FADE IN: 

EXT. SOUTH BANK DISTRICT - LONDON - NIGHT

A crowd of well-dressed people gather on the wet street next to the River Thames.  They mingle near the ROYAL FESTIVAL HALL trying to avoid the rain.  Some carry programs, most carry umbrellas.  The streets and shops are all decorated brightly for Christmas.

TRANSPOSED over the various shots of the Royal Hall is the familiar white script:

 

WINTER, 1990

ANGLE on various street signs and posters until a huge billboard announces:

THE PERLMAN VARIATIONS.

 

The image is of a grand piano situated in front of the LONDON PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA with ELIO PERLMAN dressed in a black tuxedo and looking directly into the camera.

INT. ROYAL FESTIVAL HALL - NIGHT

A MAN gives his ticket to an usher and enters the hall.  The MAN is only seen from the BACK, but he is very tall and somehow familiar. He is alone.  He takes his seat and removes his hat just as the theater lights begin to dim. 

A hush falls. 

A spotlight gradually illuminates ELIO PERLMAN staring down at the keys of the Bösendorfer grand piano, motionless.  Suddenly he bursts into playing BACH'S Postillion's Aria...with the entire orchestra gradually joining in.  The music builds, becoming stronger, louder and more confident. ELIO grins ever-so slightly as he remembers the first time he varied this particular piece of music.

As the aria continues INTERCUT between the orchestra and the audience.  Sophisticated patrons are rapturously listening. Women wearing furs and jewels. Fans, families, and tourists.  A sea of random faces until, finally, ANGLE on OLIVER.

 

He has a FULL BEARD.  At 31 he is still unbearably handsome.  He smiles, closely watching ELIO as he plays.

INTERCUT: The audience, the orchestra, the conductor. The concert continues. It's spectacular.

INT. STAGE - ROYAL FESTIVAL HALL - LATER 

The concert is ending and as the final notes vibrate through the theater the audience wildly applauds.   ELIO looks both relieved and joyful.

The conductor, JULIEN BRISTOW turns to face the crowd. He is clean-shaven, tan, mid-forties.  ELIO and JULIEN bow to one another and then again to their fans.

As ELIO accepts a bouquet of roses from the front row, the house lights slowly raise.  ELIO has a premonition.

He quickly searches the crowd and he glimpses OLIVER!  Their eyes MEET just for a moment as OLIVER dashes toward the exit.

INT. DRESSING ROOM - ROYAL FESTIVAL HALL - NIGHT

ELIO is tearing off his tuxedo and attempting to change into tight black leather pants and a Madonna Blond Ambition Tour tee shirt as quickly as possible. Two other musicians,  a young man and a young woman, are amused as they watch ELIO fling clothing left and right.

ELIO 

...I'm telling you, he was there! We made eye contact! I knew it! I felt it.

TROYE

Elio's ghost has returned. So where you off to in such a hurry, Mate?

PAULINE

Don't be thick. He's obviously going to look for him!

ELIO nods in agreement.

TROYE

You're barking! He could be anywhere by now. You'll never find him.

ELIO

I have a plan.

PAULINE

Do tell.

ELIO grabs a leather bomber jacket, a multicolored scarf and a knitted cap. His wallet and other odds and ends must go into the jacket pockets because his pants are just too tight.

ELIO

Well, say it is my old friend from the states and he is here stalking my concerts and not speaking to me for reasons unknown...

TROYE

What of it?

ELIO

It only makes sense that he would be staying somewhere near the Hall, right? Proximity.

PAULINE

Seems reasonable.

ELIO

And what do people do after sitting through a long LPO concert?

TROYE

Go to the pub and throw back a few?

ELIO

Precisely, Mr. Watson. How many pubs do you reckon in Southbank?

PAULINE

Heaps. More than a dozen.

ELIO 

Then I haven't a moment to lose.  Meet me at Heaven around midnight.  I'm going to hit as many pubs as I can.

