhere
else. But that’s not it. He stumbles as he tries to explain what he wants from Milan. Finally, Milan cuts him off by saying, “I’m listening.”
- Another blue-lit scene—notice that Manisquier has now joined Milan in one of
the scenes that typically combines Milan and his cronies. Where are they? At the site of
an abandoned stone building, where Milan is going to let Manisquier have some target
practice. Milan is the teacher, Manisquier is the student. Milan has set up a row of tin
cans inside the ruin. “What if it was my gardener?” Manisquier asks, as he
points the automatic weapon. “Imagine it’s a tin can, too,” Milan
cautions. He fires three times and misses. “Take a breath and try again.”
Two more misses. “You have to be gifted. . . you have to practice . . . what
then?” Manisquier asks him. Milan says, No one knows. Maybe a lack of pity.
” Manisquier readies himself, fires twice more, and then zings a can with the
third shot. Then Milan asks him to recite a poem he once heard—a sad poem about
being in Paris. “On the Pont Neuf I met . . Who sings that distant song? A badly
anchored barge or the Samaratine metro stop. On the Pont Neuf I met, No dog no stick
no sign, Pity for those in despair, that the crowd turns aside from.” Milan says,
“I heard it once. I wanted to know the rest.” Manisquier walks toward
him and admits his students weren’t too keen on reciting the poem. He sits next
to Milan and recites more of the poem: “On the Pont Neuf I met . . . Sitting on
the warm stones, the air that I murmured, the dream that was my light.” Then
a pause. The camera tracks in slightly on the two men, side-by-side. Manisquier
says what’s on his mind: “Are you dead-set on Saturday?” Milan
asks, “Are you?” Manisquier answers, “I have no choice.”
Milan says, “Neither do I.” Then he asks, “Do you have the book
at home—the one with the poem?” “I don’t know where,”
Manisquier says. “It doesn’t matter. Actually, I prefer that,” is
all that Milan can say. “It’s good not to know all a poem” Then
a cut to the side, focusing on Milan’s face. “My mind’s not made
up yet.” “What does it depend on?” “Whether somebody
turns up or not.” Then Milan stands up and the camera stays on Manisquier.
FRIDAY: EXCHANGING PLACES: PART ONE
- Thursday. Manisquier in the hospital—probably a pre-op check-up and time for preliminary x-rays. Meanwhile, we see Milan waiting for Luigi to show up. If he shows, he goes. They meet at an art museum, and the embrace. Luigi stands before a painting, perhaps a Van Gogh, and gives a short lecture on Van Gogh’s techniques. But Milan wants to know why Luigi was late. Luigi confesses that although he was on time, he had to wait out his hangover before he showed up. They move to another gallery and sit and talk a while. Milan tells him the take from the bank job will be $200,000 Euros each. Even in this scene the colors are washed out and the blue-lit cinematography dominates.
- That night, Manisquier is walking on the street, and he can’t help stop at the entrance to the bakery and just think about going inside and confronting the clerk who always asks “Anything else?” But he can’t do it. Back at the house, Manisquier takes his medicine. Then we see him with a woman—his sister—who is helping him pack his bag for the hospital. “I’ve made my will.” He tells her left it all to her—“although you pissed me off.” He even left her the house. He is seated, and she has been moving about the room. He begins some truth-telling, and she joins in and finally sits down. “Why are we like this now?” he ponders. We’ve never moved away. You married a prick and he gave you two cretins.” She tries to stop this line of inquiry. He sits next to her. He wants her to admit that her husband is a prick. He wants CHANGE—a breakthrough. But she can’t. He confronts her—grabs her shoulders and turns her toward him. “We’ve never said what we meant. What happened to us? He’s ruined your life with his scale models, neckties, and petty ambitions. He wasn’t even screwing you.” She is stunned. She has never seen him like this. But he won’t stop. “We were normal children, but one day we struck a pose and turned into mummies.” She breaks off—and tells him not to worry. She starts to leave, but then she admits that her husband is “a fat prick—a total prick,” and the two siblings stagger to a heartfelt embrace, which we see from a high angle.
