Raphael, Frederic


Raphael, Frederic
(1931– )
   Born in Chicago in 1931 and a graduate of Cambridge University, screenwriter Frederic Raphael has worked mostly in Britain. His screenplays for two of John Schlesinger’s films may have prompted STANLEY KUBRICK to invite him to coauthor the script for Eyes Wide Shut. Schlesinger’s Darling (1965), for which Raphael won an Academy Award, deals with the decadence of modern society, as does Eyes Wide Shut. Far from the Madding Crowd (1967) was Raphael’s faithful adaptation of a classic novel by Thomas Hardy. Since Kubrick wanted to make Eyes Wide Shut a faithful rendition of a classic novella by ARTHUR SCHNITZLER, a book which, like Darling, focuses on sexual mores, Raphael seemed to be the proper collaborator for Kubrick on the script. Schlesinger has compared the relationship of writer and director to a tennis match, in which both strain to return each other’s ideas. That metaphor fits Raphael’s work, both with Schlesinger and with Kubrick.
   Since Arthur Schnitzler’s novella TRAUMNOVELLE (1926; published in English as Dream Story, 1927), was the source of Raphael’s script, it is useful to examine it in some detail. The English translation of Schnitzler’s story quickly went through four printings; the book was popular on both sides of the Atlantic. (A new translation by J. M. Q. Davies was published at the time the film was released. ) The story opens with Dr. Fridolin, an affluent Viennese physician, casually discussing with his wife,Albertina, an elaborate soiree they had attended the previous evening, including the covert attraction that each of them felt for one or other of the guests. Then the conversation turns serious, as Albertina recalls secretly lusting after a handsome, blond young man whom she observed only in passing while on a holiday. She admits that she would have freely given herself to him, had he but asked her to do so. Fridolin is disturbed by his wife’s admission and inflamed with a desire to search for sexual excitement that very night.
   He wanders through the red-light district of Vienna and is lured by a prostitute to her apartment. Initially, he is intrigued by her, but is nevertheless squeamish about having sex with her, so he decides to resist her blandishments and be on his way. In effect, “he leaves the dugout,” says MICHAEL HERR in his book on Kubrick, “but doesn’t step up to the plate. ” As a matter of fact, Fridolin’s passing up the hooker proves salutary, as he subsequently learns that she was a victim of syphilis.
   In a café, he happens upon an old friend named Nachtigall, a dropout from medical school whom Fridolin knew in his student days. Nachtigall plays piano to earn a living, and he divulges to Fridolin that he is waiting for a coach to take him to a masked ball, where the participants are dressed as monks. He must perform with his eyes bandaged, he explains, because of the scandalous nature of the proceedings. Fridolin commandeers a monk’s cowl and cape from a costume shop, and at his behest, Nachtigall smuggles him into the bacchanal, where he pursues his voyeuristic adventure.
   At the height of the festivities, the women shed their costumes and continue to frolic with the men. Fridolin is revealed to be an uninvited guest and is threatened with reprisals. But one of the masked women offers to redeem him by suffering the consequences of his brazen intrusion and thus serving as a scapegoat. The next day, Dr. Fridolin examines in the hospital morgue the body of a woman that has been dredged up from the river. She is identified in the press only as “a countess,” who was poisoned under mysterious circumstances in a smart hotel. He suspects that it is the corpse of the woman who rescued him the preceding night, but he is not sure, since she was wearing a mask.
   The disconsolate Fridolin returns home and is aghast to discover the mask, which he had mislaid at home after the costume ball, lying on his pillow. His wife, who presumably placed it there, expects an explanation of the mask, since it betokens that he went to a masquerade party without her. Fridolin confesses his wayward experiences of the previous night to his wife, and Albertina forgives him. She adds, “I think we ought to be grateful that we have come unharmed out of all our adventures,” referring to her obsession with the blond young man, as well to Fridolin’s recent night on the town. The screenplay hews close to the novella in several key scenes: the confession of Alice (the novella’s Albertina) to Bill (the book’s Fridolin) about her unfulfilled sexual desire for the blond man, a naval officer in the film; Bill’s encounter with the prostitute; Bill’s chance meeting with Nick Nightingale (the novella’s Nachtigall); his subsequent invasion of the fancy-dress ball at a Gothic mansion, where the timely intervention of a mysterious woman saves him; Bill’s viewing of the corpse in the morgue; and his last confession to Alice. All of these events are incorporated into the screenplay, virtually intact from the book.
