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Women Talking (2022) | Transcript

Do nothing. Stay and fight. Or leave. In 2010, the women of an isolated religious community grapple with reconciling a brutal reality with their faith.
Women Talking (2022)

Women Talking is a 2022 American drama film written and directed by Sarah Polley. It is based on the 2018 novel of the same name by Miriam Toews, and inspired by real-life events that occurred at the Manitoba Colony, a remote and isolated Mennonite community in Bolivia. It features an ensemble cast that includes Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, Judith Ivey, Ben Whishaw, and Frances McDormand, who also served as a producer on the film.

* * *

[Birds chirping]

[Autje] This story ends before you were born.

Mother.

[Eerie music playing]

Again.

[Agata speaking indistinctly]

[Autje] When we woke up feeling hands that were no longer there, the elders told us that it was the work of ghosts or Satan.

[Eerie music fades]

Or that we were lying to get attention.

Or that it was an act of wild female imagination.

It went on for years.

To all of us.

It felt like weightlessness.

[Girl laughing]

It felt like drifting over what used to be real.

[Girl speaking indistinctly]

It felt like a banishment, as though we had no invitation anymore to be a part of the real.

[Girl speaking indistinctly]

I used to wonder who I would be if it hadn’t happened to me.

I used to miss the person I might have been.

I don’t anymore.

Because it’s doomsday and a call to prayer.

It’s both.

[Suspenseful music playing]

[Man panting]

We caught one of them.

I saw his face.

And then he named the others.

[Man] Come on.

[Screaming]

[Grunting]

[Man gasps]

[Man groaning]

[Autje] Eventually the attackers were taken to the police in the city for their own protection.

[Screaming]

Almost all of the men of the colony went to the city to post bail for the attackers.

We were given two days to forgive the attackers before they returned.

If we did not forgive them we would be ordered to leave the colony and be denied entry into the kingdom of heaven.

[Suspenseful music stops]

[Neitje] Do nothing.

[Salome] Stay and fight.

[Both] Leave.

[Melancholy music playing]

[Women panting]

[Woman 1 sobbing]

[Woman 2 speaking indistinctly]

[Autje] Girls in our colony had very little schooling.

We hardly knew how to read or to write.

But that day, we learned how to vote.

[Baby crying]

[Indistinct talking]

The vote was tied between staying and fighting, or leaving.

So three families including yours and mine were elected to decide what the women of the colony would do.

Your mother had asked, August, the school teacher, to take the minutes of our meeting.

August came back to the colony just recently.

His family had been excommunicated years ago.

August had loved your mother since he was a boy.

[Chuckles softly]

Before we began, your grandmother, Agata, told us we had to honor our service to each other.

We had to represent it.

Just as the disciples were washed by Jesus at the last supper, knowing that his hour had come.

We only had 24 hours to imagine what world you would be born into.

[Melancholic music fades]

[Scarface janz] It is a part of our faith to forgive.

We have always forgiven those who have wronged us.

Why not now?

Because now we know better.

We will be excommunicated, forced to leave the colony in disgrace if we do not forgive these men.

And if we are excommunicated, we forfeit our place in heaven.

How could any of you live with the fear of that?

[Agata] These are legitimate fears.

How can we address them?

[Scarface janz] The only important thing to establish is if we forgive the men.

So that we will be allowed to enter the gates of heaven.

[Scoffs]

[Mariche] You can laugh all you like, salome,

but we will be forced to leave the colony if we don’t forgive the men.

How will the lord when he arrives find the women if we aren’t in the colony?

Jesus is able to return to life, live for thousands of years and then drop down to earth from heaven to scoop up his supporters, surely he’d also be able to locate a few women who left their colony.

Let’s stay on track.

All right. I’ll stay on track.

I cannot forgive them.

I will never forgive them.

I can’t either.

But we want to enter the kingdom of heaven when we die.

[Grunts]

We have everything we want here.

[Salome] No.

Want less.

[Scoffs]

Does entering the kingdom of heaven mean nothing to any of you?

Surely there must be something worth living for in this life, not only in the next.

[Scoffs]

[Chuckles]

Autje!

See you soon. It’s all right.

[Helena] Sorry.

It’s all right. It will be all right.

[Autje] Your grandmother used to say, “find out where you can be of help and leave what you can’t help behind.”

I think that’s easier when you’re old like her.

[Agata] So we must decide now to stay and fight, or leave.

Those are the options in front of us.

We will not do nothing.

I want to talk about my horses Ruth and Cheryl.

[Dogs barking]

When Ruth and Cheryl are frightened by dueck’s dogs on the mile road that leads to the church, their initial instinct is to bolt.

Whoa!

These horses don’t organize meetings to decide what they will do.

They run.

But, Greta, we are not animals.

We have been preyed upon like animals.

Maybe we should respond like animals.

[Agata] In my lifetime, I have seen horses confront angry dogs and try to stomp them to death.

Animals don’t always flee.

Is this how we want to teach our daughters to defend themselves?

By fleeing?

Not fleeing but leaving.

I was just talking about leaving.

[Salome] I would rather stand my ground and shoot each man in the heart and Bury ’em in a pit than flee.

And I’ll deal with god’s wrath if I have to.

Salome, aunt Greta is talking about leaving not fleeing.

The word “fleeing” wasn’t what she meant.

Yeah. Please forgive my mother for using the wrong word.

It’s a sin so outrageous that salome has taken it upon herself to rectify for the sake of all humanity.

[Agata] “Leaving” and “fleeing” are different words with different meanings.