- Manisquier shows up at a barber’s shop for a haircut and a shave. “The usual trim,” the barber asks, and Manisquier says, “No. Let’s have a change. Make it shorter.” The old barber is befuddled—shorter? Modern? No part? He can barely move. Manisquier says, “Something in between ‘fresh out of jail’ and ‘world-class soccer player.’” Manisquier even suggests a goatee—“But I’ll keep the mustache.” The old barber is thankful that at least one thing about Manisquier will not change. Manisquier concludes, “I’m blazing a new trail. Who knows where it will lead?”
- Meanwhile, Milan sits at the old man’s house, tries a pipe for the first time, and looks through books. We hear a different musical theme, not associated with Milan before. The young man Manisquier has been tutoring comes for his lesson. Manisquier is not there because he changed his routine today—and stopped at the barbershop. Milan tells the boy he is to be his tutor today. The boy sits next to Milan at the crowded desk in the office. Milan doesn’t know the novel he is reading, but he asks the kid to tell him about it. The boy has been reading a book by Balzac, a great French novelist. He tells Milan it’s a book about a woman waiting for the man who loves her. “What would she do today?” Milan asks. He affirms the boy’s response: that today she would call him and ask for his photograph! As Milan says, “Without phones or a photo, how can she remember him?” The boy takes this question to heart and answers, “With her memory?” So there was a point to Milan’s questions. He asks the boy what he thinks of the character. The boy answers, “She’s patient,” but Milan suggests, “She’s wonderful!” He follows up: “People can’t wait that long nowadays.” “What do I write?” the boy asks. “Nothing. Think about it. If Eugénie Grandet had a phone, what would have happened?” The boy understands that’s his homework for next week. Off he goes. Milan re-lights his pipe and looks around—as if soaking up the ambience of the library. Milan has had a new experience. It’s like he’s changing places with the old man.
- Manisquier leaves the barber shop—happy with his new “look”, and meanwhile Milan shaves. A car drives up to the house. A middle-aged woman joins him. She is Viviane. They enter the house, and everything is routine—except for one thing: Milan stands there before them—and Milan has shaved off his goatee! It’s apparent from the start that Viviane is somewhat uncomfortable in the presence of Milan. She makes small talk, wondering why Manisquier wanted them to meet. She says, “He thinks everyone he likes will get along.” Milan answers, “He could be wrong,” and she says, “He’s a true optimist—not much fun, but an optimist.” They go into the sitting room. He says, “Are you fond of him?” Her answer is matter-of-fact: “An old love story isn’t necessarily worn out.” And then—with a cut to her reacting to Milan, she drops a bomb: “And it’s none of your business.” At that moment Manisquier enters the room. He is ebullient, even radiant, as he faces his two guests.
- A quick cut to the infamous blue-lit scene: at the same time our three characters are enjoying their drinks, we see Luigi and Max hiding, while Sadko, the oracle, stalks along a row of parked cars until he finds to steal—the door was even unlocked. The three drive away together.
- Back to the dinner. For a moment Milan and Manisquier are alone at the table—while Viviane is on the phone to her family. Milan asks, “Are you faithful?” Manisquier answers, “We’re used to each other. There’s a certain fondness, too.” Milan says, “You’re not after fondness tonight.” This gets a sharp look from Manisquier, and he continues, “She no longer intimidates me. That’s something.” Viviane rejoins them, and she notes that she was on the phone with her son—who passed his exams today. The dinner continues, but Milan seems frustrated with the boring conversation. “Tell her you don’t give a shit!” Manisquier says, “I do give a shit!” Milan disagrees: “Yes, you do.” He turns on Viviane and spits it out: “He wants tenderness and sex, not news of your brat.” WOW! That really breaks the ice. Reaction shots all around. She turns on Milan. “And what do you want? To stir up shit?” Manisquier tries to play peacemaker, but it’s too late. “You act like you’re jealous,” she slings at Milan. “Just setting things straight,” he tells her calmly. More reaction shots of Viviane and Manisquier.