The door vaults open and JULIEN makes a grand entrance.  Both PAULINE and TROYE quickly stand up and whisper, "Maestro" as a greeting.  JULIEN is barely aware of them as he bounds toward ELIO.

JULIEN

My boy, you were sensational tonight!  I especially liked the Haydn.  You make me hear music in a different way.

ELIO

High praise, Jules. Thanks so much.

JULIEN notices that he is already changed and bundled up.

JULIEN

Where are you going?

ELIO

(winking at his friends)

Things to do, people to see.

TROYE

Or is it the other way 'round?

JULIEN

(disapprovingly)

Well, don't be out too late.  We have afternoon tea at the Claridge tomorrow and we need to start planning your pieces for Rome.  It's only ten days away.

ELIO

Absolutely. I'll make it an early night. Cheers.

ELIO kisses JULIEN on the cheek and rushes out.

TROYE and PAULINE exchange knowing glances.

EXT. SOUTH BANK STREETS - LONDON - NIGHT 

MONTAGE

MUSIC: SUFJAN STEVEN'S The Only Thing.

INTERCUT ELIO quickly entering and exiting many of the local pubs in the area including: The Market Porter, The Royal Oak, The Lord Clyde, The Founders Arms and others.  Desperately he searches the watering holes.

But no OLIVER...until...

EXT. TERRACE - THE ANCHOR BANKSIDE PUB - NIGHT

The interior of the pub is bustling with an odd assortment of people enjoying the evening. Locals are watching a cricket match on TV. The terrace is much less crowded.  And there, sitting alone with the remnants of food and several empty pints, is OLIVER.  He shakes his head and smiles as he watches ELIO make a beeline for him.

ELIO

Do you know how many pubs I had to look in to find you?

OLIVER

Six?

ELIO

More. What the hell are you doing in London? And why didn't you call me?

OLIVER downs the last of his ale and motions to the barmaid for two more pints.

OLIVER

I'm visiting Europe to catch a few LPO concerts. I hear there's a piano player that's quite the prodigy. And I didn't call you because I didn't want to complicate things...

ELIO begins to get emotional.

ELIO

Well, that is just bullshit...

They feverishly EMBRACE and all the years and distance between them melts away. Embarrassed, they sit back down as their pints arrive.

OLIVER

You look exactly the same.

ELIO

(scoffs)

Of course I do...but you don't.

ELIO reaches across the table and tugs on OLIVER'S beard.

OLIVER

(chuckling)

Yeah, I thought you'd never be able to recognize

me with this brilliant disguise.

ELIO

It's been a long, long time since I memorized your face.  And I'm not a 'piano player' I'm a pianist.

OLIVER

(grinning)

Careful how you say that.

ELIO

Funny. You should shave that thing...it ages you.

OLIVER

Hey, I'm an Ivy League Professor now... or at least I was until two weeks ago.

ELIO

(intrigued)

Hmmm. So, are you gonna tell me what happened?

OLIVER

No...It's private.

ELIO

So, you're not going to tell me?

OLIVER

So, I'm not going to tell you...

They both laugh.

OLIVER (CONT'D)

It's complicated. I had an affair with a student at Columbia.

ELIO

Really? How scandalous!  And was this student of the male or female variety?

OLIVER

Does it matter?

ELIO

It does to me.

ELIO waits for OLIVER to elaborate, but he's gone silent. Meanwhile, OLIVER studies ELIO'S face, feeling both pain and joy in equal measure.

ELIO (CONT'D)

So, how many concerts have you been to?

OLIVER

I saw all three last week.

ELIO ponders this while watching the rain come down lightly on the street.

ELIO

Yeah. That feels about right.

OLIVER

Hang on...  are you saying you knew I was in the audience?

ELIO

I didn't know, not exactly.  But I felt something...  I sensed you were close. I thought I saw you on the tube day before yesterday.

OLIVER

(whispering)

You've always been the one who could SEE the real me.  I guess I wanted you to discover me.

ELIO begins gathering up his things, preparing to leave.

ELIO

Mission accomplished.

Come on then, time to go.

 

OLIVER

Where?