They each say something about us.

August, what do you make of all of this?

Do you have an opinion too?

I think… I think that it is possible to leave something or someone…

In one frame of mind and arrive elsewhere in another entirely unexpected frame of mind.

I want to stay and fight.

But won’t we lose the fight to the men and be forced to forgive them anyway?

I want to stay and fight too.

[Mariche] No one’s surprised that you do.

All you do is fight.

Is this really how we are to decide the fates of all the women in this colony? [Scoffs]

Just another vote where we put an x next to our position?

I thought we were here to do more than that.

You mean talk more about forgiving the men and doing nothing.

Everything else is insane.

But none of you will listen to reason.

Well, why are you here with us?

Why are you still here with us if that is what you believe?

Just leave with the rest of the do nothing women.

She is my daughter and I want her here with us.

Is forgiveness that’s forced upon us true forgiveness?

[Sighs]

[Salome] Keep nonsense like that to yourself please.

Autje, get down!

[Greta] Autje, listen to your mother!

Behave yourself.

Don’t you hear the rafter’s creaking?

Do you want the roof to cave in?

[Autje] Many of us saw ourselves from above.

I’m not sure if it was god and we were seeing ourselves through his eyes.

[Clanging]

Or if we just couldn’t be there.

In our own bodies.

[Melancholic music playing]

[Neitje] How’d you get up there?

[Autje] It was a miracle.

[Neitje chuckles] A miracle from god.

[Autje] Of course.

[Neitje] What else?

[Autje] Where I come from, where your mother comes from, we didn’t talk about our bodies.

So when something like this happened there was no language for it.

And without language for it, there was a gaping silence.

And in that gaping silence was the real horror.

[Sobbing]

Neitje’s mother hanged herself after the attacks had gone on for a while.

It made us wonder, why did our feet keep moving forward when hers just couldn’t.

What sets us apart from the ones who get left behind?

[Melancholic music fades]

This is never going to end.

We’ll be dead and they’ll still be talking.

Or worse. We’ll have to live through it.

[Chuckles softly]

[Ona] August, I think you should make lists of the pros and cons of both options.

“Staying and fighting” and “leaving.”

Post it on the wall.

Make sure and write large.

[Mejal] Why?

We can’t read it.

No, but we’ll keep it here as an artifact for others to discover.

I think the first heading should say, “staying and fighting” and under that write “pros”.

[Agata] Who will go first?

We’re starting with staying and fighting, pros.

Why do we need this? This is our home.

[Mariche] That’s what you believe, it’s not what everyone believes.

Excuse me.

[All arguing]

[August] Forgive me. Excuse me, um…

May I request that you take it in turns speaking so that I can understand what each of you is saying.

It takes me a second to transcribe.

Should we put up our hands as though we are children in your schoolhouse?

I… I apologize.

We won’t have to leave.

Sorry.

Will you just write it down?

Under pros.

Salome has had a brilliant idea that if we stay we won’t have to leave.

[Mejal] We won’t have to figure out where we are going or experience the uncertainty of not knowing where we are going.

We don’t have a map.

[Salome] That’s absurd.

The only certainty we’ll know is uncertainty, no matter where we are.

[Agata] Neitje? Autje?

Do you have something to add to the list?

We won’t have to leave the people we love.

Well, we could bring our loved ones with us if we leave.

How?

What does that mean? That we move the whole colony?

What could that possibly mean?

[Agata] We could create the possibility of a new order right here in a place that is familiar to us.

[Salome] Not simply familiar, but a place that is ours.

[Mejal] Do we need to write the cons?

Isn’t it obvious that we must stay and fight?

Cons. We won’t be forgiven.

May I say something?

Please.

Would it be a good idea before we list the pros and cons of “staying and fighting” to talk about exactly what it is we’re fighting for?

[Salome] It’s obvious.

We are fighting for our safety and for our freedom from attacks.

[Ona] But what would that mean to us?

Perhaps we need a statement which describes what we want the colony to be like after winning the fight.

Perhaps we need to understand more what it is we are fighting to achieve, not only what we are fighting to destroy.

[Groans]

[Chuckles]

Are we staying or are we going?

[Laughing]

Ona, please tell us more about the statement you’re thinking about.

Men and women would make all decisions for the colony collectively.

Women would be allowed to think.

Girls will be taught to read and to write.

The schoolhouse must display a map of the world so that we can begin to understand our place in it.

A new religion, taken from the old but focused on love would be created by the women of the colony.

Our children would be safe.

“Collectively.”

You sound like August’s mother.

[Chuckles softly]

Ona, you’re a dreamer.

We’re women without a voice.

We have nothing to return to.

Even the animals are safer in their homes than we women are.

All we have are our dreams.

So of course we are dreamers.

And you want to hear my dream?

I dream that people who speak nonsense, who have no grasp on reality, are not put in charge of making statements.

What if the men refuse to meet our demands?

[Autje and neitje giggling]

[Bucket clanging]

Sorry.

We’ll kill them.

No, ona.

[Laughing]

What if the men who are in prison are not guilty?

[Eerie music playing]

Mother?

[Mariche] Autje.

Why are you asking if they’re…?

Autje, shush.

We caught one of them.

[Screaming]

I saw him.

[Mariche] But only one.

[Salome] Yes, only one, but he named the others.

But what if he was lying?

[Eerie music stops]

We must consider this.

No! That is not our responsibility because we aren’t in charge of whether or not they are punished.

We know that we’ve been attacked by men.

