UNIVERSAL HOTEL FILMSCRIPT
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1981. I see everything from a distance, from my window in the...
TITLE: UNIVERSAL HOTEL.
Woman walks slowly across plaza.
Signor Mazzuco? Il Signor Kaufman mi ha dato il suo nome e mi ha consigliato di telefonarle. (pause) Ha gia telefonato? Thompson, si. (pause) Si, ma al meno, spero di trovare le sue photographie .
Woman walks slowly across plaza.
Monsieur Chonitsch? Je m'appelle Peter Thompson. Frau Distel m'a donner le conseil de vous parler--(pause) Oui-- (pause) eh bien, par ce que je voudrais trouver des photographies qui s'agitent des experiments medicaux faits par Sigmund Rascher .
Woman walks across plaza, ariel view.
Herr Neustadt? My name is Peter Thompson. I am in Europe to research the Testpersons in the cold water experiments made by Dr. Sigmund Rascher at Dachau. (pause) 1942. Well, I need information on Testpersons who were revived by the women from Ravensbruck .
Crowd stands in plaza without moving, ariel view.
Frau Distel, bitte. (pause) Barbara! Peter Thompson. (pause) Yeah, every day for the past week, and there's been no answer, so that door seems closed for the time being. (pause) Um hmm. (pause) Yeah, I'm going to the archives. (pause) Brussels, then Amsterdam, then Paris, then Koblenz, then we'll be in Dachau--(pause) No, I don't, but I'll ask when I arrive.
1980. I open a book and see this photograph. It was taken in Germany in 1942. It records the freezing of a prisoner at Dachau. The prisoner is identified as "Testperson". The Doctors sitting to either side are identified as Erich Holzloehner and Sigmund Rascher. The purpose of the experiment is to find the best method to rewarm German pilots after they crash into arctic seas. The Doctors have already tested rewarming methods ranging from boiling water to short waves. The Doctors now test Women as Rewarming Agents. They call this method ""Rewarming with Animal Heat". The book states that in one case during the Rewarmings, a Woman revived a Testperson and the two had intercourse at the Testsite.
Time lapse of clouds moving over a fortress and a cathedral from morning to night.
1980. I have a strange dream. Between a fortress and a cathedral is the Universal Hotel. From my hotel window I can see the cathedral's on fire. Outside the hotel, time moves quickly. Inside is the Testsite where time has stopped. The Testperson stands behind a closed door. We speak through it. I wake and write down what I remember of our conversation.
1981. I find four photographs of the Testperson: This one in a book written in Russian in an archive in Brussels. This one in a book written in Dutch in an archive in Amsterdam. These two in a book written in Polish in an archive in Paris. The four photographs form this sequence: The Testperson stands before the Testsite. He enters the Water. He floats. He floats under the Surveillance of Doctors.
1982. I find eight more
photographs of the Testperson in the archive
Then I learn something new from an archive in Chicago: that Doctor Holzloehner left the rewarming experiments four months before the Rewarmings with Animal Heat began. His presence in this photograph means that it was taken at an earlier time and should not be grouped with the other eleven.
Then I see something I've overlooked: the Testperson is already wet. So here he's not entering the water, he has left it. And having left it, he stands. Nowhere have I read that a Testperson ever left the Water fully conscious. So I begin again and look closely.
The Testperson wears Prisoner shoes and Pilot pants. The belt is identified by the hand of Sigmund Rascher.
The Testperson stands in a corner. One foot is bare. He wears a flight jacket, flight pants, and one flight boot.
Now he wears a flightsuit and a life preserver.
The Testperson floats inside a metal bin within a wooden bin. The bins are 13 feet square and 6 feet high. The icewater is 5 feet deep. These and the Surveillance table behind comprise the Testsite.
The wires by the side of his mouth lead to the Surveillance table. The wires monitor body temperature.
He climbs from the bins.
Dr. Rascher and an Orderly hold a ladder. Dr. Rascher holds the wires at the Testperson's mouth and looks to the Surveillance table. At the left is a hand with wristwatch. The hand is blurred. The exposure is long. There is no light from the windows. It must be night.
