A sick woman reaches out to a wealthy man to negotiate a few terms for the cure to her “disease”.
If you’ve studied film, or have a great love of it, you will be well versed in the five elements required to create a visual masterpiece – narrative, cinematography, sound, editing, and mise-en-scene – that all important collaboration between director, actors, cinematographer, design, sound, lighting, make up, set builders etc.
Now, you can recruit all the experts on board you like, employ fancy jump-cuts, overlay a heart thumping soundtrack, color your film palette in post, but if it’s not happening on the page it’s likely all that is going to result is style over substance.
I can assure you it’s all happening on the page in Jean-Pierre Chapoteau’s screenplay, The Relief, starting with an opening scene which sets the tone in terms of that intangible element we call ‘atmosphere’, along with some very nasty creep factor.
Crisolla, a woman in her thirties, stands in front of a mirror in the bathroom of a Chinese restaurant, a picture of herself on the countertop.
What follows is unsettling, intriguing, and quite a bit urgh…
Hunched over the sink, Crisolla holds a thin, straw-like tube underneath her shirt.
The tube is attached to a small box on the sink. The box PUTTERS.
The putter slows. Crisolla removes the tube, which has a sharp end.
She tucks her equipment in her purse.
What the hell just happened? And, what is this woman doing? At this point there’s a temptation to look away, and that’s just from the written word… Just imagine what you could do with a camera and… Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Crisolla joins her boyfriend Leon back at the table and they sit down to a nice dinner.
Thank God, everything’s back to normal…
A discussion ensues between the two, there’s talk of their four month anniversary. Leon is a man of means, his watch cost more than most people’s cars. He’d very much like to cement his union with Crisolla and have her move in with him. But Crisolla has other things on her mind – actually, she seems more preoccupied with her appetite – than she is with any potential carnal desires.
She’s just hoeing into a nice juicy steak, right? Okay, it’s a little on the blue side but there’s nothing wrong with that; everyone likes it rare these days, don’t they?
Upon leaving the restaurant, however, we are now suddenly plunged into a world of:
Soldiers, barricades and checkpoints – there’s an immediate sense of dread, a dystopian feel to this world. A surreal tone is evoked and the temperature has just dropped to chill factor.
When Leon questions a guard’s apparent lax attitude towards Crisolla’s ID papers:
We know each other from mutual
…oh. My apologies. I’m a primary
donor to the cause, so you can see
where my concern lies.
We immediately wonder, whose side are you on Leon?
And, ‘primary donor’ of what? What’s the cause Leon speaks of?
My immediate reaction is: What the high hell is going on here?
There are more questions posed too, and they’re all of a very dark nature.
Crisolla is still hungry, but not for what you might imagine. Poor old Leon’s had his offer of cohabitation turned down and now he’s left begging for a good night kiss. He leaves, or rather he’s given short shrift and sent packing.
Alone now in her apartment, the tension ramps up further with the reappearance of the ‘box’, the ‘tube’, and the ‘brown’ sludge. Not only that, but what’s with Crisolla’s weird pre-bedtime ritual of slathering herself from head to foot in some very weird gunk and then lowering herself into a bath of…
Okay, I’ll leave it right there, if you want to know more you’re just going to have to delve deeper yourself.
Filmmakers: Are you a fan of television show, Black Mirror, and of movies Under The Skin and Fight Club? Are you searching for gritty, dark and edgy? Do you want to create atmospheric magic on screen? Look no further.
Take a walk on the dark side with: The Relief.
Budget: Moderate. A few scenes/settings. But nothing unreasonable.
About the writer: Jean-Pierre Chapoteau started writing feature length scripts in 2005 then focused on shorts in 2009. Since then he’s had three scripts produced and two more optioned. He has won several awards for his shorts and has become a moderator at the site MoviePoet, who specialize in the craft of the short scripts. Jean-Pierre was a finalist in the RAW TALENT Competition for his faith based feature length script: ‘Far From Perfect.’ And was also a semi-finalist in the SLAMDANCE teleplay competition and a finalist in the OBSWRITER teleplay contest for his adapted teleplay, Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Guardian. You can contact Jean-Pierre Chapoteau at: Jeanpierre_4_25 (a) msn.com
About the reviewer: L. Chambers has been writing all her life – especially in her head, and on scraps of paper. It’s only in the last few years she began to get serious about screen-writing. Prior to this she worked in the Features Department for ABC TV as a Program Assistant, and trained as a FAD. She currently works as a freelance web-content editor and lives with her husband (also a screenwriter) in Sydney, Australia.
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