Not by ghosts or Satan as we were led to believe for so long.

We know that we’ve not imagined these attacks.

That we were made unconscious with cow tranquilizer.

We know that we are bruised, and infected, and pregnant, and terrified, and insane, and some of us are dead.

We know that we must protect our children.

Regardless of who is guilty.

All right, salome. Thank you. Please, sit down, hmm.

Hmm.

Shall we move on?

It is possible the men in prison are not guilty of the attacks, but are they guilty of not stopping the attacks?

Are they guilty of knowing about the attacks and doing nothing?

How should we know what they’re guilty of or not?

[Ona] But we do know.

We do know that the conditions have been created by men and that these attacks have been made possible because of the circumstances of the colony.

And those circumstances have been created and ordained by the men.

[Mariche] But wait, aren’t you suggesting that the attackers are as much victims as the victims of the attacks?

That all of us, men and women are victims of the circumstances from which the colony has been created.

In a sense, yes.

So then, even if the court finds them guilty or innocent, they are… [breathes shakily]

After all innocent.

Yes, I would say so.

The elders called them evil.

[Ona] That’s not true.

It’s the elder’s quest for power that is responsible.

Because they needed to have those…

Those they’d have power over.

And those people are us.

[Agata] And they have taught the lesson of power to the boys and men of the colony, and the boys and men have been excellent students.

Don’t we all want some sort of power?

I think so.

But I’m not sure.

But we caught them.

We caught them.

Yes, you did.

Then why are you making it so complicated?

This is very, very boring.

We could ask the men to leave.

Ask the men to leave?

None of us have ever asked the men for anything.

Not a single thing.

Not even for the salt to be passed.

Not even for a penny, or a moment alone.

Or to take the washing in, or to open a curtain, or to go easy on the small yearlings.

Or to put your hand on the small of my back while I try again for the 12th or 13th time to push a baby out of my body.

Isn’t it interesting that the one and only request we women would have of the men would be for them to leave?

[All laughing]

[Greta] Asking the men to leave is not an option.

Oh!

I’d like you to imagine Ruth and Cheryl.

[Agata] No. Not again.

[Ona] Please stop.

Look. August is still taking the minutes.

[Laughter]

I can’t believe August is still taking the minutes.

[Autje] Sometimes I think people laugh as hard as they’d like to cry.

[Agata] August, you must think we’re all lunatics.

I don’t.

And it doesn’t matter what I think, anyway.

Is that true?

Do you really think it doesn’t matter what you think?

How would you feel if in your entire life it never mattered what you thought?

But I’m not here to think.

I’m here to take the minutes of your meeting.

But if in your entire life you truly felt it didn’t matter what you thought, how would that make you feel?

When we’ve liberated ourselves, we will have to ask ourselves who we are.

[Somber music playing]

[Sighs]

[Children talking indistinctly in the distance]

Will we be done by supper time?

I have to give little miep her antibiotics.

Where did you get antibiotics?

[Agata] She walked.

She walked for a day and a half to the mobile clinic with miep on her back.

The lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, rich in loving kindness and forgiveness.

The lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, rich in loving kindness and forgiveness.

The lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, rich in loving kindness and forgiveness.

I have to hide the antibiotics in miep’s applesauce or she won’t swallow them.

The lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, rich in loving kindness and forgiveness.

The lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, rich in loving kindness and forgiveness.

The lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, rich in loving kindness and forgiveness.

The lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger…

Forgive me.

They’re too big for my mouth.

[Agata] The lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, rich in loving kindness and forgiveness.

[Eerie music playing]

The lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, rich in loving kindness and forgiveness.

[Eerie music fades]

Well, let’s take a break.

[Humming]

Melvin.

[Children laughing]

[Girl squeals]

You’re it.

[Mejal] Not one word about my smoking.

Honestly, I’m sick of it.

[Neitje] Okay, I’m coming over here.

Watch out!

[Autje] Is she always going to be like this now?

[Mejal] Like what?

A man.

Is nettie always going to be a man now?

[Autje] Later, we understood that nettie didn’t become a man because of what happened.

Nettie had never felt like a woman.

Now pretending had become impossible.

[Men grunting in shed]

Is my brother listening?

Hello, little brother.

I don’t know if the baby was yours, or if it was one of your friends.

I think it was likely yours though…

Because there was something wrong with it.

[Eerie music playing]

I loved it.

[Eerie music fades]

I think.

Isn’t that strange?

I won’t speak of it.

Or anything else.

Ever again.

[Autje] But…

[Mejal] But what?

[Autje] She doesn’t speak anymore.

You all right?

[Mejal] She speaks to the children.

[Girl] Kind of.

I think they call her Melvin.

[Children squeal]

[Children speaking indistinctly]

You know, during the second world war in Italy, civilians would hide in bomb shelters.

Volunteers were needed to power the generators that provided electricity.

They rode bikes.

[August chuckles]

And when you were swinging from the rafter earlier, I was, uh, reminded of this.

You would have been the perfect volunteer.

If we were in a bomb shelter.

Where would I ride the bike to in such a small space?

Oh, well, uh, the bike would be stationary.

I have to get the water to the horses.

Watch this.

[August] Oh! [Chuckles]

I’ll bet you didn’t learn how to do things like that when you went to university.

Only facts about stationary bicycles in far off places.

I suppose I shouldn’t be too sad then.

That I won’t ever go.

Why were you forced to leave the colony?

My mother questioned things.

She questioned god?

Not god.

Power.

The rules made in the name of god.

