The Marvel of the World
Opening credits roll
No direct dialogue
Medieval market square
Music: “Frederick’s Theme,” being played on medieval instruments (hautboy, proto-lute, tambor, recorder, etc.) to reflect the setting. The credit sequence is governed by the energetic, direct rhythm of the music.
There are vendors in booths selling all kinds of agricultural products: fruits and vegetables, grain, olives, wine. Goats are bleating, chickens gabbling. Some of the vendors are hawking jewelry, fabrics, or finished articles of clothing. Children are running about. There are jugglers and musicians. The overall effect is raucous, vivacious, and energetic.
In the center of the square we see a large tent. From its trappings (gold tassels, ornate embroidery, polished silver grommets) and from the soldiers stationed around it dressed in ceremonial finery, we deduce that it is a royal tent. The activity of the fair goes on all around, ignoring the presence of the tent, Suddenly, we hear screams from inside the tent. They are a woman’s screams. The entire square quiets down to listen. The music stops as the screams continue. An occasional cluck of a chicken is heard; otherwise, there is perfect silence between the screams. Even the children have stopped their boisterous play and are watching the tent or looking inquisitively around.
Following a long silence, a new sound is heard from inside the tent. It is the sudden, sharp cry of a newborn infant. The crowd erupts. There are cheers and yells; the soldiers clank their weapons. The musicians begin to play an anthem. This climax is reached just as the last credits are being shown.
No direct dialogue
Inside a tent (presumably where the sounds originated)
We see for just a moment the squinting, wrinkled face of the newborn infant. He is wrapped in a purple blanket, Someone has thrust a tiny scepter into his fist. The muted cheers of the people are audible from outside the tent.
A town (location Sicily)
Narrow, winding streets. A castle peers down on the town from a rocky height. It is early morning.
A title appears on the screen: “Seven Years Later.”
NOTE: The dialogue in this and following scenes takes place in multiple languages: Sicilian dialect, Moorish Arabic, and Greek. There are no subtitles. It should not be supposed that the foreign language dialogue given here needs to be followed verbatim. Linguistic experts should be consulted in order to find out exactly how people of the various ethnic groups of medieval Sicily spoke to each other, and the dialogue in those languages need only reflect in a general way the intent reflected in the directions accompanying each line.
The scene opens with a shot of a seven-year-old boy running toward the camera down a grassy slope with the castle behind him over his shoulder. The boy is dressed in, not exactly rags, but a very humble and drab sort of tunic. We see him making his way speedily toward the outskirts of the town. He climbs the town wall, which is about eight feet high. and swings down the other side on the branch of a tree. He scampers down some winding streets and comes to an alley where a knot of Moorish boys are playing a game of toss.
Sabaa agher, aga m’lach! Sabaa agher! (In Arabic: “Good morning, sir!” or comparable greeting)
The new arrival, the boy in the tunic, returns their greetings and gabs with them happily in Arabic, joining in their game of toss. One of the boys hands him an egg, which he cracks and eats raw.
No direct dialogue
On a road (presumably several miles away from the town)
NOTE: Town visible in background
We see a group of carts struggling along a dirt road. Several fancy carriages (carved wheels, elaborate paint, gold fittings) bear passengers, and carts are piled high with trunks and other baggage. The horses pulling the carriages and wagons are beautiful, powerful, parade-quality horses. Soldiers accompany the procession walking ahead of it, behind, and alongside.
NOTE: The assemblage is heading toward town.
CUT BACK TO: Scene 3
The boys are playing toss. The boy in the tunic is taking his turn amid hushed expectancy. His face is intent as he lofts two small sheep-bones into the air. The sheep-bones land on the target perfectly and in good alignment. The Moorish boys cheer and start to slap the boy on the back, He accepts their congratulations with mock gravity, bowing deeply and thanking them in their language. He takes ceremonious leave of them, turning to speed off down another alley amid their shouted invitations to return soon.
The boy comes to another part of town where the houses are larger, each with its own small, walled yard. He goes to one such wall and hops over. In the yard is another boy, a few years older than the first boy. He is playing at making a tower out of stones. When he sees the first boy, he addresses him in Italian.
Buongiorno, amico! (In Italian: “Good morning, friend!” or comparable greeting)
They chatter together in Italian. The boys pick up toy swords and start to play at sword-fighting. They are not training or practicing, by any stretch of the imagination but they have a great time whacking the swords together. The wooden “blades” striking each other make a very satisfying sound. A woman emerges from the house adjoining the yard. She addresses the second boy.
Giovanni! Perchè non mi hai ditto che viene il reggio? (In Sicilian dialect: “Why didn’t you tell me your friend was here?”)
The woman goes back into the house and comes back shortly carrying cups of milk,
Bere, bere! (In Italian: “Drink, drink!”)
By this time, the first boy is on the ground on his back, and the older boy is pinning him down with a knee to the chest and the toy sword held to his neck. The younger boy lunges suddenly, and the two roll off in a heap. The woman stands by holding the mugs of milk, a look of bemused consternation on her face.