ELIO

Well, we can sit here sadly reminiscing in a pub that's been around since the 1600's, or we can go to this fabulous...

(he silently mouths the word 'gay')  nightclub and have some real fun.

OLIVER

(shrugging)

Lead the way.

EXT. CURBSIDE - LONDON STREET - NIGHT

ELIO expertly flags down a Hackney carriage and the two pile into the backseat.

ELIO

(to the driver)

Take us to Heaven, my good man.  Just off Trafalgar Square.

ELIO is smiling broadly and seems almost giddy.

 

OLIVER

What?

ELIO

Nothing.

OLIVER

What??

ELIO takes OLIVER'S hand and squeezes it.

 

EXT. HEAVEN DISCO MAIN ENTRANCE - LONDON - NIGHT

A long queue of people, mostly men, some outrageously dressed, wait to enter the nightclub. Neon lights blink wildly as the rhythmic thumping of the music can be felt on the pavement. ELIO grabs OLIVER and pushes past everyone to the front of the line. Complaints are heard from the waiting crowd.

ELIO

(apologetically to everyone)

Sorry, I know a guy.

The muscular, black DOORMAN smiles and kisses ELIO on both cheeks.

DOORMAN

I thought I'd see you tonight.

ELIO

I couldn't stay away from you, Mikey.  This is Oliver.

DOORMAN

I approve.

They laugh as MIKEY puts wristbands on them and pulls back the velvet rope.

INT. DANCE FLOOR - HEAVEN DISCO - NIGHT

The fog-filled club is completely packed with people. Smalltown Boy by BRONSKI BEAT is blaring.

A huge mirrorball hangs from the center of the ceiling reflecting multicolored laser-beams shooting across the room in all directions. OLIVER looks like he has been transported to an alien planet. ELIO grabs him and moves toward a shirtless bartender who immediately recognizes ELIO and begins to pour three shots of tequila.

BARTENDER

(yelling over music)

Elio!! Give us a kiss!!

ELIO leans over the bar and kisses the bartender on the lips. All three of them clink the small shot glasses and swallow the clear alcohol together. PAULINE and TROYE along with other good looking young people from the orchestra surround them. They have transformed themselves from conservative classical musicians into wild London ravers. TROYE is wearing eyeliner and glitter. ELIO hugs them all. The music has transitioned into the next song, which is  STOP! by ERASURE PAULINE points toward OLIVER as strobe lights turn their world into a crazy, stop-action film.

PAULINE

(shouting over music)

So, your plan worked?

ELIO

(yelling)

Completely!   My friends, this is Oliver!

While everyone is hugging, TROYE opens his hand to reveal several pastel-colored pills. ELIO immediately grabs one and gulps it down. OLIVER, shrugging, also swallows one.

OLIVER

When in Rome...

INTERCUT: A sea of sweating bodies dancing. Fog, lasers and neon. The mood is wild and uninhibited.

ANGLE on ELIO and OLIVER dancing together exactly as they did long ago. They inhale poppers; they take off their shirts. ELIO is singing along with the song: "We'll be together again...I've been waiting for a long time...We're gonna be, we're gonna be together again..."

INT. UPPER LOUNGE - HEAVEN DISCO - NIGHT

OLIVER is feeling the full effects of the Ecstasy, liquor and other excesses. He needs to get some air. He wanders upstairs, aimlessly exploring a somewhat quieter room from the chaos of the main disco. GEORGE MICHAEL'S Freedom 90' plays in the background. OLIVER stands near an open window, the chill, wet air seems to revive him.

Moments later ELIO appears.

OLIVER

I'm getting too old for all this.

ELIO

Nonsense. That's the beard talking.

OLIVER

I don't know, seven years is a long time.  Things have changed.  This city, this place.  You.

ELIO

Me?

OLIVER stares down at the otherworldly nightclub.

OLIVER

You seem to know much more about those things that matter.

ELIO

I don't agree.  The older I get the less I know for sure.

OLIVER

Ha!

How did you get to be so wise?