And she encouraged others to question things too.

Like ona?

Yes.

Ona knew her well.

Did she die?

But sometimes, listening to you all speaking today I can hear her so clearly.

Why did the elders let you come back?

Well, I went to university so I could serve a purpose and teach the boys.

Too late.

I want to help.

And I don’t know how.

You came back for ona, didn’t you?

The way you look at her is funny. [Chuckles softly]

I don’t know why she won’t just marry you.

You both say so much that doesn’t make sense.

[Mellow music playing on speakers]

[Boy] Mama.

[Man on speaker] All residents, please come out of your homes to be counted for the 2010 census.

Hey, hey, hey. Shoo, shoo, shoo!

Away. Away!

[Man] Please come out and be counted now.

Please come out of your homes to be counted for the 2010 census.

[Mellow music continues on speakers]

All residents must come out of their homes to be counted for the 2010 census.

[Girl grunts]

Whoo!

All right. You want to try this one?

[Man] This is the 2010 census.

Please come out of your homes to be counted for the 2010 census.

Tickle, tickle, tickle.

[Laughing]

[Man] I’m here to collect data for the 2010 census.

Please come out of your homes now to be counted.

[Neitje] Let’s go.

Why?

Let’s just… let’s go.

[Both giggling]

The ladies standing in front of me.

[All laughing]

How old are you?

I’m 15.

I’m 16.

Okay. So you must have boyfriends.

Oh!

No. We don’t have boyfriends.

No boyfriend?

[Man] I’ll see you ladies again.

Mm-hmm

[man] Take care.

[August singing] ♪ homecoming queen ♪

♪ cheer up, sleepy Jean ♪

♪ oh, what can it mean ♪

♪ to a daydream believer ♪

♪ and a home… ♪

[Chirping]

Where is autje?

[Agata] Well, we must begin without her.

Thank you.

Were you smoking?

Is that any of your business?

Please.

[Autje sobbing]

[Autje] I can’t live a second longer!

[Mariche] Autje!

[All screaming]

[Gasping]

[Women] Autje!

[All sigh in relief]

[Women laughing]

Autje, wait until I get ahold of you.

The census taker just told us that one of our men is returning from the city late tonight.

They need more bail money for the attackers.

Which man?

[Suspenseful music playing]

Your klaas.

[Agata] So time is of the essence.

Everyone get back to your seats.

[Greta] August, please, pros for leaving.

Pros for leaving.

[Mejal] We will be gone.

[Greta] We will be safe.

Maybe not.

The first is most definitely a fact, that if we leave we will be gone.

Do we really need to state the obvious over and over?

[Agata] Yes, autje.

We will see a bit of the world.

[August] Let’s move on to the cons of leaving.

We, the women, will decide what happens in these meetings.

Not a two-bit failed farmer who must teach.

You have been invited here.

You have been invited here to listen to what we have to say and write it down.

Nothing more. Just listen.

Mariche!

Klaas will be returning soon and you are wasting time.

He will come to your house just long enough to take his animals in order to sell for bail money that will see the rapists return to the colony and he will lay his hands on you and on your children.

And you, as always, do nothing, but fire away at us with all of this rage.

[Suspenseful music stops]

I would like to apologize for wrongly attempting to nudge the proceedings.

That’s not my place.

[Laughing]

[Greta] Mejal!

[Clears throat]

I’ll stop.

[Miep] Mama.

What’s the matter? What’s the matter?

What is it? Hmm?

Miep, what is it?

[Miep] I hurt.

It’s all right.

It’s all right.

It’s all right.

There are no cons of leaving.

It’s all right.

Not to worry, nettie.

[Singing] ♪ children of the heavenly father ♪

♪ safely in his bosom gather ♪

♪ nestling bird nor star in heaven ♪

♪ such a refuge ♪

♪ e’er was given ♪

♪ though he giveth or he taketh ♪

♪ god his children ne’er forsaketh ♪

♪ his, the loving purpose solely ♪

♪ to preserve them ♪

♪ pure and holy ♪

♪ children of the heavenly father ♪

♪ safely in ♪

♪ his bosom gather ♪

♪ nestling bird nor star in heaven ♪

♪ such a refuge ♪

♪ e’er was given ♪

[Melancholic music playing]

If we do leave the colony, how will we live with the pain of never seeing our brothers and our sons again?

The men?

[Greta] Time will heal.

Our freedom and safety are the ultimate goals.

And it is men who prevent us from achieving those goals.

[Mariche] But not all men.

[Ona] Perhaps not men, but a way of seeing the world, and us women, which has been allowed to take hold of men’s hearts and minds.

[Neitje] So if we leave… If we leave I will never see my brothers again?

[Autje] Who will take care of them?

Of them all?

[Greta] We can’t know if we will stay or leave before we resolve these last-minute concerns.

I wouldn’t call the future of our relationship with the boys and men we love “last-minute concerns.”

There we go.

[Children chattering]

[Autje] It was all waiting to happen before it happened.

You could look back and follow the breadcrumbs along the path that led to violence.

When we looked back, we could see that it had been everywhere, whether it was happening yet or not.

[Girl] Hi. [Exclaims excitedly]

[Children speaking indistinctly]

[Miep] Hi.

[Heaving]

I’ll get you some water.

[Melancholic music fades]

There’s no cup or anything.

[Slurps]

[Water splashes]

[Slurps]

[Ona sighs]

It’s good that you’re here, August.

To remind us of what’s possible.

Because it’s easy to forget.

I’m so sorry, ona.