- A physician is studying a series of MRI images. He refers to the surgery for a “triple” (triple bypass?) tomorrow morning.
- Back at Manisquier’s house. The three finish playing cards. She leaves the table to “tidy up,” and she touches Manisquier’s face with apparent affection. After she is gone, Milan says he was wrong earlier—“An old mistress must be a comfort.” Manisquier accepts his “apology,” and he refers to the 15 years that have passed since his mother’s death. Some time has passed: notice the tow men are now sitting next to each other; they talk honestly about the women in their lives. Milan says, “You could have married,” and Manisquier admits he did contemplate it once. He seems more interested in Milan’s relationships with women as he comments, “I suppose you changed women often (went from one woman to another).” Milan shakes his head, but adds, “It gets tiring in the end.” Manisquier says, “I wish I’d sailed from one woman to another—different continents to explore, never dropping anchor, new islands….” Wizened Milan says, “Women aren’t what they used to be.” There is such intimacy in this shot. Manisquier has more to say on this dream of his: “Still, to discover and explore new embraces.” He seems lost in thought. Milan watches him and says, “Words get you in the end.” The camera tracks in slightly. Manisquier asks, “What do you think of Viviane?” Milan’s answer: “I don’t think anything. She’s yours.” Manisquier asks, “Shall we take one more stroll on the terrace?”
- Standing on the terrace, both facing outwards, Manisquier continues to reminisce: “This was my favorite spot. There were few houses then. The world was my oyster then. What a mistake! So I stopped living before I grew old.” Suddenly Milan grabs him, turns him around, so that both are facing the mirrored surface of the window. His tone is challenging: “Know why women don’t look at you?” Manisquier says, “They don’t see me.” Milan’s tone is insistent and in this rare case judgmental: “Because they’re dazzled by you.” Can’t you see how fantastic you are?” Look at yourself.” Manisquier looks into the window at his reflection—and we see his reflection from his point of view. “Look at all there is to see! It’s all there. We get more precious as the years pass, you see.” Then Milan strokes Manisquier’s back, walks back to the edge of the terrace, and sits on the railing. “If you look at it that way,” Manisquier muses. “It’s the only way—the right way,” Milan says with certainty. Manisquier comes over to him. He mentions having seen the photo of Milan. “Where was it taken?” “ Nevada,” Milan responds. Then he tells Manisquier, “Don’t start. Never keep a lady waiting.” Manisquier returns to the house. After a quick exterior shot of the house under the blackness of the sky, we cut to a close shot of Milan still on the terrace. He looks away—as if deep in thought. Then he turns, upon hearing something, and there stands Manisquier. “Did she throw you out?” “No,” Manisquier smiles. “I have an offer to make you—an honest one.” Note how Manisquier looms over the seated Milan. “I can give you some money. It’s only a small bank. It won’t be a big haul. So I’ll give you some money. You can pay me back later. I don’t really need it.” Reaction shot of Milan. He declines the offer. “At least I tried, as they say.” Close shot of Milan—who says, simply, “Thank you.” Reaction shot of Manisquier. Then a cut to a two-shot of the characters, and Manisquier returns to the house. Scene ends with a reaction shot of Milan.
- Cut to that by-now-more-than-infamous blue-lit cinematography and here we have the three bad guys in their stolen car. They wait at a light. Another car pulls up at the light directly across the street from them. A man in his 50s is inside the car. Then we hear a message for the single man: that his surgery tomorrow will be in theater two. So this is the surgeon that will operate on Manisquier. The lights change: the cars pass. Life goes on. But notice the editing here: this crossing of the two cars will be repeated visually in a key shot later in the film.