The jacket is opened. The trousers sag at the waist. The Prisoner faces front.
The Testperson is a Prisoner chosen by chance. He has arrived at the Testsite. He removes his uniform and puts on what he is given. He faces the photographer.
Now he is given a pilot shirt and pants.
Now he is given a flightsuit and a life preserver.
Two wires are raised from the barracks floor. He is ordered to turn left.
He is ordered "turn left." Now he stands, his back to the photographer.
He is ordered to walk to the bins. He is pushed into the water. He rises to the surface and floats there.
The photographer moves to the right to record the angle of the body floating on the surface of the water.
The first Test ends. Now he climbs up.
He climbs two steps higher and looks at the photographer.
The Testperson continues to climb.
The life preserver, helmet and gloves are removed. The flightsuit is opened and pulled down. Now he faces the photographer.
The Prisoner does not know the reason for this Test. He was chosen by chance. At the Ravensbruck concentration camp, a Woman is chosen for a reason: her profession has been demonstrated. It proves her ability to participate in the Rewarming Tests. She is placed into service, on a train south to Dachau. At Dachau, the Tests have continued since July. It is now January, 1942. For seven months the Tests have consisted of this: Testpersons are placed in Water at a temperature between 53 and 36 degrees Farenheit. They loose consciousness between 53 and 100 minutes. But this Prisoner stands at the end of his Test.
He models the fastening of a belt.
The details of uniform layerings.
The proof of uniform correctness from all points of view.
The details of the retreival: how the Testperson can still climb a ladder after suffering from deep cold.
Once out, he stands in the presence of a Doctor. He holds his thumbs. He stands perfectly still.
The Testsite and the Prisoner's uniform are prepared for a second Test. The Surveillance table is again monitored. He is ordered to the bins and is pushed into the Water. The second Test starts.
His body temperature lowers slowly over time.
Between 53 and 100 minutes it lowers to 86 degrees and he looses consciousness. Dr. Rascher leans over the bins. Now he gives the Order. A rope is lowered from the ceiling and the Testperson is raised from the water. Dr. Rascher now sits at the Surveillance table and lights a cigarette. The artist who sketched the end of the second Test is identified in the Dachau archive by the last name of Tauber.
And what of the Woman who will rewarm the Testperson with Animal Heat? What can be said of her?Only that she has arrived by train from Ravensbruck, that she is a former Prostitute from Hamburg, that she will wear no uniform for the Test.
I imagine her at the Testsite, waiting. I imagine her understanding what is required.
The Testperson is retreived and the Testpersons are placed together, on a platform, under bright lights.
She revives him.
In the midst of the revival they make the gesture of intercourse.
In the Test report addressed to the Chief of the Secret State Police, Dr. Rascher will write that: Animal Heat plus Intercourse is as effective a Rewarming Agent as boiling water.
After the Test, Dr. Rascher leaves Dachau and drives home to his family in Munich.
1982. Bunker Five, Dachau. The Tests took place here 40 years ago. The Testsite has no drama--just a concrete foundation, rocks, grass, a wall, and the traffic between Dachau and Munich. What I found in seven archives is one name, two drawings and eleven photographs. The name is the equivalent of a number, the two drawings could document the end of any test, and the eleven photographs emphasize a uniform: how it fastens and how it sags when wet. The making of uniforms was the duty of the Ministry of Textiles. The photographer made the photographs for their designers. I make statements about the photographs which cannot be proven. I speak with uncertainty. I recall my dream and the conversation with the Testperson as he stands behind the closed door:
Me: Open it.
1982. While walking to an archive in Amsterdam I hear pulsing sounds and follow them. By chance they come from a memorial to the women of Ravensbruck. Above the inscription is a defacement: Stradzinsky.
That week, as I walked to other archives, I noticed Stradzinsky written on other walls. This man asked me what I was doing. "Filming names", I said. He said, "I've painted this wall three times to take away the names. After each time the names come back. Look, even here! The names come back even here. They come at night when I'm asleep."Ten photographs of the Testperson's face gradually fade to black.