[Chuckles]

One day I’d like to hear that from someone who should be saying it.

Why does love…

The absence of love, the end of love, the need for love, result in so much violence?

Ona.

Ona.

I could take care of you and your child.

I would like to.

I, um… I know, but you don’t have to say the words.

If I were married, I wouldn’t be myself.

So the person you love would be gone.

[Chuckles]

[Ona chuckles]

Your child…

[August chuckles]

If we stay and we don’t win the fight, my child will be given to another family here.

Maybe even the family of my attacker.

If we stay and don’t win the fight.

You won’t let that happen. No.

No.

No, I won’t.

[Inhales deeply]

[Greta] August, we need to discuss options for the men and the older boys, if the women decide to leave.

Which is a waste of time because we’re not leaving.

The men should leave with us if they wish.

Then what on earth is the point of us leaving?

Well, they could be allowed to join the women later once the women have established themselves and are thriving.

Should we add “thriving as a collective, literate community”?

Literate’s your word. Not ours.

We don’t need your university language to make our plans.

Put it in. We know what it means.

Continue, Greta.

Young boys, simple-minded boys of any age, Cornelius who’s confined to a wheelchair, will accompany the women.

I vote for the first option.

The men should leave with us if they wish.

The first option is ridiculous and should be crossed off the list.

[Mariche] Why are some ideas written down and considered, and others crossed out?

[Sighs]

I want to leave. I’d like to strangle myself.

Mariche, it’s possible that all the men would choose to leave with us.

And then all we’d be doing is recreating our colony with all of its dangers elsewhere.

[Agata] And the men would definitely leave with us because they can’t survive without us.

Well, not for longer than a day or two.

[Salome] We have not decided to leave.

I’d like to remind everyone of that.

[Agata] And how can we leave at all if we’ve never been allowed to even see a map of the world?

[August] I can secure a world map for you.

I also have a, um, map of this specific region.

Well, that will do.

It’s not like we are planning to travel the planet.

[Ona] Perhaps we are.

Did you know that the migration period for butterflies and dragonflies is so long that it’s often only the grandchildren that arrive at the intended destination?

Yes. So, it…

Yes.

Perhaps, if we went beyond where the map showed us, we could create our own map as we go.

So now you want to leave, ona?

[Breathing heavily]

[Agata] Are you all right, mejal?

Nope. She’s having one of her episodes.

[Mejal gasping]

[Agata] Father almighty, in all humility and supplication we ask thee for thy abundant kindness at this moment.

We beseech thee to have mercy on our sister mejal.

[Screaming]

Please, in your beneficence, heal her.

And please…

[Inaudible]

We ask of thee, envelop her in your strength and everlasting love, and please drive out the sickness which afflicts her now.

[Mejal sobs and exhales]

[Mejal breathing heavily]

[Weakly] Help me up.

[Agata sighs in relief] Praise be to god.

Why is it only mejal has these…?

Be quiet.

We were all attacked.

Not all of us need to draw so much attention to ourselves.

[Laughing]

What attention?

I speak less than all of you put together.

How have I offended you?

[Mariche] You have these attacks.

You smoke.

Why? Why is it so much harder for you than for us?

We were all attacked. All of us.

We are wasting our time by passing this burden, this sack of stones, from one to the next, by pushing our pain away.

Let’s absorb it ourselves. Let’s inhale it.

Let’s digest it.

Let’s process it into fuel.

Speak, Mejal.

We are listening.

They made us disbelieve ourselves.

That was worse than…

[Gasping]

[Salome] Mejal.

[Ona] Klaas, when he returns, may take horses or livestock that we would need along the way.

[Salome] Along the way?

We’re not leaving.

You are changing your mind, ona.

I don’t believe that’s a sin, is it?

[Mariche] How will we be forgiven for all this?

How will we be forgiven, if not by the elders whom we have disobeyed?

Perhaps there will be other elders or men of god who will be able to forgive our sins.

We do not need to be forgiven by the men of god for protecting our children from the depraved actions of vicious men who are often the very same men we’re meant to ask for forgiveness!

If god is a loving god then…

He will forgive us himself.

If god is a vengeful god then he has created us in his image.

If god is omnipotent, then why has he not protected the women and girls of this colony?

I will destroy any living thing that harms my child.

I will tear it limb from limb.

I will desecrate its body and I will Bury it alive.

I will challenge god on the spot to strike me dead if I have sinned by protecting my child from evil, and by destroying that evil that it may not harm another!

I will lie, I will hunt, I will kill.

I will dance on graves and I will burn forever in hell before I allow another man to satisfy his violent urges with the body of my four-year-old child!

[Sobbing]

[Emotional music playing]

I suggest we think about what is good.

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things and the peace of god be with you.”

I will become a murderer if I stay.

[Emotional music continues]

[Sniffles]

[Ona clears throat]

[Ona] I know what these are. These are letters.

But what are these?

[August] They’re commas.

They signify a short pause, or a breath in the text.

There’s also a butterfly called a comma.

Is that so?

Mm-hmm.

[Agata] Salome.

[Emotional music fades]

If you will become a murderer by staying here in the colony, side by side with the men who are responsible for the attacks, then you must, to protect your own soul, leave the colony.

We are not all murderers.

Not yet.

[Agata] I have done what the verse from Philippians instructed, which is to think about what is good, what is just, what is pure, what is excellent.

Pacifism.

Pacifism is good.

Any violence is unjustifiable.

By staying here, we women will be betraying the central tenet of our faith which is pacifism, because by staying we will knowingly be placing ourselves in a direct collision course with violence, either by us or against us.