OLIVER reaches out with both hands and strokes ELIO'S hair.

OLIVER (CONT'D)

Can I kiss you?

ELIO

Yes please.

They share a long passionate KISS by the window, the London skyline illuminated behind them. A kiss that revives all their feelings from the Summer of 1983.

OLIVER

Better now?

ELIO

(nodding)

I remember that taste.

OLIVER

I remember everything.

ELIO

So do I.

INT. STAIRWELL - ELIO'S FLAT - NIGHT

ELIO and OLIVER are laughing, stumbling, and loud. ELIO fumbles with his keys. Both are drunk, high, and deeply in love.

INT. LIVING ROOM - ELIO'S FLAT - CONTINUOUS

Elio's large apartment has many of the same elements of the family villa in Italy. Bookshelves cluttered with books, music folios and scoresheets.  A baby grand piano dominates the space. Mementos from ELIO'S life stuffed into every nook.  Vinyl records fill the shelves. A bronze statue, obviously some antiquity gifted from his father, is on a pedestal. A guitar sits near a large window. A framed, signed lithograph of Peter Gabriel's Passion by Julian Grater hangs above the fireplace. There is also a framed print of 24 Heurs du Mans near the bookshelf. OLIVER is captivated and although still impaired, he examines the room carefully. He picks up a small framed photograph of himself with ELIO taken on Lake Garda and smiles, remembering.

 

OLIVER

Your place is magnificent!

ELIO

It's a mess. What do you want first?  A fire, some music or something to drink?

ELIO gathers some logs and places them in the fireplace. He lights some candles. OLIVER notices his own book is on the shelf, next to Robert Mapplethorpe's The Portraits.

OLIVER

Hey! That's my Heraclitus book.

ELIO

It is. Please sign it for me!

OLIVER

Did you even read it?

ELIO

Of course I did, twice.  It's amazing.

OLIVER

(scoffing)

It's drivel...but thank you.

OLIVER finds a fountain pen resting on the piano, and with a sly grin, he inscribes the book and tucks it back on the shelf. A fire now crackles and glows brightly in the hearth. OLIVER absently strikes a piano key.

OLIVER (CONT'D)

Play something for me.

ELIO

Now?  You're insane.  Although, I did write a piece dedicated to you.  It's not half bad, if I do say so...

OLIVER

(amazed)

What?! You must perform it.

ELIO

No, I can't, really. I'm too drunk to do it any justice... some other time, besides...

While ELIO is talking OLIVER has gone completely PALE and sprints into hallway urgently searchin for the bathroom.

INT. BATHROOM - ELIO'S FLAT - NIGHT

OLIVER is sprawled down on the floor in front of the toilet.  He VOMITS loudly.  ELIO comes in and holds him sympathetically.   

OLIVER

God, I'm a mess.

He pukes again and they both laugh. Their adventures together have come full circle.

ELIO

I'll make some green tea. It cures everything.

 

INT. KITCHEN/DINING ROOM - ELIO'S FLAT - NIGHT

ELIO places the kettle on the stove and moves to his turntable putting on BEETHOVEN'S Piano Concerto No. 5, the Emperor's Adagio. He begins arranging cups and saucers, sugar, cream and all the necessary parts of a proper English tea service.

The mantel clock chimes four.

ELIO looks toward the bathroom but OLIVER is no longer there. Telltale bits of OLIVER'S clothing leave a trail on the floor leading to ELIO'S bedroom.

INT. BEDROOM - ELIO'S FLAT - NIGHT

OLIVER has passed out. He is face down on ELIO'S bed, and he is completely NAKED and snoring. ELIO shakes his head. He strips and lies down next to OLIVER, covering them both with a quilt. Gently he takes OLIVER'S arm and places it over his own chest, covering his heart. He closes his eyes.

INT. BEDROOM - ELIO'S FLAT - DAWN

ANGLE on OLIVER. He awakens entwined with ELIO. The first hint of morning light peeks through the curtains. He carefully untangles himself and dresses quietly. Tears begin to fall down OLIVER'S face as he writes a note.

