The best -- period. If I didn´t feel that way about it, trash it. I was wasting my time as well as the audience´s.
Joe, if you are somewhere out there:
Here it is. I never imagined it would take decades to write a 116-page screenplay. However, given the nature of the project, it took a young man to start it, a not-so-young man to finish it.
When you work for 27 years with hundreds of the best story tellers in the world, it is hard to go wrong. Their works have withstood the test of time -- over a thousand years.
There is a second reason for the Number One status (see below).
All of which calls for an explanation...
I love and hate movies. Exasperated at what I was seeing, I went in search of what was newest. I found it in what was oldest.
I lived across the street from la alhóndiga de granaditas (photo above) for over a year. I gazed at it every day. A story took shape.
"Pillars of The Sea" began as a novel. But it kept telling me it was a movie. In 1985, I took a seminar in screenplay writing and wrote the first draft. "Pillars" was completed in 2012.
Three factors are behind the extraordinary length of time:
(1) I spent four years immersed in Aztec myths, legends and literature. At the top of the list were the 12 volumes of The Florentine Codex by Bernardino de Sahagún (1499-1590). The historical origin of the stories is -- and will be forever -- lost. In addition to the fact the Aztecs had no written language, they assimilated myths and legends from tribes they conquered.
On the other hand, the non-historical origin of the stories is perfectly known. They are direct projections of the unconscious. Compiling them to form a gripping, contemporary story that respected their authenticity required, most of all, retaining their movement -- their musicology.
My research included major secondary sources from history, archaeology, anthropology, and ethnology.
Fantastically rich in characterizations and themes, Aztec culture has not served as a major source for contemporary artistic creation because it has been reduced to a caricature: beating hearts cut out atop a pyramid. Instead, I found the foundation in the Aztec calendar, which is more accurate than our Gregorian calendar. The Aztecs´ three, meshing, differently-sized wheels of day, month and year were extrapolated in "Pillars" to form its inner dynamic mechanism: the gears of dramaturgy, anthropology, and psychology.
At the outset, I posed this challenge: synchronize the three gears so as to create an overpowering sense of wheels inexorably turning, of destiny. Criticisms were offered by an anthropologist at the School of American Research (original American publisher of The Florentine Codex in english), Freudian and Jungian psychologists, and professionals in film dramaturgy.
(2) Building and synchronizing the three wheels was not the only challenge.
The Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung identified four major functions of the human psyche: thinking, intuition, feeling and sensation. In my view, a work of art not only activates all four functions, they operate in equilibrium. The final result?
I dare say you never saw anything like it -- particularly in today´s Hollywood movies which are 90% sensation, (explosions, car chases, violence). As our post of 6/17/2013 "Stupid Movies Explained" pointed out, the sensation overdose is intended to attract male teenagers to the theaters where the size of the crowd on opening weekend is crucial to the financial success of major releases.
"Pillars of The Sea" has sensations -- plenty of them -- but the inclusion of thinking, intuition and feeling is intended to draw a far wider audience over a long period of time.
(3) The sine qua non for synchronizing the three wheels and equilibrating the four functions: select characters and themes that were not Aztec culture-bound. My goal was archetypes which are truly universal. They are found in Switzerland and Swaziland, Ireland and Iraq, China and Chile, the United States and United Arab Emirates.
With that goal in mind, the major archetypes of "Pillars of The Sea" have no geographic, educational, temporal, or socio-economic borders. Femininity/Beauty (Aztec goddess Xochiquetzal), Resurrection (Aztec god Xipe Totec), the Wise Old Man (Aztec king Nezahualcóyotl), and the Trickster (Aztec god Tezcatlipoca) are found in all cultures.
We come to the second reason why "Pillars" is Number One in its genre. The three wheels, four functions, and unconscious, universal archetypes produced a new genre. A philosophical action movie? A political economy thriller? I have a name for it, but won´t give it here.
In summary, "Pillars" takes place in Mexico, but it is not about Mexico. It is about wherever you are.
Joe, there you have it. I am glad I had the chance to attend your wedding in Florida in 1990, and to thank you for setting me on the right track so early -- notably, ignore the fame game as well as success as defined socially and monetarily. You incarnated what John Steinbeck observed in Journal of A Novel: the action is in the writing, the creation; everything that happens after it is anticlimactic. Always a master dramatist, it was not so much what you said that mattered as what you did not say.
"Pillars of The Sea" is in english and spanish. La versión en español comienza en la página 118.
The screenplay is copyrighted. All rights reserved.
I hope you enjoy the never-before-seen. To open "Pillars of The Sea," click here.