This colony is the only home I’ve ever known.

And I don’t want to leave.

But by staying, we’ll be inviting harm.

We will be in a state of war.

We will turn this colony into a battlefield.

[Ona] We cannot become murderers.

And we cannot endure any more violence, which is why we must leave.

I’ve also been thinking about the verse from Philippians and I’ve been thinking about what is good.

Freedom is good.

It is better than slavery.

Forgiveness is good.

It’s better than revenge.

And hope for the unknown is good, it is better than hatred of the familiar.

And what about security, and safety, and home, and family?

What about marriage, and love, ona?

[Ona] I don’t know about those things, any of them.

Except for love and… even love is mysterious to me.

And I believe that my home is with my mother, and my sister, and my unborn child, wherever that may be.

Will you not hate that child?

That child’s the child of a man who inspires violent thoughts in you.

I already love this child more than anything.

He or she is as innocent and lovable as the evening sun.

So too was the child’s father when he was born.

[Mariche] But, if you’re saying that forgiveness is better than revenge…

Aren’t you saying that we must stay here and forgive the men?

We cannot forgive because we are forced to.

But, with some distance perhaps I am able to understand how these crimes may have occurred.

And with that distance, maybe I am able to pity these men, perhaps forgive them.

And even love them.

Not fighting. But moving.

Always moving. Never fighting. Just moving.

Never fighting. Just moving. Never fighting. Always moving.

Would you snap out of it?

[Salome] You snap out of it.

[Mejal] All of you snap out of it.

Have you lost your minds? The sun is gone.

I want to tell another story about Ruth and Cheryl.

[Chuckles softly]

[Mellow music playing]

I was always frightened of the northern road out of the colony.

There are so many gullies on either side of the road.

The buggy used to lurch side to side.

Ruth and Cheryl were simply following my commands of the reins, but, they were jerky and frenetic.

And it was dangerous.

It was only when I learned to focus my gaze far down ahead of me and not on the road immediately in front of Ruth and Cheryl, that I started to feel safe.

[Breathing heavily]

Leaving will give us the more farseeing perspective we need to forgive.

Which is to love properly and keep the peace, according to our faith.

Therefore, our leaving wouldn’t be an act of cowardice or abandonment.

Let’s see you go.

It wouldn’t be because we were excommunicated or exiled.

It would be a supreme act of faith…

Come on, let’s go. Let’s go.

A step towards love and forgiveness.

Leaving is how we demonstrate our faith.

We are leaving because our faith is stronger than the rules.

Bigger than our life.

[Mellow music fades]

I’m sorry. But I think I might be dying.

Mother, you’re not dying.

Your glasses need cleaning.

[Laughing]

Why are you laughing?

We cannot leave.

We…

It would be better to stay and fight than leave.

Do you really mean that you want to stay and not fight?

Because when was the last time you had the strength to stand up to the aggression of klaas, to protect your children, or to get out of harm’s way?

[Angrily] Who are you to tell me what kind of wife and mother to be when you are neither one yourself?

You are a spinster. A whore!

An unwed mother!

Stop.

[Salome] Ona was made unconscious and raped like the rest of us.

How dare you call her a whore!

Mariche, are you not afraid that your own sweet boys will become monsters like their father because you do nothing to protect them?

Stop it!

Nothing to educate them, nothing to teach them the horror of their father’s ways…

[Agata] I have heard enough!

Do you women realize we are talking about leaving?

We are a large group. Many things could go wrong.

And time is fleeting.

For the love of our lord Jesus Christ and precious savior, shut your pie holes, please!

How dare you pass judgment on me?

It wasn’t a judgment. It was a question.

[Scoffs]

[Agata whispers] Tell her you’re sorry.

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that what I said hurt you.

Oh, fuck it off!

Sit down, Mariche!

It’s “fuck off” I think.

Shh!

I am sorry.

I’m saying sorry, not just to leave the hurt behind, but because I feel truly that I should not have said something harmful to you.

And Mariche, I’m sorry because you do not need or deserve any more harm.

Who are you?

Who are any of you to pretend I have had a choice?

I am also sorry, Mariche.

I didn’t try to protect you or your children from Klaas.

And what you say is true. You had no choice.

You forgave him, again and again, as you were told to.

As I told you to.

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry.

[Tearfully] I’m sorry.

[Breathes shakily]

It’s not only the men and boys who have been excellent students.

[Sighs]

[Agata] I think mariche, we are all very sorry.

What you were required to endure was a…

Misuse of forgiveness.

Is there such a thing?

A forgiveness that is not good?

Perhaps forgiveness can in some instances be confused with permission.

[Sobbing quietly]

[Sobbing]

[Footsteps approaching]

[Greta] What in heaven’s name?

[Boy whimpers]

What is it? Julius, what is it?

Nettie, please. Make an exception and tell us what is happening.

What has happened to him?

[Agata] Nettie, be realistic.

Tell us what has happened to Julius.

Speak. Just this once.

What’s wrong, sweetheart?

My nose. There’s a cherry up my nose.

Okay, well, blow.

[Exhales]

Harder. Again.

[Exhales]

[Mariche sighs in relief]

There you go.

We have no cherries in the colony.

[Eerie music playing]

Klaas sometimes brings them back from the city.

Who gave you the cherries, Julius?

Papa.

Why don’t you…

You go and play with nettie, all right?

[Greta] Have we made a decision?

Are we leaving?

Yes.