He removes the Heaven wristband and sets it down too. He picks up ELIO's shirt and smells it, then OLIVER bends down and risks gently giving ELIO a goodbye kiss.

INT. BEDROOM - ELIO'S FLAT - DAY

Daylight streams into the room revealing ELIO alone. He mumbles, "Oliver?" But there is no one to hear it.

Was it all just a dream? He sees the note on his bedside table and reads it:

OLIVER (V.O.)

I can't do this. I'm sorry.

INT. FOYER - THE CLARIDGE HOTEL - DAY

ELIO enters the beautiful art deco foyer of the Claridge Hotel wearing a wrinkled jacket and loosened necktie.

Although he has made a halfhearted effort, he looks disheveled and out of sorts. He finds JULIEN at a window table reading the Daily Mirror and eating a small sandwich.

JULIEN

You look like something the cat dragged in.

ELIO

(sarcastically)

It's lovely to see you too, Jules.

A waiter has appeared with a bottle of Laurent-Perrier Brut. ELIO eagerly hold out his glass. After gulping down some Champagne, he begins piling up his plate with scones, pastries and sandwiches.

 

ELIO (CONT'D)

I'm rather peckish.

JULIEN sips black tea delicately from jade and white bone china. He places the newspaper down, gazing through bifocals he closely examines the bags under Elio's eyes.

JULIEN

You were out all night.

ELIO NODS, guilty.

ELIO

An old friend came to town.

I was obliged to show him the sights.

JULIEN

An old friend or an ex-lover?

ELIO

Both, actually.

JULIEN

Musician?

 

ELIO

(still eating)

God no.  He's a Professor of Ancient Literature at Columbia.

JULIEN

Where did you take him?

ELIO

(smiling)

To Heaven.

JULIEN

That gay discotheque?  I've heard of it. What kind of establishment is it?

ELIO

Ah, it's the kind of place where the girls shave their heads and the boys wear makeup.

JULIEN

How dreadful. Well, I don't thinks it's wise to see this "friend" again.  What's his name?

ELIO

Oliver.  And I don't remember asking for your permission.

JULIEN is visibly peeved now. He picks back up his newspaper.

JULIEN 

And what about us? I've done quite a lot for your career, you know.

ELIO motions for the waiter, soliciting more champagne. He stuffs his face with smoked salmon and caviar sandwiches. Across the room a piano-cellist duo softly plays Christmas carols.

ELIO

Nothing has changed between us.

JULIEN

Hmmm... You are your own worst enemy, Elio. The charm of a young man in a wrinkled blazer goes only so far.

If you aren't careful that could be your future employment.

JULIEN nods toward the duo performing God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. ELIO considers the possibility.

ELIO

Doesn't seem so bad. In any case, Oliver has vanished...again.

JULIEN

Excellent. Now what are your thoughts on joining in with the orchestra for the Handel in Rome?

ELIO

(flatly)

Absolutely not.

JULIEN frowns.

JULIEN

But it is our grand finale!

ELIO

Listen Jules, it's bad enough that I'm a Jew doing a holiday concert in the center of the Eternal City five days before Christmas. I'm not playing The Messiah on stage...my father would have a coronary.

JULIEN

Well, what do you deign to play for the unwashed Christian masses?

ELIO

Tchaikovsky. The Nutcracker Suite is rather seasonal. I've been working on a kind of Winton Marsalis variation.

JULIEN

(thoughtfully)

Elio Perlman plays a jazz version of Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies?... that could work.

INT. LIVING ROOM - ELIO'S FLAT - NIGHT 

Rain pelts the windows and thunder claps loudly. TROYE and ELIO are watching music videos and eating Chinese takeaway. The MTV AIDS Commercial 1990 version 1 airs. Both boys watch motionless until it finishes.

 

TROYE

(referring to the TV)

Well, that was cheery.

He looks out the window at the storm. Lightning strikes making the electricity blink in the flat.

TROYE (CONT'D)

It isn't fit for man nor beast out there.