   In addition, the script even retains much of Schnitzler’s dialogue in Alice’s confession about her sexual attraction to the naval officer, in the orgy scene, and in the reconciliation scene between Bill and Alice at film’s end.
   A salient example of how Kubrick and Raphael remain true to their literary source is the orgy sequence. Following the book, the licentious participants at the saturnalia are wearing monastic garb; moreover, they are presided over by a sinister figure clad in a cardinal’s robe of scarlet. The whole affair appears to be a diabolical black mass, a blasphemous mockery of a religious rite carried out by some sort of satanic cult.
   Still, Kubrick and Raphael found it necessary to revise Schnitzler’s novella in various ways. For a start, Kubrick decided to set the film in New York City at the end of the 20th century, instead of in Vienna at the end of the 19th century. Raphael recalls in Eyes Wide Open that Kubrick decided to update the story because he was convinced that the relationships of men and women had not changed appreciably since Schnitzler’s time; Raphael agreed.
   In transplanting the story to American soil, Kubrick and Raphael found American analogues for the European settings in the book. Thus Vienna’s redlight district, where the hero does his nocturnal wanderings in Dream Story, becomes New York City’s Greenwich Village in Eyes Wide Shut. For the Viennese Schloss where the bacchanal is held in the book, the screenplay substitutes a country house on Long Island, New York.
   By the same token, the coauthors of the script came up with contemporary equivalents for some episodes originally set in 19th-century Vienna. One significant example concerns the prostitute whose services the hero forgoes in the book: She is infected with syphilis in Dream Story, but has HIV in Eyes Wide Shut.
   In adapting the novella to the screen,Kubrick and Raphael also extended the plot of Schnitzler’s slim volume with some ingenious additions of their own. The film begins with a sumptuous Christmas party attended by Dr. Bill Harford (TOM CRUISE), a Manhattan physician, and his wife, Alice (NICOLE KIDMAN). This social event is only referred to in the opening conversation between husband and wife in the novella as a ball which they had attended the previous night. Raphael remembers Kubrick asking him at times how they were going to handle an episode which Schnitzler had not developed in detail in the book. “Arthur doesn’t tell us much,” he said. Thus the party which the hero and heroine only discuss at the beginning of the story is not portrayed in the book, but the scriptwriters decided to build it into a major sequence in the film.
   In the picture, this affair is a Christmas party hosted by millionaire Victor Ziegler (SYDNEY POLLACK), a patient of Bill’s. The dissolute Ziegler—the only major character that the cowriters invented for the film—urgently summons Bill away from the Yuletide festivities to minister to Mandy, a call girl with whom he has just had sex in the upstairs bathroom; she had overdosed on drugs, and Bill is able to snap her out of a coma. As Michael Herr puts it, the opulent Christmas celebration, all colored lights and glowing Christmas trees, degenerates at this point into a sordid pagan bacchanal.