We are leaving because…

We know why we are leaving.

We are leaving because we cannot stay.

Hmm.

We will take young boys of 12 with us.

Allow the men to join the women later under certain conditions.

No.

No.

Aaron. I know.

Aaron is just over 12. Just barely.

Why would boys of 13 and 14 be left behind?

Why wouldn’t they leave with us?

Surely, we don’t have to be afraid of the boys of this age.

August, you’re the boys’ teacher.

What is your feeling about this?

Do boys of that age pose a risk to our girls and women?

Yes. Possibly.

Boys of 13 or 14 are capable of causing great damage to girls and women.

And to each other.

It is a brash age.

They are possessed of reckless urges, physical exuberance, intense curiosity that often results in injury.

[Boys cheering]

Unbridled emotion, including deep tenderness and empathy, and not quite enough experience or brain development to fully understand or appreciate the consequences of their words or actions.

They are like the yearlings.

Young, awkward, gleeful, powerful.

They’re tall, muscular, sexually inquisitive creatures, with little impulse control, but they are children.

They are children and they can be taught.

I’m a two-bit schoolteacher, a failed farmer, and above all a believer.

And I believe that with guidance, firm love and Patience, these boys are capable of relearning their roles as males in the colony.

I believe in what the great poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge thought were the cardinal rules of early education.

“To work by love

“and so generate love.

“To habituate the mind

“to intellectual accuracy and truth.

“To excite imaginative power.”

[Laughing]

He said,

“little is taught by contest or dispute,

“everything by sympathy and love.”

I believe the boys should be allowed to leave with the women…

Providing the women choose to leave.

[Mariche] It was a yes or no question.

You shit like any other man, why don’t you talk like one?

Sorry.

[Agata] I have a proposal to make.

We have to protect all of our children.

Not only our daughters.

Every boy under 15 and the ones who need special care must accompany the women.

How do you mean must?

What if they refuse?

What if they don’t want to leave?

We can’t carry teenagers on our backs.

We will try to influence our sons.

But we cannot force them, and they might refuse, it’s true.

August…

You would stay and teach the boys who remain?

Of course.

[Autje] He’s right outside.

[Tense music playing]

Klaas?

[Greta gasps]

He has Ruth and Cheryl.

Everybody, back to your houses and pack up.

If anyone asks, we were quilting.

August, uh, get the map.

Neitje and autje, you must run right now to every house and tell the women, we are leaving.

[Salome] Tell them to pack up everything they can and to meet us outside the washhouse an hour after sunrise.

[Agata] We need to get an early start in the morning.

Let’s all meet back here at sunrise.

All of us.

An hour after sunrise.

We congregate on the road by the washhouse.

Do we bring…

Everything. Bring everything.

Why?

After sunrise… all right?

Wake up.

Tomorrow one hour after sunrise.

We’re leaving after sunrise.

[Knock at door]

[Panting]

We meet an hour after sunrise on this road.

Bring your buggies.

Thank you, sister.

[Girls laughing]

[Kisses]

[Girl talking indistinctly]

Who can get home the quickest, huh?

[Girl] She has a cricket in her hands.

[Mariche] You do?

Can I see? Okay.

[Children speaking indistinctly]

[Mariche] Yes. Bed time.

Yes.

[Greta] Don’t go.

Stay with me tonight. Or I will go with you.

If I don’t go home, it’ll draw attention to all of us.

Mariche.

Go home, mother.

I’ll see you at sunrise.

[Autje] They said later, it should have taken longer to pack up a whole life.

It was disappointing to realize that everything that ever mattered to you could be gathered up in a few short hours.

We would leave only traces of ourselves.

Go. Go.

[Tense music fades]

[Ona whispering] Psst. August!

Come sit with me.

[August whispering] Here’s the map.

Where are we?

Here.

[Ona] Here?

[August] Mm-hmm.

This is where we are.

[Ona chuckles]

This is north, south, east, and west.

But the map moves.

How do you know which way it should be facing?

Celestial navigation.

I can show you.

[Mellow music playing]

Do you know of the southern cross?

[Ona] Mm-hmm.

You and the women can use the southern cross to navigate.

If you, um, make your right hand into a fist…

Align the first knuckle with the axis of the cross.

And then the tip of your thumb here will indicate south.

[Both chuckle]

Will you show the others?

We will have a lesson in navigation.

Did you already know about this little trick?

[Laughing]

Of course, I did.

I wish there was something I could teach you that you didn’t already know.

[August chuckles]

What will become of you when we leave?

[Mellow music continues]

You make a fist with your right hand.

And point your two knuckles to the southern cross.

It’s called celestial navigation.

Point these two knuckles.

Like that?

Mm-hmm.

And wherever your thumb is pointing that’s south.

[Autje] We like to put frames around things.

Even when they are spilling out the edges.

So, we gathered one last time in the hayloft, where so much had been said.

[Agata humming]

So much that your grandmother would have told you, had you ever met.

[Mariche groaning]

[Mellow music fades]

[Greta] Is he gone?

He’s sleeping.

Dead to the world.

He was very drunk.

And he caught me sneaking back into the house late, and then he went to the barn and found we had taken the horses.

[Salome] Mariche, did you tell him what we are planning?

She did. But only because he wouldn’t stop hitting me and she was trying to distract him.

[Mariche] I don’t think he believed me.

And even if he did, I don’t think he’ll remember.

He’ll be passed out all morning I’m sure.

But I also told him because I suddenly felt very…

[Chuckles]

We have decided that we want…

That we are…

We are entitled to three things.

