Sometimes all that can heal grief is the right story. In late 1980s Dublin, Tess meets Mungo, who, like herself, is ridden with guilt – she because she is forced to leave her son with her hated husband; he because his son is scarred after a fire caused by his carelessness. They are too hurt to reveal their real selves to each other, but Tess hits on inventing a fantastic life in Berlin, and he picks up on it, inventing an equally fantastic life in Spain. Their fables spark erotic desire, and afford them the courage to confront their anguish and deepest fears. It isn’t important that they stay together – and Tess does strike out with new lovers, to Mungo’s initial bewilderment; what is important is that they finish their stories.
The Fabulists – the screenplay
Screenplay adapted from the novel The Fabulists
1 EXT: O’CONNELL BRIDGE, DUBLIN 1989 – DAY 1
Footage of The Parade of Innocence. It is November and the
light is fading. Noise of Parade. It comes closer. TESS,
curious at first, then she realises what it’s about. TESS
joins the Parade. As they cross O’Connell Bridge, TESS
notices a man, MUNGO, is watching her. Follow the Parade and
its banter, noise.
2 EXT: DAME STREET/CENTRAL BANK PLAZA – NIGHT 2
There is a moon. TESS’S part of the Parade arrives at the
Central Bank Plaza as Christy Moore is finishing his song.
She makes her way to the Plaza proper as the Scales of
Justice are set on fire. TESS’S face, illumined by the fire.
MUNGO, watching TESS. TESS, hint of annoyance. She leaves
quickly behind the Central Bank.
3 EXT: MERCHANT’S ARCH/HA’PENNY BRIDGE – NIGHT 3
The pedestrian light is red. The hump-backed Ha’Penny Bridge
is illuminated with yellow bulbs in black casing. There is
still some red light in the Western sky above the Liffey.
Buses and trucks pass loudly. VIEW FROM Ha’Penny Bridge as
TESS emerges from Merchant’s Arch. Trucks and buses
temporarily obscure her. MUNGO arrives beside TESS as she
waits for the lights to change. Lights change and they
stream across. TRACK MUNGO and TESS. TESS hurries, MUNGO is
leisurely. TESS runs across the road as the lights change at
the other side. MUNGO has to wait.
4 EXT: NORTH QUAYS – NIGHT 4
TESS, anxious, as she runs along the quay. TESS opens her
door which faces onto the quays, hurriedly closes door.
5 INT: TESS’S FLAT – NIGHT 5
TESS closes apartment door behind her, in darkness, out of breath.
She goes to the window and closes the curtains, then holds
one open a little at the side. MUNGO comes into view. MUNGO
TESS visibly relaxes.
TESS pulls the curtain open, looks in the direction MUNGO
went. TESS puts a cassette in a player. She goes to the
window, looks onto the quays and river Liffey.
MUSIC – SCHUBERT’S ‘WANDERER’ FANTASY, ADAGIO, OVER CREDITS
The Fabulists is adapted from the novel The Fabulists.
Casey’s main achievement in The Fabulists lies in his skilful handling of the elements of fact and fantasy, realism and surrealism that make up the novel. Fabulous, seductive fictions are anchored in mundane realities and the compulsion to invent is counterbalanced by the obligation to confront the truth. His geographically centered, metaphorically open narrative allows us to read Tess and Mungo’s journey from immurement to freedom as a parable of a maturing Ireland. The subtlety and ease with which Casey achieves such symmetry between private and public worlds makes The Fabulists an assured and impressive debut.
-Liam Harte Irish Studies Review (Bristol)