Invisible Cities Italo Calvino

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Text of Invisible Cities Italo Calvino

FTV 163 Directors Folder. Adrien Husson


Invisible Cities

Italo Calvino, 1972

To re-create the effect of Invisible Cities by offering radical perspectives on hidden aspects of the city, by making them its defining feature. This effect was, for the would-be director, quiet wonder at the number of realities that a city can produce for its inhabitants.


A man wakes up everyday in a city that is different from the one he woke up in yesterday. He is panicked, and has to re-learn the habits and the nature of the city every new day. After a while though, he understands that the strange dreams he has been having are depiction of the new cities. By remembering his dreams he does not have to learn the cities anymore. Every night the man dreams of a different city. When he wakes up, the world has become this city. That gives him time to inspect things more closely. He notices the world doesnt actually changes. He goes through the city and sees how the original, unchanged city is always here, hidden behind todays city. As he spends the day sitting, constantly surprised, exploring the philosophical implications of the city he dreamt of, he goes deeper and deeper into the heart of these cities, a new one each day. He realizes one day that he wasnt dreaming of cities. He was dreaming of himself, his other selves, who he was, who he will be, and who he could have been. When awake, his understanding was that of the self he had been dreaming of the night before, transforming the city and leading him to the belief that the city had changed. It was him who was changed, a different being every day, seeing the world differently and therefore being in a different world every day.




Composition Focus

Perpetual presence of the silhouette of a head on the side of the screen. The head speaks the script while in the background shots of the city exemplify the content of the speech.

Long lens for loss of depth; the film being shown is the internal representation that the character has of the world, not an actual world. Less depth will result in less engagement and more observation.


Naturalist paintings

Visual content

Elements of normal life instants before or after their iconic culmination. See following images by Wane Douglas BartloWe for extreme example of naturalistic paintings that depict the uncanny.

Daggerwrist by Wayne Douglas Barlowe3


Dark City by Alex Proyas

The Molars of Leviathan by Wayne Douglas Barlowe


Dark City by Alex Proyas

Emperor Sea Striders Skull by Wayne Douglas Barlowe


Blame! by Tsutomu Nihei


Excerpt & commentsNo city more than Eusapie tends to enjoy life and run away from problems. And for the jump from life to death to be less brutal, its inhabitants have built a perfect subterranean copy of their city. Corpses, dried so that the skeleton remains, coated with a yellowish skin, are carried under there to continue their previous occupations. Among these, the reckless ones are the most favored: most sit around served tables, or put in the position that one who dances, or one who plays trumpet, would have. Yet all the jobs and trades from the Eusapie of the living are practiced underground, or at least all those that the living held with more satisfaction than boredom: the watchmaker, surrounded by all his clocks, stopped in the shop, approaches a parchmented ear close to a detuned clock. A barber soaps the cheekbones of an actor with a dry shave brush while the actor re-reads his roles, looking at the manuscript with his empty orbits; a young girl with a smiling skull milks the carcass of a heifer. Doubtless, many are the living who require after their death a different destiny than the one that was theirs: the necropolis is invaded with lion hunters, mezzo-sopranos, bankers, violinists, duchesses, women with sugar daddies, generals, in larger numbers than the city of the living ever counted. The mission of accompanying the dead and putting them at the required place is given to a brotherhood of hooded people. No one else has access to the Eusapie of the dead and everything we know about there we know from them. They say that the same brotherhood exists among the dead, and that they never miss a chance to help them out; the hooded ones after death continue to fulfill their duties in the other Eusapie; they even support the belief that a few of them, already dead, continue to walk both above and below. Doubtless, the authority of this congregation over the Eusapie of the living is very extensive. They say that every time they go down, they find something changed in the Eusapie from down below; the dead bring innovations to their city; not numerous, but surely the results of a weighted reflexion, not of transient whims. One year after the other, they say, one does not recognizes the Eusapie of the dead. And the living, not to be left out, ever news the hooded ones tell them about the dead, they want to do it too. And so the Eusapie of the living started to imitate its subterranean copy. They say that it hasnt started recently: in fact, it would be the dead who built the above Eusapie so that it would match theirs. They say that in both of the twin cities, it is not possible anymore to know which are the dead and which are the living.

Translated from the French editionEusapie is frivolous, that isnt too repeated but does it connects with making death unnoticed, reducing its importance. From the beginning to the end: the reason why they cant tell if they are alive or dead is because they refuse to face death. Being dead is having the right to pursue the same activity for eternity. But the living do it too; the living are already in a cycle with no beginning and no end, a daily life that escapes time because it is always the same, and to make sure it always stay the same, they create a death that is similar to this life; only for that to be possible, life has to be similar enough to death. The only difference is which activities. The living cannot choose their life, so they choose their death. They wait until they are dead so they will not have to make the effort of figuring out how to accomplish their dreams their dead selves will. So their life is subjectively endless suffering, while their death is objectively endless enjoyment both eventually as terrible as the other.

The hooded ones are controlling. They are unnamed, masked, hooded, they are not here. They are from elsewhere and they are above the cycle. They can communicate with the dead, for they might as well be dead. But who are they? They dont scare you, you want to be one of them. Belonging to the hooded means you trade your identity for omnipresence. Is that a fantasy? Existing without being oneself, being dead to the world without being dead to oneself, being under no gaze because there is nothing to look at, being like Boz in The Nomad Soul. The Eusapie from below does not exist, the hooded ones invented it to control the Eusapie from above. They create the desire to imitate the dead, because the dead are wiser and happier, and then invent what the dead have done. A city that desires based on the inventions of a few. Another city that copies the events in the star. Another city that imitates the jewelry of a flying city while destroying the mud of their underground twin. Shivering, when reading this, feeling, like for most of the Invisible Cities, of an infinite depth contained within that small text, of an abyss of meaning I will never end to explore, admiration for the writers ability to reveal a million doors without opening any of them, leaving it up to the reader to find the strength to open even one of them. Feeling that adapting is betrayal, because no more words or signs could enrich what is yet to be fully explored. 7


Scene 1 the deadOBSERVER Everything is different again. The city puts on display the dead. I saw a man drool at the fence. He was watching a burial. (beat) People talk about their coffin, they play with bones and laugh the sins. Those who leave young are the heroes, those who are gone arouse and glow. Erotic art likes the cancers, the plagues and the aids naked. The new idols are the diseased, the living dance in cemeteries. I now crawl up to a tombstone. I rub my neck against its base, curl up my legs and rest appeased. My sweat drips over someones name, my tongue licks all the dirt and shame, my fingers dig into the ground. Nobody knows why theyre aroused, but death is flesh since yesterday. From close enough its all the same, looking at all the smiles and ticks, listening to the steps again, feeling the sun and then the rain. Only from far it sure has changed. I have to learn this new city, where people give birth over graves. Have I already dreamt of it? Have I looked at someone and said: [CUT]



Scene 2A bookOBSERVER I saw a book open in the middle of the night. In each page there was a well, and a rope braided with ink. When my dawn came the book was gone, but I saw the glitter of ashes as the sun was melting them onto my skin. Now the book is everywhere I see. All words covering the city. But life underneath is struggling. It tries to escape all meanings. I tried to do everything twice to prove myself that an action does not depend on intention. But pages are turning too fast. Cities create a new language, every second, like a demon they eat their past and [CUT]

Scene 2B translationSUBTITLES Welcome to the city of interpretations. Here we adore understanding and we throw up all emotions. As you can see nothing is clear, everyone yells in confusion. Look at this smile sculpted by love, and smell how the listener think its mud. Lonely images are open To the autopsy of the sound They can