- Viviane exits the bedroom—behind her Manisquier lies awake, watching her. She says nothing—she just leaves. Out in the hall she begins to exit down the stairs, but she comes back, stands at another bedroom door, opens the door—and then we see her at the door (from the inside), and Milan lying on his bed in the midground. Her blouse is still open, showing her slip. She reads Milan her version of the riot act: “I’ve known men like you. They only stir up shit. You certainly don’t bring happiness.” Reaction shot of Milan. He turns away from her. “Women know that, you see. The trouble is, they can’t resist them. Bad girls are tempted. I must be too old for that. I had to tell you.” Milan turns to look at her again. “Do you love him?” She doesn’t answer that directly. “He told me you never ask questions.” “So forget I asked.” “I already have,” she says, and closes the door and leaves. The camera stays on Milan as he stares straight ahead. Then a quick shot of
Manisquier still lying awake in his bed.
SATURDAY: EXCHANGING PLACES: FINALE
- The shot dissolves to the same shot, but now with morning light. Manisquier is still dressed the same way, and his eyes are still open. He gets up, and in the kitchen Milan has prepared breakfast and is waiting for him. He turns toward the door, and cut to Manisquier standing in the doorway. “You look green,” Milan says. “It’s the light.” He sits down at the table and urges Milan to take the morning train. No such luck. Milan sits down at the table and begins eating breakfast. Manisquier hands him the book of poetry they talked about earlier. Now it’s time for some truth telling: Milan says the photo of him was taken in a circus where he was a stuntman for 14 years. No response from Manisquier. An uncomfortable silence, and then Milan says Manisquier’s old life will soon return—“you’re nice quiet life, like before.” Manisquier nods and says, “One evening following on from another.” Another awkward silence. Milan says, “I’ll be leaving.” Then an interesting cut: a POV shot over Milan’s shoulder, showing the object of the POV, Manisquier’s face, partly covered by Milan’s shoulder. We focus on Manisquier’s eyes—his response. Milan exits the frame, and now we are watching Manisquier’s reaction shot. You can tell Manisquier doesn’t want this to end. “I can’t miss the start,” Milan says. Then parallel editing with ECUs of the principals, first Manisquier as he says, “I suppose not,” and then Milan, as he says, “Thank you for putting me up.” Back to Manisquier as he says, almost whimsically, “A shame I’m busy today. I’d have helped you.” Milan’s reaction as Manisquier completes his statement: “I’d have liked that.” Milan smiles and exits. Reaction shot of Manisquier—he looks unresolved. Cut to a wide shot as Manisquier runs out to the doorway and throw out, “I could call the hospital and say I’m ill—I don’t suppose that would work.” From Manisquier’s POV we see Milan at the exit: “You’ll be a new man tomorrow,” Milan says. Reaction shot of Manisquier as he says, “Thanks for the lessons,” and then holds up his hand like a six-shooter.” Shot of Milan. He holds up the book. “Thanks for the book—and the slippers.” Still in Manisquier’s POV, we hear him say, “Thanks for the fresh air.” Milan moves away. Reaction shot of Manisquier: “If ever you have a spare postcard, think of me.” Milan reenters the POV shot, pulling on his jacket. “From Nevada?” Reaction of Manisquier: “You bet!” Milan: he stares back at Manisquier for a long beat before he says, “See you.” Reaction of Manisquier—and then his emotional response is emphasized by a cut to a wider shot showing him smaller and alone in the frame.
- Milan is now within his old-blue lit scene, and the old musical theme returns, as we see Milan check his automatic weapon and await his companions. Then we see Manisquier leave his house with his packed bag—off to the hospital for the surgery. He goes out to the waiting cab and gets in. This entire sequence is based on parallel cut scenes comparing the actions of the two men at the same time on the same Saturday—as they await their fates.
- Milan still waiting for his partners in crime. The car pulls up and the others get out to greet Milan.
- Manisquier in the cab on the way to the hospital.
- The blue-lit scene: Milan and the others mill about the car.
- Hospital scene: Manisquier strides in and stops at the check-in desk. He follows a nurse down a long hallway to his room. He looks a little afraid—and yet confident and under control.
- The blue-lit scene: the men ready their guns and conceal them under their clothing.
- Hospital: An orderly shaves off Manisquier’s chest hairs.
- The blue-lit scene: Fully-armed, the men climb into the car and off they go.