No direct dialogue
On the same road as Scene 4 (closer to town)
NOTE: Town closer in background
We see the carriages and carts laboring toward the town. There is a crest showing two keys, one gold and one silver, painted on the sides of the carriages. In one of the carriages, two stern, middle-aged men sit side by side, one wearing a scarlet traveling cloak, the other a white one. The carriage jostles them as it proceeds down the road, and it is evident that the men are not comfortable.
CUT BACK TO: Scene 5
The boys in the yard are drinking the milk the woman brought. Finishing the milk, the first boy hands the mug back to her and thanks her in Italian, then hops back over the yard-wall and charges off down the street. We see him making his way down more narrow streets. It is late morning now, A number of people greet the boy, in various languages, as he passes.
Finally the boy comes to a small square, the main feature of which is a grocer’s stall. The stall is manned by a Greek boy. The first boy yells at him in Greek. The Greek boy looks back over his shoulder, checking for something, then gives a sly nod. The first boy approaches the stall and snatches several pieces of fruit. Suddenly, there is loud yelling, in Greek, from the interior of the stall, and a large man, the grocer, appears, The boy with the fruit dashes away, laughing madly. The big, gruff grocer feigns anger, but it is obviously not sincere anger. The “robber” yells a playful, sarcastic gibe at him in Greek, to which the grocer responds with:
Oy, Vasileos! (In Greek: “Hey you!” or comparable shout)
The boy disappears down an alley.
At the castle, above the town
The carts have reached the castle. There is a moat with no water in it, and the wide drawbridge does not appear to have been raised at any time in the recent past.
The carriages and carts enter within the castle walls, and soldiers and servants busy themselves with unloading baggage while grooms from the traveling party attend the horses. There does not seem to be anyone in the castle. A maid is seen to emerge from a doorway, but she hurriedly rushes back inside. She is off to notify the steward. Shortly the steward himself appears. He approaches the two men dressed respectively in scarlet and white. Other dignitaries are standing nearby speaking with each other in Italian. The steward does not arrogate to speak, but bows and with a gesture invites the men to enter the great hall of the castle. The great hall is impressively large but rather bare. When the men troop in, looking a bit like a liturgical procession, the steward sits in a raised chair at one end of the hail. The others (the two men in traveling cloaks, other dignitaries, soldiers, and servants) stand facing the steward. The steward seems unsure of himself. He is dressed in finery, but his regalia gives the impression of having been pulled out of a chest a few moments ago; and although it evidently was once quite fine, it has seen better days. There are empty places, for example, at the hilt of the ceremonial sword that hangs from his waist, where gems have been pried out. The knee of the steward’s hose will need patching in the very near future. The steward suddenly seems to realize that he is being rude to his guests. He kneels before the man in white, kissing his hand.
(This is the man in scarlet)
His Holiness is tired and hungry after his long journey. Please arrange for food and drink to be brought immediately.
(Looking around and seeing that there is no table in the hall)
Where shall we eat?
Food … oh, my, well, I’m afraid we …
Speak up, man!
I’m sorry, but at the present moment …
(He pauses. The others wait for him to finish)
… we, urn, there’s no food …
You scoundrel! For years, since the death of Charles and Constance, the Holy Father has been paying out of the generosity of his heart for the upkeep and provisioning of this royal castle, and you claim that you have nothing?
Maria has gone into town to get some cabbages. She should be back shortly. It will take some time to cook them …
Cabbages! You would offer the Holy Father cabbages! Are you insane, man?
It’s all right, Carrolus. I’m not surprised. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t sending them as much money as you probably thought I was.
Hmm. The king?
Yes, of course.
(To the steward)
Where is the king?
I don’t know.
You don’t know! How could you not know? The pope has journeyed here from the Holy See at great cost and risk to meet with His Royal Majesty the king of Sicily …
(To the legate)
And Germany …
Yes, yes, His Royal Majesty, the king of Sicily, and king of Germany, Frederick, scion of the Holy Roman Emperor …
The legate has been declaiming the royal titles in a stentorian voice, but he lapses into silence as he hears an odd, incongruous sound. It is the sound of bare feet running on stone steps. It sounds like: slap, slap, slap. It gets louder, echoing in the large hall. Now it is the sound of bare feet running on a stone floor. All the men, the steward, the visiting dignitaries, soldiers, and servants stand silently listening.
The running feet belong to the little boy in the drab tunic. He runs past them all, then stops and turns. He runs to Innocent and looks up at him, craning his neck sharply. He looks at the pope, looks at the legate, looks at the pope again. The boy has a discreet smudge of dirt on his face from rolling around on the ground earlier. His face is sticky from eating apples. In fact he clutches a partially eaten apple in his hand at this moment. Without taking his eyes from the men, he raises the apple to his mouth and takes a bite.
A moment later he turns and resumes running down the length of the hall, disappearing at last through a door at the far end. No one says a word, until:
That was him.