1 THE PROBLEM Screenplay By Mark Gill Baldwin Li Based on an extract from NUMBER9DREAM By David Mitchell PRODUCERS Baldwin Li Lee Thomas
2 2 SCENE 1 - EXT. PRISON - DAY A man of about thirty five stops at a street corner, he looks at a piece of paper before heading off in a new direction. He walks past an enormous wall that almost obscures the sky. Gothic turrets poke out above the wall. He is dressed in a suit and overcoat, he carries an umbrella and a laptop case. He arrives at a gate and presses an intercom button. He waits a few seconds: no reply. He tries again. The intercom channel eventually clicks open but no one talks. I am Dr. Williams. Governor Bentley is expecting me. Silence. The black lens of a camera leers at him. Is anybody there? He puts his ear to the intercom - distant and eerie chanting can be heard. After a pause the gate opens by itself. With a puzzled look at the intercom he steps through the gate. SCENE 2 - INT. OFFICE - DAY is decrepit, nervous and slightly drunk. The Doctor stands, looking over the room. The Governor is pouring brandy into a coffee mug. Doctor. Please, sit down. Thank you.
3 3 Clearly appalled, WILLIAMS sits down - the dimly lit office is an explosion of papers and litter. BENTLEY sits in a huge chair. He starts to screw the top onto the bottle then looks at his visitor. Can I offer you a drink, Doctor? No thank you. I find it affects my judgement. WILLIMAS looks at BENTLEY, to see if he takes the hint. BENTLEY decides to empty the last drop from the brandy bottle into the coffee mug and disposes of the bottle by dropping it into an overflowing bin full of empties. Chin chin. BENTLEY knocks back his mug. Doctor, let me get to the point. It has taken some time to find a replacement psychiatrist - what with this ever-expanding war on terror, experienced doctors are being snapped up by the military. Prisons are not priorities in times of war, except if we're housing extremists. This Government had the bizarre notion to-" -Governor, the point?
4 4 The point is (he leans forward and lowers his voice almost to a Whisper) the Voorman problem. shifts in his chair. The Doctor frowns. Voorman is a prisoner here? He is. Voorman is a prisoner who maintains he is a god. A god. Each to his own, I'd normally say, but he has persuaded the entire prison population to share his delusion. We've isolated him but it's no use. The chanting you heard coming in? The Song of Voorman. The inmates are restless doctor. I fear disturbances... riots. I see you have a problem, but how- -I'm asking you to examine him. If you decide he is clinically insane I can ship him off to the asylum. WILLIAMS reaches for his notebook.
5 5 Of what crime was he convicted? BENTLEY leans back and shrugs. The computer system - it crashed last year and all the files were deleted. But how will you know when to release the prisoners? BENTLEY is flummoxed. "Release?" "The prisoners?" SCENE 3 - INT. INTERVIEW ROOM - DAY is already seated in an interview room. He is straitjacketed with his ankles bound to the legs of the chair. His hair is lank and he is unshaven. He fixes the doctor with a cool stare. An empty chair opposite. WILLIAMS empties his case. He removes his laptop, then his pen and notebook onto a table. He turns and addresses his subject. Mr. Voorman. can you tell me how long have you believed yourself to be a god? I may ask you the same question.
6 6 I do not believe I am a god. But you believe yourself to be a psychiatrist. Yes. Ever since I began practising my profession. nods considering his response.honlodge productions ltd registered office: 18 St. Andrews Drive, Heywood, Lanes, OLlO 2DT I have been a god since I began practising my profession. I see. What does your profession involve? Chiefly, on-going maintenance. Maintenance of what? Of the universe. So you created our universe? Exactly. Nine days ago. WILLIAMS weighs this up.
7 7 Evidence suggests that the universe is somewhat older than nine days. I know. I created the evidence 1 too. WILLIAMS sits down. I am thirty five years old 1 Mr. Voorman. How do you account for my memories of last summer 1 my childhood 1 my- -I created your memories when I created you. So everything in this universe is a figment of your imagination? Precisely. You 1 this prison 1 reality TV 1 Barack Obama. WILLIAMS makes notes. On his pad are the words: "delusions of grandeur" 1 "Sollipsism syndrome." Must be quite a workload. Greater than you could ever conceive. (MORE)
8 8 (cont'd) Worse still, I have to keep imagining every single last atom, or it all goes... upoof!u Up in smoke... Solipsism only has one L, Doctor. WILLIAMS looks up quickly eyes narrowing. He subtly closes his notebook. Voorman sighs. I know you are sceptical, Doctor. I made you that way. May I propose an objective experiment to verify my claim? What do you have in mind? Belgium. Belgium? I don't suppose even the Belgians would miss it, do you? SCENE 4 - INT. APARTMENT - NIGHT The WILLIAMS live in a modern apartment. Unpacked boxes are all over the room. A TV serves its menu of fear. MRS WILLIAMS is serving take out food. A bottle of wine stands on the table. She looks at her husband. He doodles on his notebook, the words sollipsism syndrome stand out amongst his many scribblings. The laptop screen shows a report about the ongoing war.