- Hospital: On his gurney, Manisquier is moved to a different floor and wheeled down the hallways. We follow his reaction shots and some of his POV shots as he watches the ceiling tiles pass overhead. He is moved into theater two of the operating wing.
- Blue-lit scene. Inside the car, a series of reaction shots. All are quiet. Then we know it’s 10:00—because Sadko speaks: “We shall pass, like centuries and like doves). Reaction shots of Milan and the others. We can hear a sound like a bell ringing insistently.
- Hospital: Inside the operating theater. Manisquier is already under sedation.
- Exterior of the bank. Can you hear that bell ringing sound again?
- The surgeon washing up: now the sound and its rhythm continue, but a slightly different sound.
- Max and Milan approach the bank—that rhythmic sound is even more insistent. Before the two enter, they pull their scarves over their mouths and noses. Sadko pulls the car up outside.
- The surgeon enters the operating theater—and that sound continues, and added to it is the beeping of the heart monitor.
- Luigi walks nervously past the bank on the street, and as he exits frame right, the camera tracks left to show an empty park bench and behind the bench a SWAT team member holding an assault rifle in his arms. The camera moves farther left to show a second member of the police SWAT team. He looks up, and the camera swish pans upward to show two more cops on a balcony across the street—both have their rifles aimed at the entrance to the bank. Another swish man downwards shows a fourth cop holding his assault rifle close to his chest. All is ready.
- The surgeon inserts his hand in the rubber glove. View of the heart monitor beeping.
- A bank employee holds his hands to the top of his head as the robbery begins. Swish pan to show Luigi and Max holding their guns on the people inside. Across the room Milan pushes a bank executive toward the vault. Max tells Luigi to follow Milan. “I’ll cover you!”
- The surgeon is poised to begin the operation. More beeping, more of that rhythmic ringing.
- Max removes his mask and then a swish pan to show Luigi holding his weapon on two people inside the vault. Camera left to show Milan pulling out the cash.
- The surgery has begun. All is normal until everyone reacts to a sudden pinging sound—an alarm.
- Milan working on transferring the money from the vault to his satchel. Suddenly he stops, holds up one of the bills to the light, and realizes the bill is a fake. Quick reaction shot of Luigi looking over toward Milan. “Let’s move it!” Milan yells. He exits the vault.
- Hospital: Back in the main part of the bank, no one is there anymore. Luigi and Milan stop, look at each other, and Luigi yells, “That bastard Max!” Luigi runs to the door of the bank, and we see him from the outside. He fires wildly. Quick cut of Max looking back from the getaway car, with Sadko driving him away from the bank. Milan grabs Luigi, pulls himself in front of his old friend, and—just then we see two quick shots of SWAT team members firing rifles. Quick cut to Milan, as he is shot once, twice, and then falls—with Luigi behind him, aghast at what is happening. We hear that continuous alarm sound louder now.
- ECU of the heart monitor. Manisquier has flat-lined. The surgeon holds his hands over his face—shocked at this turn of events. A member of team in the foreground throws down a bloody towel. That insistent alarm sound continues.
- Luigi is led off by the cops. Insert CU of Milan’s hand, lying over the edge of a step. The hand is bloody.
- Interior of the operating room. NOTICE: the alarm sound has finally ended! Now this scene even looks as blue-lit as Milan’s scene. It’s a high angle shot, and we can see the dead man on the table in the lower left. Attendants move about, clearing the equipment. Someone pulls the cover over the dead man’s face.
- High angle shot of Milan, also dead. He lies on his face over the steps to the bank. Someone turns him over. We can see blood in the corner of his mouth.
38. Back to the operating room. One of the nurses is the last person to exit the room—but just as she moves through the door, we hear a low burping sound, and then a second burp, and the shot cuts to a closer view of the nurse as she stops—and then a quick cut to the high angle shot of the dead Milan, and yet we see (in the upper left of the frame) the fingers of his left hand begin to move. We hear two more burps! Now the director establishes another parallel
editing track that will follow the actions of the two men who appear to return to life.
