5a 1902 MAHLER'S DEAD FRIENDS MEET
ALMA (on her way:) He wants me to be different, totally different... And I want to be different too. And I can manage perfectly well - as long as we’re together. But the moment I’m left alone, that’s when I’m split apart, and my other Self emerges a vain, evil, nasty, wicked creature, that insists on expressing itself – and I must give way. — my eyes sparkle with frivolity and my mouth keeps telling lies. (shouts:) Lies incessantly. – And he feels it, he knows it... (Alma grasps for a bottle of Champaign)
NURSE Stop drinking, Alma. Give up the bottle. Return to yourself! To what you were before this miserable marriage…
ALMA What was I? I can’t remember anymore…
NURSE A young person with the whole world at your feet. You had the most wonderful gift a person can have: you had talent--
ALMA I don’t know what’s left of it. My head is empty. My heart is mute. My feelings are dead.
NURSE Leave this life behind you --
ALMA How can I? I’m keeping house, I’m supporting Gustav, I have a young daughter...
NURSE Give it all up… Take your forgotten songs with you, and go back to composing.
ALMA You think I can still do it?
NURSE I’m sure you can. But this time don’t let anybody distract you from your path.
ALMA Now if you are his good friend, I dare you: go and talk to Gustav! tell him what I just said..Tell him what you think of me, what you really think of me. Tell him as seriously and as honestly as you can that he should take his hands off Alma Schindler, because I need to be free, you hear me? I need to be free, and not fettered to him - or to any other man. Tell him that , if you're his friend, I dare you! - He doesn’t think much of my art, but he thinks a lot of his. And I don’t think much of his art, but I believe very much in mine. (Music: Alma’s song “Hymne”) That’s how it is. Somewhere, a wound is throbbing hot inside me, that will never heal...
NURSE Alma, if something happens to him, you must make sure his music is preserved. Promise me that!
ALMA I can’t promise! I can’t! I could have done it for Zemlinsky. Because I like his art, he's a real genius. But Gustav is such a poor creature, such an awfully poor creature… if only he knew how poor he was, he would bury his face in his hands for shame. that I always have to lie… always lie! I look at my eyes in the mirror and they sparkle with frivolity. And then I get this itch, and I want to do something evil! There are so many evil things that would be worth doing. Just a little evil! Oh!
Parents live to be deceived;
Men they live to be betrayed;
The human soul was born to be abused.
God, oh God, why do you so love Evil?!
(Alma takes off her clothes and starts singing)
Ich hab ein glühend Messer, ein Messer in meiner Brust. O weh! O weh!
Das schneid’t so tief in jede Freud und jede Lust, so tief!
NURSE Madame, this is a song of Gustav Mahler!!
ALMA I don’t give a shit whose song this is! – Now I'd also like to make a short speech, a few words of thanks! I would like to thank God for allowing men to alienate women from themselves – and I'd like to thank him for inventing the holy sacrament of marriage for this purpose, so that the child also gets a name for himself (to the portrait of the playwright Arthur Schnitzler:) You, Arthur, can you explain this to me? You, as a playwright, know everything about the mysteries between man and woman, don’t you? You're a greater psychologist, even than Sigmund Freud, aren’t you? – So explain it to me!
NURSE Alma, please, try to be polite...
ALMA Polite? Why should I be polite? (She points to the other portraits in the room) Are they polite to me? Look how they stare at me, those fine gentlemen friends. Do you call that polite? They won’t say a word, but they stare at me. Just staring at me with their abhorrent, piercing eyes, their Jewishness leaping out at me like a rabid dog. They pierce me like an insect they’ve caught, to put under glass. They are weighing and sizing me up like a carpet in the bazaar, unrolling me and then rolling me up again, examining how I am knotted, inspecting me with their scathing eyes wherever they can, stabbing at me, slashing me open with their dissecting glances, peering into every nook and cranny, hoping to get inside me and position their snouts to suck me dry, down to my last drop of blood. I don’t see people, I can only see eyes! Eyes! Eyes!! Eyes!!! They’re testing every word I say to evaluate my intelligence and to examine my taste. They weigh every word, judging my language inadequate, too young, too alien, too strange, too full of life's joy! I can practically hear them, as I read their pupils, and discover what they say about me to each other secretly in coffee-houses, in theatres, in the loo! “Is this girl worthy of admittance to our circle? Is this Schikse refined enough to merit a union with our Jewish wunderkind Gustav? God forbid ! It simply won't work. Nothing good will come of it ! Save Gustav! Save our prodigy!! He’s a Messiah! He’s a Messiah!!”
NURSE Why are you talking like that , Alma?
ALMA Because it amuses me, alright? It amuses me. You understand?
NURSE Alright. I understand.
ALMA Who are these people?
NURSE Gustav’s friends. His “Chaverim”.
ALMA All emphatically Jewish, eh?! – You know very well I can’t stand Gustav’s Jewish friends! – Why did you bring me here?
NURSE To announce….. your imminent marriage.
ALMA Our marriage! Oh yes... How could I forget! Yes, yes. (turns to the portrait of the singer Anna von Mildenburg:) Ah! Mrs von Mildenburg! The famous vaginal soprano! - I beg your pardon, what was the question again...? Ah, what do I think of Gustav as a composer? Well, that’s not an easy one to answer. You see, I don’t know much of his music yet, but the little I know… the little I know… I don’t like. I don’t like it at all. It's rubbish. It stinks. - Any other questions...? No? What a shame! So allow me to raise one myself. What do you think of my Gustav? I mean… as a Man? After all, you were his mistress, weren't you? So you ought to know. Or don’t you remember any more? Was it too long ago? Maybe nothing happened at all? He, on the other hand, speaks with great enthusiasm about you, he boasts of having been your lover! But still, he can’t have learnt much in the process, judging from his abilities in this regard... - I beg your pardon? I didn’t hear you …? Oh, you didn’t say anything! That’s a shame, Mrs von Mildenburg, that really is a dreadful shame. - Oh, what silence... Oh, what a solemn atmosphere!
NURSE Come on, Alma, cut it out.
ALMA Wait a minute! Wait a minute! Please! It's going so well now. Just a bit longer ! I’m really trying hard to build bridges to Gustav’s friends! I’m doing my best. (She addresses Justine’s portrait, Mahler’s sister:) Justine, of all his friends and family - you’re the only one I can really talk to. Why won't you accept me as part of the family? I know you are not happy to see me putting my paws on your genius of a brother. No, don’t deny it. I know better. After all, you slaved away for him for years. You cooked for him, you kept house for him, you managed his money…! And now you're finally free! Rejoice! And besides that, I want to tell you this, Justine: I’m not holding him prisoner. I'll release him whenever you want him back! But he won't come! He won't come! What am I to do? He just won't! He's the one to blame.
(During the scene, via an intercom, ALMA is summoned by Mahler into the kitchen to join him and Gropius for "Declaration of Love".)