9 9 MRS WILLIAMS Are you OK? You look worried. Not worried exactly yet... MRS WILLIAMS Is it this new case? Forcing you to do the job of a court judge, it's so unreasonable. It's not that that worries me. In this country there's little difference between the prison and the asylum. MRS WILLIAMS Then what is it? She places a plate of food in front of him. Is he the slave or the master of his imagination? He swore to make Belgium disappear by teatime. MRS WILLIAMS Is Belgium another prisoner? WILLIAMS starts to eat, eyeing his wife. Belgium. A new cheese? MRS WILLIAMS
10 10 Belgium. The country. Between France and Holland. Belgium. MRS WILLIAMS shakes her head doubtfully. Her husband smiles to hide his annoyance. Bel-gi-um. MRS WILLIAMS Is this a joke? You know I never joke about my work... There is a pause, a moment of tension. MRS WILLIAMS still shows no sign of recognition. Right! The doctor gets up from his seat, he starts to rummage through some of the unpacked boxes. He eventually finds what he's looking for and returns. He opens an atlas book of the world and starts to flick through the pages. Eventually he finds what he's looking for. His face stiffens. Between France and Holland is a feature called the Walloon Lagoon. He gazes, thunderstruck. This cannot be. This cannot be... this cannot be
11 11 SCENE 5 - INT. INTERVIEW ROOM - DAY The chanting can be heard faintly through an air vent in the interview room. Voorrnan is humming his song. His eyelids are closed. A door can be heard opening and closing. Hello Doctor. Will Belgium figure in your session notes today? WILLIAMS ignore this, his eyes are dark and baggy. Sleep badly last night, Doctor? WILLIAMS glares at Voorrnan. After a moment he begins emptying his case, yet it is now with shaky hands that he arranges his materials. Voorrnan licks his lips. WILLIAMS tries his best to ignore Voorrnan. Tut tut... Is that your medical opinion, Doctor? I am not a lunatic, not a malingerer, but a demon? Am I to be exorcised? WILLIAMS slams down his notebook and looks at the prisoner sharply. Do you believe you should be? Voorrnan shrugs. WILLIAMS sits down.
12 12 Just supposing you are... who you claim to be - Say it, Doctor, say it. What is a god doing straitjacketed in a prison? What would you do if you were a god? Spend your days playing golf? So what do you do with your time? I seek amusement - in humans. Take this war for example: comedy gold. I am not a religious man, Mr. Voorman - That is why I chose you. - but what kind of god finds wars amusing?
13 13 A bored one. Yes. I equipped humans with imaginations merely so they can dream up new ways to entertain me. Which you choose to observe from the luxury of your cell? I am rather fond of prisons. And prisoners are more fun than wellfed congregations. Yet you amuse me more than most, doctor. Your remit is to diagnose me either a faker or a lunatic, and yet you end up proving my omnipotent divinity. Nothing of the sort has been proven. True, doctor true. But I've made a decision. We're going to change places. You can juggle time, gravity, waves and particles. You can sift through the trashcan of human endeavour for tiny specks of originality. You can watch glaciers fall and continents pillaged in your name, while I.. I am going to make you your wife smile in a most involuntary way and partake of the Governor's brandy.
14 14 You are sick, Mr. Voorman. The Belgium trick stymies me, but- WILLIAMS freezes. whistles the national anthem of France. DOCTOR Time has flown... I must be going. WILLIAMS, now the prisoner, chokes. What- WILLIAMS The new Doctor flexes his new muscles. The chanting begins again, low and steady. WILLIAMS What have you done to me? DOCTOR If you can't discuss things like a rational adult I'll be left with no choice but to terminate this interview. WILLIAMS Put me back you... you monster! DOCTOR You'll soon learn the ropes. DOCTOR Voorman clips his bag shut. DOCTOR Watch North Korea. Hot spot.
15 15 He takes off the glasses and lets them fall to the floor, the lenses crack. WILLIAMS Guards! Guards! The door bursts open and DOCTOR shakes his head sadly at the prison guard, TODD, and leaves. TODD slams the door shut and slides the bolts into place. WILLIAMS Stop him! I'm the real Doctor WILLIAMS! He... he made Belgium disappear!!! WILLIAMS shrieks and twists but being strait-jacketed to a chair makes his attempts to escape futile. WILLIAMS I am Doctor WILLIAMS, Stop him! He's going to molest my wife!! I am Doctor WILLIAMS!! I am Doctor WILLIAMS!! The chanting which is reaching a feverish pitch and cell bars are being banged in time.
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