ELIO

Just as well. I don't have the chops to go out.

TROYE

Ah Mate, you're just depressed.  Your big, tall first love took off without so much as a goodbye shag?

ELIO

Sadly, yes. Just a note.  Oh and he also signed his book.

Now curious, ELIO goes to the shelf and reads the inscription. There, in a drunken scrawl, OLIVER has written two words.

 

INSERT:    COR CORDIUM.

TROYE reads it over ELIO'S shoulder.

 

TROYE

Cor Cordium?  What the hell does that mean?

ELIO

(quietly)

It's Latin. It means: Heart of hearts.

TROYE

Ah, very romantic.

TROYE pulls ELIO close and tries to kiss him, but ELIO evades him while also brushing away a tear.

TROYE (CONT'D)

(undaunted)

We've had some wild times together, you and I... why didn't we ever make a go of it?

ELIO

(surprised)

What? Us? You want to be my boyfriend now?

The two silently size each other up.

ELIO (CONT'D)

Caro, you're far too young for me.

INT. LIVING ROOM - ELIO'S FLAT - LATER

ELIO is alone. Small white Christmas lights and candles are the only illumination.

The storm continues to rage. Elio dances to You Spin Me Round (Like a Record) by DEAD OR ALIVE.

 

EXT. JULIEN'S HOUSE - COLLINGHAM GARDENS - NIGHT

The downpour continues as ELIO, drenched to the bone, stands in front of JULIEN'S flamboyant Victorian townhouse.  ELIO knocks loudly on the door, looking like a forlorn little boy. Lightning flashes overhead.

JULIEN silently opens the door and stares at innocent, wet, and stunningly beautiful ELIO.

 

ELIO

(looking down)

May I spend the night with you?

INT. HEATHROW INTERNATIONAL TERMINAL - DAY

OLIVER hurries through the airport which has been lavishly over-decorated for the holidays. Christmas travelers bustle through the terminal. Looking at the Departures board he sees flights for both New York and Rome.

ANGLE on OLIVER making his decision. He buys a ticket and immediately goes to a bank of phones to make a call.

OLIVER

(into the phone)

...Yes, yes. I'm at Heathrow now, my flight leaves in three hours...(pause) Well, wake him up, I want to say hello...

(another long pause) Okay then, whatever.  I'll deal with the Disciplinary Board and the Deans as soon as I get back...  Have you decided what you want? (pause)  I don't know what to say to that, Dakota, I really don't. (pause)

Yeah, listen I gotta go. I love you too...later.

INT. REHEARSAL HALL - LONDON - DAY

The orchestra has been practicing for hours. They are playing BACH'S Magnificat in D Major and it isn't going well. JULIEN begins tapping his baton impatiently on his lectern.  He looks ready to explode.

JULIEN

Enough! ENOUGH!!

The musicians quickly stop playing.

JULIEN (CONT'D)

I thought this was the London Fucking Philharmonic!  But I must have wandered into the wrong room because that

sounded like Talent Night on a Carnival Cruise ship!

JULIEN picks up a chair and THROWS it against the back wall, narrowly missing the percussion players.

ELIO frowns.

JULIEN (CONT'D)

Bach must be turning over in his grave. You! (he points toward PAULINE and the other violinists)  The entire String Section is falling behind. Allegretto!!  And woodwinds...you were all flat.  Miss Harper?

JULIEN has singled out a particularly meek young woman.

HARPER

Yes, Maestro?

JULIEN

How long have you been playing the oboe?

HARPER

23 years, Maestro.

JULIEN

You may have missed your calling... you should have considered going into retail, or perhaps a secretarial position...

HARPER begins to sob.

JULIEN (CONT'D)

And Mr. Perlman...our esteemed soloist... I know there is an element of jazz to your Tchaikovsky variation,

but frankly it sounds like you're playing the piano with your feet.

ELIO looks at JULIEN with deep disapproval and disappointment.  JULIEN is visibly exhausted. He sits, fanning himself with the musical score.

