By Franta from "The Wonderful Story of Zal" (Mage Publishers)
By Massud Alemi
ESTABLISHING PANORAMIC SHOTS. Persia. A LONG TIME AGO
Calm Caspian Sea glimmering under a full moon. The desert baking in the sun. The proud Alborz chain with its snow-covered summit. Dense, green forests of Gilan. Some snow, sheep in the prairie, camels toughing out a bitter sandstorm.
VO: [Assuming that he would accept the job, all the voice overs are written for James Earl Jones.] Once upon a time there was a king named Manouchehr in the distant kingdom of Persia. Quite back in the mists of time, King Manouchehr commanded great armies and had many courtiers and servants, [the sequel of shots DISSOLVE TO happy faces, herds of sheep, running streams of clear water] and in the entire plateau that made up his kingdom there was neither insolence nor mean-spiritedness, neither stupidity nor violence, neither puniness nor deformity.
[Though not a dominant character, the king is present in the first half hour of the movie. So, for his role we would want someone who's relatively known, but not a huge star who'd dominate the screen. Nothing like Sean Connery, who would gobble up half of the budget for breakfast. We have to be sensible and think of the costs. I propose Harvey Feirstein, on condition that he gets in touch with his male side for the role.]
VO: The king was a happy man, [MEDIUM SHOT of Mr. Feirstein eating grapes] until rumors alleged that his young wife [CLOSE UP shot of beautiful Uma Thurman] was in an adulterous relationship with one of his commanders named General Arash.
[For the role of the young queen, I was interested in Michelle Pfieffer at first, but then I reconsidered for the same reasons the Connery idea was canned. Sorry Michelle, you're too expensive. After long deliberation, Uma Thurman came to mind. She's young and sultry, and she only has one line to deliver. Besides, secretly I'm hoping to get it on with her in her trailer in between cuts; she doesn't seem to be particularly choosy.]
The corners of the king's lips downward. CUT TO
VO: His first instinct of course was to have both lovers dipped in boiling olive oil, but then something happened that changed his mind.
An advancing hostile army. A long bellow of a distant horn.
VO: King Manouchehr's peaceful reign had over time aroused the jealousy of the gods and they at last sent the evils of the Turanian army upon his country.
MEDIUM LONG SHOT
The two armies at war. PAUSE on angry faces. Earsplitting battle cries.
VO: After years of hostility between the two people, Afrasiab finally launched a devastating offensive and killed many of the Persian troops.
Blood and gory human limbs, cries of pain, a decapitated torso wriggling in dust.
VO: To counter the attack, King Manouchehr sent seven garrisons to drive out the intruders.
The king pointing his finger at the horizon.
VO: But all of them failed one after the other, each army having fought for seven days. At last, he lay at the mercy of the bold assailant, his wife taken by another, his crown lost, his army broken and dispirited. DISSOLVE TO
A morose and decrowned king; a descending tear drop glistening on his cheek. CUT TO
THE BASE OF MOUNT DAMAVAND. DAYBREAK. EXTERIOR
Brisk, foggy dawn. A silver haze shimmers over the plantations beneath the august mountain which, at this time of the day, is indistinguishable from the sky.
[We can use a giant cardboard likeness of the highest peak of the Alborz range south of the Caspian sea, showing it standing there, cumbersome and grim like a watchman over the plains. Some believe Mount Damavand is the milieu of Ferdowsi's epic, and we want the movie to subtly convey that belief.]
A huge shadow in the gray twilight in the middle of vastness, gauchely protruding skyward. We know that its colors will soon change to tawny, then blue at midday, gray at dusk and deep blue at night, the color of the sky and the desert. LONG VIEW OF
Silhouettes of men in battle gear, standing idle around little campfires across the plains.
VO: The army was addressed to nominate the savior of the fatherland, one who would sacrifice his life to save the honor of the kingdom.
MEDIUM LONG SHOTS OF THE PERSIAN ARMY
The plantation is covered with thousands of dispirited soldiers, brokenhearted and shamed, standing or lying on the grass that's wet with the morning dew. They look as though they have been through hardships together, a famine, perhaps, or war. Maimed figures and wounded soldiers, pressing lips, staring at their feet. CUT TO
Suddenly, a commotion generates a human wave in the right front, the foot-soldiers, breaking the lazy silence of the misty morning like a wave traveling on the surface of still water.