[Greta] What are they?

We want our children to be safe.

We want…

We want to be steadfast in our faith.

And we want to think.

[Greta] Yes.

Praise god.

[Chuckles softly]

Yeah. We all want that.

[Singing] ♪ nearer, my god, to thee ♪

♪ nearer to thee ♪

♪ to thee ♪

[Women singing] ♪ e’en though it be a cross ♪

♪ that raiseth me ♪

♪ still all my song shall be ♪

♪ nearer, my god, to thee ♪

♪ nearer to thee ♪

♪ though like the wanderer ♪

♪ the sun gone down ♪

♪ darkness be over me ♪

♪ my rest a stone ♪

♪ yet in my dreams I’d be ♪

♪ nearer, my god, to thee ♪

♪ nearer to thee ♪

[Breath trembling]

♪ There let the way appear ♪

♪ steps unto heav’n ♪

♪ all that thou sendest me ♪

♪ in mercy giv’n ♪

[Neitje] Let’s go.

I saw your brother.

Careful! We’re gonna get you.

Help me, I’m tied up.

[Children speaking indistinctly]

Where are they?

Look there.

[Women singing] ♪ nearer to thee ♪

♪ nearer, my god, to thee ♪

♪ nearer to thee ♪

Just…

August, you can speak whenever you want.

You don’t have to raise your hand.

I…

It’s all right.

It wasn’t important.

[Footsteps approaching]

[Greta] Oh.

Are the children clean and ready?

Thank you, Melvin.

Thank you for saying my name.

We hid Ruth and Cheryl for you.

They are ready to go.

Really?

Well, oh, my girls.

Has Aaron readied the horses for us?

What? Well, where is he?

Where is he?

No.

Speak to me.

[Agata] You’re safe, Melvin.

Please, speak to me.

No, no, no. I won’t harm you. I’m not your enemy!

You have to be calm, salome.

No!

Aaron will be found.

I’m not leaving without him.

[Agata] Salome, come back!

[Ona] What if she doesn’t convince him?

Mother?

[Gasping]

Breathe.

Breathe.

[All breathing heavily]

We are going to go now.

[Ona sobbing]

I’m all right. Please go.

Come on, let’s go.

Now?

Yes.

Make a list, August.

A list of what?

[Agata] Of good things.

Of plans, of memories.

Whatever you feel goes into a good list.

What we, the women will want there.

Please write it down.

August.

Thank you for all you’ve done.

We are all so proud of you.

[Crying]

And your mother would be proud too.

I’ll make a list.

This is going to be a difficult trip.

Today is the day the lord hath made.

Rejoice…

And be glad in it.

Go join the others.

Please.

I will not be buried in this colony.

[Crying and laughing]

Get me into a buggy now and let me die on the trail.

But what about August?

[Agata] Oh!

He’ll be fine.

He’ll be fine.

Hang on with both hands.

[August chuckles]

[August] Ona!

[Emotional music playing]

I will always love you.

[Chuckles softly]

She loves you too, August.

She loves everyone.

[Breath trembling]

[Agata] Sun.

[Neitje] Stars.

[Miep] Pails.

[Mariche] The harvest.

[Salome] Numbers.

[Ona] Window.

[Greta] Straw.

[Children chattering]

[Autje] Sounds.

[Ona] Beams.

[Salome] Love.

[Spraying]

All right. We’ll go.

[Neitje] Language.

[Autje] Wind.

[August] Women.

[Clanging]

Salome?

[Emotional music fades]

We may need to protect ourselves.

Where is Aaron?

He’s in the buggy, waiting.

You convinced him to leave?

You may need this.

For protection.

Did you?

Did you have…?

Yes!

He’s coming with me. He’s my child.

Goodbye, August.

Good luck.

Please take care of Ona and her baby.

Of course. I promise.

Wait. I need to give you something.

[Salome] No! I have to go!

Here.

Why have you got a gun, August?

[Crying]

Don’t kill yourself, August.

You have important work to do.

[Sniffles]

You are the boys’ teacher.

Don’t come back.

Don’t ever come back. Any of you.

Oh, wait. I need…

No.

Please.

Please, salome, give these to ona.

But, no… But she can’t read them.

Her child will read them.

No, August.

The purpose was for you to take the minutes.

[Emotional music playing]

We’ll meet again.

We’ll meet again.

[Women talking indistinctly]

[Children chattering]

[Woman 1] Girls, now, those can go in the back.

That’s fine.

[Woman 2] We have more room back here.

[Woman 3] No, but thank you.

[Woman 4] Do you have any more room?

[Woman 5] We have room for one more.

Or two little ones.

[Woman 6] She can sit on my lap.

[Woman 7] It’s sturdy now.

[Woman 1] Come with me. Follow me.

[Woman 8] It’s all right, sisters. It’s all right.

[Chickens clucking]

[Woman 9] Up, up. There you go.

[Woman 10] Hold the baby for now.

[Woman 11] You’ll be riding with your brother.

[Woman 12] I need a little more rope to tie this down.

[Woman 13] I have some here.

[Woman 14] Are we all in?

[Woman 1] All right.

[Panting]

[Autje] So happy. Come on.

Come on. Here.

[Helena sighs in relief]

[Panting]

[Chuckles]

[Ona] Shh, shh, shh.

[Humming]

[Emotional music fades]

[Baby gurgling]

[Autje] Your story will be different from ours.

[Mellow music playing]

[Mellow music fades]

[Children singing]

[Singing stops]

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