   Thomas Nelson remarks that the Victor Ziegler character and the related episode of Mandy have no authority in Dream Story, “except for Schnitzler’s fondness for generalizing about aristocratic decadence. ” In fact, the Ziegler-Mandy incident, Nelson continues, has resonances in the later orgy scene in the Gothic castle, which it foreshadows. For Bill strongly suspects that it was Mandy who offered herself to redeem him for intruding on the secret saturnalia, as is clear from the morgue scene. As Bill views the corpse he thinks is Mandy, we hear Mandy, in a voice-over on the sound track, warning him to leave the party before he is unmasked as an intruder. In another scene not to be found in Schnitzler’s book, Ziegler summons Bill to a conference with him in the billiard room of his town house. Ziegler advises Bill that it was indeed Mandy who was the female wearing the feathered mask who intervened on his behalf, and that she did in fact die of a drug overdose afterward. Indeed, the newspaper report of her demise has a headline which reads, “Ex-beauty queen in hotel drug overdose. ” But Ziegler insists that her death was not a question of her paying for Bill’s life with her own. Ziegler recapitulates these recent events as they stand near his garish red pool table. Ziegler dismisses Mandy’s unfortunate death, Nelson writes, “as if it were nothing more than an impersonal statistic in the life of a hooker,” who overdosed simply because, in Ziegler’s phrase, it was “always just gonna be a matter of time with her. ” Ziegler reminds Bill pointedly that Bill had warned her of such an eventuality when he revived her in Ziegler’s bathroom. He concludes, “Listen, Bill, nobody killed anybody. Someone died. It happens all the time. Life goes on. It always does, until it doesn’t. But you know that, don’t you. ”
   Ziegler thus maintains that Mandy’s “phony sacrifice” was merely a “charade” designed to scare Bill into staying away from the sybaritic revelries of the rich in the future. But the sinister, devious Ziegler is filled with duplicity, and hence he is hardly a man whose explanations can be accepted as sincere or credible. As ALEXANDERWALKER quips sardonically in his study of Kubrick,“Who would trust a man with a red billiard table?”To be more precise, it is just as likely that Ziegler’s dismissal of Mandy’s death as resulting from an accidental drug overdose, similar to the one she experienced at Ziegler’s Christmas party, is meant to manipulate Bill into renouncing any notion of going to the police with his suspicions about her murder. Such an action on Bill’s part, after all,would precipitate a horrendous scandal, involving the members of the East Coast upper crust who were present at the soiree. In the novella, the woman in the morgue had been poisoned in a hotel room and dumped in the river; so there is no doubt that Schnitzler meant to suggest that she was murdered. For the record, Mandy is listed in the credits as being played by Julienne Davis and the “mysterious woman” with the feathered mask by Abigail Good. That Kubrick employed two different actresses to play the same role in different sequences was presumably dictated by the film’s lengthy shooting schedule of 15 months, which meant in practical terms that Julienne Davis simply was not available at the point when Kubrick shot the masked ball on location at Mentmore, the Rothschilds’ country house. Still, there is no doubt that Kubrick and Raphael intended Mandy and the mysterious woman at the orgy to be one and the same—as is evident from Ziegler’s recapitulation speech, and from Mandy’s voice-over on the sound track when Bill views her corpse in the morgue. Although in the novella, the hero never knows for sure whether or not the dead woman in the morgue is the individual who acted as his scapegoat,Walker is correct in saying that in the film, the hooker whom Bill revives in Ziegler’s bathroom is the harlot who “will shortly become his ‘redeemer’ in a life-threatening confrontation when he himself is the helpless victim. ” In the novel and in the film, Bill returns home after seeing Ziegler, only to find the mask that he had worn during the orgy, which he had mislaid in the apartment, resting on his pillow—presumably placed there by Alice. There follows the reconciliation scene, wherein Bill and Alice reach a rapprochement. Their rapprochement is solidified in the final scene, in which Bill and Alice are in a toy store, buying a Christmas present for their daughter. The movie ends as it began, in the festive atmosphere of twinkling Christmas decorations. Kubrick and Raphael opted for a Christmas setting for the film, which is not suggested in the novella, because the atmosphere presents a jarring counterpoint to the sinister events in the story. Herr observes that there is a Christmas tree in nearly every room in the movie, except in the mansion where the pagan orgy is held. In the cheerful atmosphere of the toy store, Bill and Alice agree to put the past behind them and get on with their lives. In a speech taken directly from the novella, Alice refers to Bill’s recent misadventures by reflecting,“The reality of one night, let alone that of a whole lifetime, is not the whole truth” about any marriage. Husband and wife seem to be reconciled and vow to refresh their commitment to each other. Frederic Raphael documents in some detail his experience of collaborating on the script of this film in his memoir, Eyes Wide Open. Raphael labored with Kubrick on four drafts of the script for the movie at Kubrick’s manor in rural England, as well as by phone and fax, from the fall of 1994 until early 1996. Each of the revised versions of the script, as Kubrick himself admitted,was not just a matter of “a wash and a rinse,” but a full-scale reworking of the material.