JULIEN (CONT'D)

I'm considering cancelling this tour and giving half of you the sack.  I'm too embarrassed to be seen in public with you. (long awkward pause)  Well, what have you to say for yourselves?

ELIO begins to play The Imperial March (Darth Vader's Theme from Star Wars). Smiling, the rest of the orchestra joins in. The music swells as JULIEN looks bewildered and then finally, amused. He sighs.

JULIEN (CONT'D) 

(laughing)

Fucking John Williams...and strangely THAT is the best you've sounded all day. I apologize for my outburst.

I just want us to prove to the world that we are legendary. (a beat) So, we all have planes to catch tonight. I'll see you people in Italy. Rest up everyone. Now, out of my sight. Dismissed.

The dozens of musicians gather their instruments and belongings and file out of the hall...JULIEN smiles and nods to ELIO.

INT. LIVING ROOM - RESIDENZA NAPOLEONE III, ROME - DAY

ELIO sits at the piano in the main suite of the Ruspoli residence. The historic townhouse is all opulent chandeliers, antiques and luxury. He rifts a bit of the new piece, makes a notation in his music, and sips an espresso.

He hears a small dog BARK and come scampering into the room.

ELIO

(in Italian)

Tino! Vieni qui! (Tino, come here!)

The dog jumps into his lap as ELIO'S parents, the PERLMAN'S enter.  ELIO rushes to them, hugging and kissing them both.

ANNELLA

(in Italian)

Caro, come va? E passato troppo tempo.  (My Love, how are you? It's been too long...)

ELIO

Mama, Papa. I'm fine now that you're here!

ANNELLA

(looking around)

Ah, poor boy, have you been cooped up in this dungeon all week?

PERLMAN starts to laugh.

ANNELLA (CONT'D)

This palace has the look of my sister.

ELIO

(shyly)

Yes, she and Vimini are in the next room.  They arrived this morning.

PERLMAN

Doesn't Tilda know the Ruspoli family?

ANNELLA

She went to school in Switzerland with one of the Princes.  I didn't know they were still close.

ELIO

Ha! Who else has come?

ANNELLA and PERLMAN exchange glances.

 

PERLMAN

Mafalda, of course. She is at our hotel unpacking.  Mr. Keller and Mr. Hodell could not be stopped.

ANNELLA

(laughing)

Sonny and Cher!

ELIO laughs and hugs his parents again.

PERLMAN

How is your music coming along?

ELIO

It's good. The tour is just beginning.

PERLMAN

And this conductor, Bristow...what is he like? We hear he is a tyrant.

ELIO rolls his eyes and nods. They all move out to the deck and look out over the Tiber River and the rooftops of Rome. ANNELLA puts TINO into her oversize Gucci bag.

ELIO

Yes, Julien. You will meet him soon enough. He's a genius and a madman. A taskmaster to be sure...

PERLMAN ruffles his son's hair.

 

PERLMAN

You okay?

ELIO

Me okay.

INT. TEATRO DELL'OPERA - ROME - NIGHT

The elegant Opera House slowly fills with well-heeled Romans. Many of Italy's elite have gathered together including a number of the Council of Ministers in their grand boxes. It is to be a night filled with holiday cheer. Opera, symphony, ballet and choir. Elio's family and friends are dressed to the nines. ANNELLA and her sister TILDA wear long, beaded designer gowns. Young VIMINI (10) wears a smart red velvet dress with matching hat and gloves. Even MAFALDA wears a modest but stylish black dress and a bit of makeup. The men all wear dark Italian suits, but SONNY and CHER sport colorful pastel silk ties, and bright flowers in their lapels.

Everyone is chattering in English, Italian and French. Spirits are high.

ANNELLA

(to Tilda in French)

Elio est content que tu sois venu.  (Elio is so glad you could be here.)

TILDA

Vimini said she wanted to see Elio in his native habitat.

The sisters laugh. 

ANNELLA

You spoil him with that lavish hotel suite.

TILDA

Mince! If any one of us deserves to live like royalty it's Elio.