From the twilight rises to his feet a bullying figure, dark as the Damavand night, indiscernible from the black of the sky or the dim desert, solemn and sinewy, with a nimbus of determined will. CUT TO
CLOSE VIEW. AN OLD WOUNDED SOLDIER WITH AN HONEST, HOPEFUL FACE
THE SOLDIER: Holy god of fire. Who else? It's General Arash.
The soldiers turning toward the general. We still can't see his face, but the momentum is building up.
[For the role of Arash, ideally it would be a toss up between Bruce Willis and Silvester Stallone. I personally favor Sly, but I understand that Mr. Willis too has quite a following. Unfortunately, though, we can't have either of them, and might have to be content with Alfred Molina, using a double for body shots.]
VO: Having the swiftest arrow, Arash was the chief commander of the third regiment, and had under his order 10,000 gallant foot-soldiers of the rarest breed. CUT TO
The camera slowly moves from his toes toward his face. Heavy set, his thinning hair is long enough to cover his ears and neck. His face, opaque with angelic recourse, is the face of a thoughtful man, firm in belief, gentle in manners. CUT TO
MEDIUM LONG SHOT
Wearing a camel hair cloak over his broad shoulders, Arash moves deliberately, holding his head high and his gaze steady. Passing through the rows of men, he stops before the regiment. He glances over the men without a word. In him all battles of majestic past and all radiance of a heroic will shines. For a moment it appears as though he's going to speak to his men, because he holds out his arms, but drops them quickly: he's changed his mind.
His athletic body seems even larger up close, but his eyes are weary from the sleepless hours he spent the night before, walking about, saying farewell to his friends. CLOSE UP OF HIS EYES.
1ST FLASHBACK. MEDIUM SHOT
Chuck Norris in a rapid series of shots. Angry, happy, smiling, fighting with a sword, drinking wine and letting it dribble from the side of his mouth, making love to two, three women at a time. LONG SHOT of him leading a huge army.
VO: Afrasiab had proven to be an honorable adversary. When he noticed the king was taking his defeat so hard, he promised to return to him a piece of land the width of a bowshot. CUT TO
CLOSE VIEW. PRESENT
General Arash now looks up at the sky. It's going to be a bright, sunny, autumn day, not too warm. CUT TO
A cool breeze meekly caresses the fields adjoining the northern mountain. The fog is sluggishly rising from the dewy grass, crawling up the rocks, disappearing as the first golden rays of the sun stroke it from the eastern edge of the earth. CUT TO
VO: Couple of nights earlier, in his deep despair, King Manouchehr had a strange dream. THE SCREEN WAVERS to his dream.
2ND FLASHBACK. KING'S BEDROOM. INTERIOR
The king is resting at a mountaintop. An angel appears [sweetly played by Daryl Hannah], clad in white. Awkwardly, she comes up over the cliffs and crag to where the king lays. She spreads blue and white spangles, her scintillating eyes spreading rays of holy light.
VO: She was a tall, beautiful angel, who talked with a melodious voice, and seemed bored with happiness. She assigned the king the task of preparing a special bow and arrow to save the Aryan land from the claws of the dark forces. Once again, THE SCREEN QUIVERS TO
MEDIUM LONG SHOT. THE ROYAL PALACE. INTERIOR. MORNING
The king scuttling over to the queen.
VO: Next morning, not referring his dream to the seers for exposition, the king chose to act on his own.
Angry exchanges between the royal couple.
THE KING: On one and only one condition would I spare your life. Your lover must be the one to cast the arrow. REVERSE ANGLE ON the queen's sad but beautiful eyes. CUT TO
LONG SHOT. THE ROYAL PALACE. INTERIOR.
the queen rushing to the jail, where General Arash is chained to the wall. She falls to his feet.
THE QUEEN: We had the best time together, but if you truly love me you must do as you're told. Only then will I be saved. DISSOLVES TO
SCENE AT THE FOOT OF MOUNT DAMAUVAND. EXTERIOR.
VO: Arash wished he could speak with his countrymen. A few words, merely a few words. If only he could do that. Pour out his anxieties, his fears for the land he loved. But words resisted him, and stayed in his bulky chest; instead, tears swelled up in his eyes. [CLOSE UP of the general silently crying.]