- Close shot of the nurse—who turns and looks back toward the dead man. She hears something. Insert close up of the cover being removed from Manisquier’s face. His eyes open and close. The burping sound now sounds more like a beeping sound—like the beeping of the heart monitor. But the beeping is slower than one would expect.
- High angle of Milan. He opens his eyes, too. Now a piano is heard joining the beeping sound. We hear a few notes from the Schubert we heard earlier in the film. Shot of Luigi being led away. He looks back toward Milan. Shot of Milan as he moves his head, turns his face to the left, and seems to look right into the camera—as we hear the Schubert more clearly.
- Close-up of Manisquier, his eyes open, and he turns to his left as if to look at—
- Milan’s eyes open, still looking that way, as we hear the notes of Schubert. He closes his eyes again.
- Close shot of Manisquier from c. Now he looks to his right—as if remembering, and we hear new sounds, as he closes his eyes.
- An overexposed shot of a stone wall. The camera tracks left, and we can see a large door to a prison, and a road in front, and another lower wall beyond the roadway. In slow motion Milan exits the door on the right—cut to a closer view of him. He looks fine. He wears the same leather jacket. The shot continues in slow-motion. Then the camera swish pans to the left, and there stands a man with a brown piece of luggage at his feet. Camera up: of course, it’s Manisquier. He looks fine, too.
- Reaction shot of Milan. Both men are obviously staring at each other. Then a shot of Manisquier—and in super slow-motion he reaches into a pocket, takes out a key, and tosses it across the road to Milan. Cut to Milan, as he looks down at the key that has fallen nearby. Suddenly we hear that Schubert again. Milan picks up the key—it’s a key to Manisquier’s house, of course. Milan shakes his head, as if to accept this gift. Back to Manisquier, who reaches down to pick up his luggage.
- Cut to a wide shot of the scene, with Manisquier on the left and Milan on the right of the frame. They walk toward each other. Just as they cross paths, cut to a closer shot of the two—and this time we see them BEFORE they cross paths, as they look at each other for a last time, Milan’s head disappearing momentarily behind Manisquier’s head, and then reemerging. Then that wide shot again—and by now they are six feet apart and walking away from each other. Milan stops on the other side, by the low wall, and looks back at Manisquier, whose back is turned and is walking away from the scene.
- Close-up of Manisquier back on the operating table in theater two of the operating suite. His eyes are to the left—as they were in 3 above.
- Tracking shot from left to right along the side of a train station. In the distance Manisquier appears. Cut to a closer view of Manisquier. In slow-motion he turns to his right and looks along the station platform. He walks toward the camera.
- Close-up of Milan lying on the steps of the bank. His eyes are still open, and he is looking in the same direction as 2 above.
- Insert close-up of Milan’s satchel on the floor in one of the rooms in Manisquier’s house. Camera up—and we see his leather jacket lying in a chair.
- Quick shot of a black screen with light moving across—to simulate movement alongside a moving train.
- We return to the drawing room at Manisquier’s house.
- The same shot as 13. above.
- Milan is seated at the piano in the drawing room. He is playing Schubert on the piano.
- Same shot as 13 above.
- Now we see Manisquier seated on the train, his bag on the seat in front of him. We can even hear some squawking bird sounds (or is it the owl we heard and saw from an earlier scene) added to the upbeat music playing on the soundtrack.
- Same shot as 13 above.
- Slow motion close shot of Milan playing Schubert at the piano.
- Close shot of Manisquier on the train—he looks to the left, smiles—and we see his POV—the passing scene outside the window. We can also hear the sounds of horses galloping and whinnying—a real Nevada on the soundtrack.
- Then the credits begin—and the music returns to Milan’s theme, which began the film. (By the way the Schubert piece is Opus 142, Impromptu Nr. 2 in A flat, allegretto.)
Film resource written by Robert E. Yahnke
Copyright, Robert E. Yahnke, © 2009
Professor, Univ. of Minnesota
Request permission from the author to reprint this resource--for educational use only