PERLMAN holds tightly to ANNELLA'S hand.

ANNELLA

Mon amour, you're perspiring.

PERLMAN dabs his brow with a handkerchief. He looks pale.

PERLMAN

I'm so nervous for him. Look at this theater! Our son has become a star.

ANNELLA

We never doubted it for a second, did we, Darling?

The lights dim, the curtain rises and the orchestra begins to play BACH'S Christmas Oratorio with full CHOIR singing. ELIO is not on stage yet.

MONTAGE:

Images of Rome at Christmas. ST. Peter's, the Coliseum, the Trevi Fountain. The music continues. Snippets of ballet and opera as well as the orchestra playing. ANGLE on JULIEN conducting wildly. ELIO stands nervously backstage waiting to make his entrance. PERLMAN continues to perspire. He may be unwell.

INT. STAGE - TEATRO DELL'OPERA - NIGHT

A grand piano has been moved to center stage. A spotlight illuminates it.

ANNOUNCER

(in Italian)

Presento il signor Elio Perlman.

ELIO dressed in a perfectly tailored tuxedo walks confidently to the piano. He has a single red rosebud in his lapel.

He begins to play his slightly altered version of TCHAIKOVSKY'S Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies. It is sublime.

While ANNELLA, MAFALDA and the others are captivated by the music, PERLMAN appears to be in pain.

As his son plays he tightly shuts his eyes and GRASPS the armrest. He cannot catch his breath. ANNELLA begins to know something is wrong.

ANNELLA

Mon amour, are you...?

PERLMAN stumbles to his feet, trying to escape. He CLUTCHES at his chest while ELIO continues to play unaware of what is happening. There are gasps as PERLMAN COLLAPSES right into the arms of a bearded man. People begin shouting, "Dottore, abbiamo bisogno di un dottore!" (Doctor, we need a Doctor!)

PERLMAN looks into the face of the man who broke his fall.

PERLMAN

Oliver? Is it you?

OLIVER desperately tries to comfort PERLMAN.

OLIVER

(whispering)

Be still, Pro. Help is on the way.

ANNELLA and the others rush into the aisle.

OLIVER (CONT'D)

(shouting)

ELIO!! ELIO, HURRY! IT'S YOUR FATHER!

ELIO immediately recognizes that familiar voice and abruptly stops playing.

ELIO

(squinting into the lights)

Oliver? Papa?

He unceremoniously runs across the stage and LEAPS into the audience. In moments he is beside his father and OLIVER. Tears stream from their faces as PERLMAN loses consciousness. The sound of an ambulance SIREN is heard in the distance.

 

INT. ADMITTING AREA - CONCORDIA HOSPITAL, ROME - NIGHT

PERLMAN is wheeled on a gurney manned by two Italian EMTs. He is quickly rushed through double doors into the bowels of the hospital. ANNELLA and ELIO are speaking in rapid Italian to the ADMITTING NURSE.

OLIVER, not understanding much of the conversation and feeling useless, finds a waiting area and sits down alone.

As more taxis arrive outside, more members of their group appear in the hospital. MAFALDA immediately starts shouting in Italian at the NURSES. TILDA is holding ANNELLA, who seems on the verge of her own collapse.

SONNY and CHER merely stand at the periphery, hugging one another and crying. One of them holds the bag with the PERLMAN's small dog. They all wear their formal attire and look quite out of place.

VIMINI approaches OLIVER, watching him closely. Evaluating. She carries a small yellow Invicta backpack.

VIMINI

(In Italian)

Allora, chi diavolo sei tu?  (so, who the hell are you?)

OLIVER looks up at this beautiful, wide-eyed young girl.

OLIVER

I'm Oliver...and who are you?

VIMINI

(in perfect English)

Oh, you are the American. I'm Vimini.

OLIVER

Elio's...cousin?

VIMINI

Precisely.

Did you know that Elio and I have the same birthday?

OLIVER

I didn't know that.  You shouldn't worry, you know, your uncle will be fine.

NEXT

©2020 Marko Realmonte, storyteller

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