VO: What could he say that would not undermine the import of his action? What are words, anyway? He then realized that he was fortunate he was not a better orator than a fighter. CUT TO
LONG SHOT. DAY
The sun's coming up, working on the dewdrops; the fog disappears completely. Daylight is just beginning to flourish on the plains. It falls unreservedly on the rocks and the soldiers and on the mountain; the peak of Damavand, which is stuck to the sky, gradually comes to view. CUT TO
Arash turns his back to the men he has led in wars, takes the bow-and-quiver, and climbs up the rocks that are pearled with glistening drops. REVERSE ANGLE. A sad air sweeps the army, watching for the last time the gallant general with the magic bow and arrow off on his mission.
VO: While the sun dragged its way into the middle of the sky, from where it would sail westerly like a vessel on the sea, Arash reached the mountain top, breathing heavily. On top of the world he was the true man above the crowd, a hyperborean. CLOSE VIEW of his big torso and powerful arms.
VO: He praised Mitra, the Goddess of light, for it was much cooler up there, even though he was closer to the blazing flames of that giant ball. He praised Mitra for giving him the strength of life without which it would be impossible to repress the satanic forces of despair.
The plains beneath the mountain. Clouds everywhere.
VO: Thankful to the gods who gave him the stamina to hamper the obstacles on his way up to the summit, he vowed to rid himself of the indignation of defeat. REVERSE ANGLE
THE SOLDIERS AT THE BASE OF THE MOUNTAIN
VO: No longer did he feel the piercing stares of his men, nor could he hear the accursed silence left behind. CUT TO
ARASH ON TOP OF THE WORLD
VO: All alone with his weapon, worthy only of a hero, he stood there on top of the highest peak, freed his skin of clothing, [Arash takes his cloths off] and showed with pride his powerful body to the sun, to the clear sky and to the rocks.
LONG SHOT OF THE PEAK
Arash stands there, on top of the world, naked and proud, staring into the clear, endless sky, and with a voice that can be heard throughout the land he shouts:
ARASH OF THE SWIFT ARROW: Behold, my love! Free of any wound and illness is my body; but after this bowshot, destroyed I will be.
Words bounce off the rocks, and clash with their own echoes.
Arash pulls the bow to his ear, and releases the arrow. REVERSE ANGLE. The arrow disappears into the sky. REVERSE ANGLE. Arash bends down and falls to the ground.
[To be sure, we're going to use the latest technology in special effects to capture the moment he slings his arrow. I've talked to a few computer graphic specialists; it's doable. Admittedly, the difficult part will be to show an energy form traveling from one thing into something else. Because life springs out of Arash's body, and goes into the arrow precisely at the moment when the arrow leaves his bow. This meaning he somehow becomes the arrow before his body falls graciously to the ground.]
A dark cloud comes passing across the sun.
The camera hesitates on a CLOSE VIEW of the darting arrow, piercing the clouds, to illustrate the passage of time. CUT TO his dauntless body, which remains there on the rocks, on top of Mount Damavand, as the first martyr of a people who were desperately seeking one. CUT TO
MEDIUM SHOT OF THE ARROW SWISHING BY
VO: The Zoroastrian God, Ahuramazda, commanded the wind to take the arrow as far as the remote Land of the Rising Sun, Khorasan, the land that never saw sundown. The sky became a black quilt covering the land, darkening fields and the hills, enveloping the villages, pistachio plantations, people, cattle, birds. [Clouds go by faster.]
RAPID SUCCESSION OF SHOTS
Cushiony silver clouds, violent gust storms on land, savage sea with giant, foamy waves, all accompanied by sound effects. Loud, overbearing Beethoven or Tchaikovsky.
VO: Fate willed it, or perhaps Mitra had something to do with it, for strong gusts came down from the mountain. The wind had blown neither harder nor faster, ever. The arrow traveled eastward all day in defiance of the law of gravity, but at sunset struck an unimaginably tall walnut tree. CUT TO
A TALL TREE STRUCK BY AN ARROW.
VO: The boundaries had to be redrawn.
The music calms and the scenery changes to one of a prairie with children chasing each other in a montage of Mount Damavand and other sites of the Iranian plateau.
VO: Having lost the war, the Persians would have lost their lands if it were not for the heroic performance of Arash of the Swift Arrow. Arash was the man whose enchanted life gave birth to pride. One who slung his arrow to unheard of places and then dropped over dead. It was the best shot of his life; he would have been proud of it. DISSOLVE TO
MEDIUM SHOT. SOMEWHERE IN THE ROYAL PALACE. DAY
Having made a truce, Afrasiab and the king peruse maps, and take notes. Then a servant pours wine and they drink their glasses to each other's health and laugh.