   Looking back on the ordeal of revising the screenplay with Kubrick for more than a year, Raphael complains in his memoir that Kubrick, in the last analysis, did not want the script to carry any authorial stamp but his own. Therefore, Raphael goes on, Kubrick cut or simplified some of the dialogue that Raphael had written. Although Kubrick “admired the sharpness of my dialogue,” he states, the director “did not seem interested in words”; he saw the script only as a blueprint for the film he was going to shoot, “and film alone was his art. ” Raphael concludes,“He had indeed digested my work,” and made it his own. Elsewhere he adds, “The writer on a movie is like someone running the first leg of a relay race”; the second leg is run by the director, when he actually puts the film into production. In a similar vein Raphael opines that he saw from the beginning that Kubrick selected him merely to be the “outside caterer, but it would still undoubtedly be his party. ” In his book Raphael is fundamentally restating the age-old conflict of the screenwriter and the director. Raphael’s frustration about working on Eyes Wide Shut was that a Kubrick film must be all Kubrick. Apparently, Raphael has never been completely reconciled to the fact that filmmaking is a collaborative art; and that, once the screenplay is completed, it falls into the hands of the director, who is the guiding force behind the making of a motion picture. For example, Raphael recalls ruefully referring to the front office at WARNER BROS. the distributor of the picture: “They might not like the script,” he said. “Who’s they? There is no they,” Kubrick shot back. “There’s me and there’s you; and that’s it. ” Kubrick was, in effect reminding Raphael that, as producerdirector of the film, he had complete control over every aspect of the production, including the script. Nevertheless, Raphael ends his memoir by giving Kubrick a compliment. Kubrick, his cowriter, was “a hard master to please,” says Raphael; but among the filmmakers in the business,“he is one worth pleasing. ”
   References
   ■ Herr, Michael, Kubrick (New York: Grove Press, 2000), pp. 73–96;
   ■ Kubrick, Stanley,“Director’s Notes,” in Perspectives on Stanley Kubrick, ed. Mario Falsetto (New York: G. K. Hall, 1996), pp. 23–25;
   ■ Kubrick, Stanley, and Frederic Raphael, Eyes Wide Shut: A Screenplay (includes Arthur Schnitzler, Dream Story, trans. J. M. Q. Davies) (New York: Warner Books, 1999);
   ■ Maslin, Janet, “Bedroom Odyssey: Eyes Wide Shut,New York Times, July 16, 1999, sec. B, pp. 1, 18;
   ■ Peacock, Richard, The Art of Moviemaking From Script to Screen (Upper Saddle River, N. J. : Prentice-Hall, 2001), pp. 234, 524;
   ■ Raphael, Frederic, Eyes Wide Open: A Memoir of Stanley Kubrick (New York: Ballantine Books, 1999);
   ■ Rosenbaum, Jonathan, “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities: Eyes Wide Shut,Chicago Reader, July 23, 1999, sec. 1, pp. 46–49;
   ■ Schickel, Richard, “All Eyes on Them: Eyes Wide Shut,Time, July 5, 1999, pp. 66–74;
   ■ Wilmington, Michael, “Eyes Wide Shut,Chicago Tribune, July 16, 1999, sec. 7, pp. A, F–G;
   ■ Walker, Alexander, Stanley Kubrick, Director (New York: Norton, 1999), pp. 344–359.

The Encyclopedia of Stanley Kubrick. . 2002.

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