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Novel to Film [imagemap with 7 links]

Novel to Film | The end of the world

The Novel | The Screenplay | The Film


The Novel

The end of the world
From White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Chapter 1, The Peculiar Second Marriage of Archie Jones

... Maybe there will always be men who say the right thing at the right time, who step forward like Thespis at just the right moment of history, and then there will be men like Archie Jones, who are just there to make up the numbers. Or, worse still, who are given their big break only to come in on cue and die a death right there, center stage, for all to see.

A dark line would now be drawn underneath the whole incident, underneath the whole sorry day, had something not happened that led to the transformation of Archie Jones in every particular that a man can be transformed; and not due to any particular effort on his part, but by means of the entirely random, adventitious collision of one person with another. Something happened by accident. That accident was Clara Bowden.

But first a description: Clara Bowden was beautiful in all senses except, maybe, by virtue of being black. The classical. Clara Bowden was magnificently tall, black as ebony and crushed sable, with hair braided in a horseshoe that pointed up when she felt lucky, down when she didn't. At this moment it was up. It is hard to know whether that was significant.

She needed no bra -- she was independent, even of gravity -- she wore a red halter that stopped below her bust, underneath which she wore her belly button (beautifully) and underneath that some very tight yellow jeans. At the end of it all were some strappy heels of light-brown suede, and she came striding down the stairs on them like some kind of vision, or, as it seemed to Archie when he turned to observe her, like a reared-up thoroughbred.

Now, as Archie understood it, in movies and the like it is common for someone to be so striking that when they walk down the stairs the crowd goes silent. In life he had never seen this. But it happened with Clara Bowden. She walked down the stairs in slow motion, surrounded by afterglow and fuzzy lighting. And not only was she the most beautiful thing he had ever seen, she was also the most comforting woman he had ever met. Her beauty was not a sharp, cold commodity. She smelled musty, womanly, like a bundle of your favorite clothes. Though she was disorganized physically-legs and arms speaking a slightly different dialect from her central nervous system-even her gangly demeanor seemed to Archie exceptionally elegant. She wore her sexuality with an older woman's ease, and not (as with most of the girls Archie had run with in the past) like an awkward purse, never knowing how to hold it, where to hang it, or when to just put it down.

"Cheer up, bwoy," she said in a lilting Caribbean accent that reminded Archie of That Jamaican Cricketer, "it might never happen. "

"I think it already has."

Archie, who had just dropped a fag from his mouth that had been burning itself to death anyway, saw Clara quickly tread it underfoot. She gave him a wide grin that revealed possibly her one imperfection. A complete lack of teeth in the top of her mouth.

"Man . . . doy get knock out," she lisped, seeing his surprise. "But I tink to myself: come de end of de world, d'Lord won't mind if I have no toofs." She laughed softly

"Archie Jones," said Archie, offering her a Marlboro.

"Clara." She whistled inadvertently as she smiled and breathed in the smoke. "Archie Jones, you look justabout exackly how I feel. Have Clive and dem people been talking foolishness at you? Clive, you bin playing wid dis poor man?"

Clive grunted -- the memory of Archie had all but disappeared with the effects of the wine -- and continued where he left off, accusing Leo of misunderstanding the difference between political and physical sacrifice.

"Oh, no . . . nothing serious," Archie burbled, useless in the face of her exquisite face. "Bit of a disagreement, that's all. Clive and I have different views about a few things. Generation gap, I suppose."

Clara slapped him on the hand. "Hush yo mout! You're nat dat ol'. I seen older."

"I'm old enough," said Archie, and then, just because he felt like telling her, "You won't believe me, but I almost died today."

Clara raised an eyebrow. "You don't say Well, come and join de club. Dere are a lot of us about dis marnin'. What a strange party dis is. You know," she said, brushing a long hand across his bald spot, "you look pretty djam good for someone come so close to St. Peter's Gate. You wan' some advice?"

Archie nodded vigorously. He always wanted advice, he was a huge fan of second opinions. That's why he never went anywhere without a tenpence coin.

"Go home, get some rest. Marnin' de the world new, every time. Man . . . dis life no easy!"

What home? thought Archie. He had unhooked the old life, he was walking into unknown territory.

"Man . . ." Clara repeated, patting him on the back, "dis life no easy!"

She let off another long whistle and a rueful laugh, and, unless he was really going nuts, Archie saw that come-hither look, identical to Daria's; tinged with a kind of sadness, disappointment; like she didn't have a great deal of other options. Clara was nineteen. Archibald was forty-seven.

Six weeks later they were married.


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The Screenplay

The end of the world
From the screenplay by Simon Burke

Int. Victorian house/hallway -- Night
Archie wanders through the open front door.

He looks around and sees a Jamaican girl coming down the stairs towards him. The world seems to stop.

Clara and Archie move off into the other room to dance.

Music: 'House of the Rising Sun' ends. Dur: 01:18
Cue music: Steve Harley 'Come Up and See Me'


Clara: Cheer up bwoy. It might never happen.

Cue music: score 'Stair Destiny'

Archie: You're beautiful

Clara: Man, dey get knock out. But I tink to myself come de end of de world, d'Lord won mind if I got no teefs.

Archie: When's this end of the world then?

Clara: Bout half an hour. come tru now, Pickney

Music: 'Stair Destiny' score ends.
Music: Steve Harley 'Come Up and See Me'

Int. Jehovah's Witness hall -- Night
The Kingdom Hall of the Witnesses of Jehovah.

Baffled silence.

Music: 'Come Up and See Me' ends
Music: 'Thine Eyes Have Seen the Glory'

Int/Ext. Victorian house -- Night
Archie and Clara are dancing.

Suddenly the music fades out as Big Ben can be heard chiming from a TV in the background.

Clara is stricken with panic. She rushes outside as people begin to count down.

Clara loses it and grabs Archie and kisses him. She breaks off from Archie and looks up to the sky.

Cue music: T Rex 'Children of the Revolution'


Merlin: Here it comes...

Music: 'Children of the Revolution' ends

Merlin: This is the beginning of a new era for all of us. Okay so keep it together children.

Everyone: Twelve, eleven, ten, nine, eight, seven six...

Cue music: score 'End of the World'

Archie: What? Are you alright.

Int. Jehovah's Witness hall -- Night
The Kingdom Hall of the Witnesses of Jehovah.

Baffled silence.

Music: 'End of the World' score

Ext. Victorian house/garden -- Night
Clara realises it's all still there, she grins at Archie, hugging him she feels suddenly foolish.

Int. Jehovah's Witness hall -- Night
The Kingdom Hall of the Witnesses of Jehovah.

They are all starting to mill around, still baffled.

Ext. Victorian house/garden -- Night
Clara kisses Archie again and hugs him as she cries with relief.

Int. Jehovah's Witness hall -- Night
The Kingdom Hall of the Witnesses of Jehovah.

They are all sitting down, still baffled. People start to cry.

Ext. Victorian house/garden -- Night
Clara and Archie are more or less alone, sharing a can of Double Diamond.
The absurdity of this makes Clara laugh.
Archie passes Clara a joint. Screen fades to black

Cue music: John Martin 'Solid Air'


Clara: (v.o.) Did the whole of your life flash before your eyes, like dey say, Archie?

Archie: It did, yeah. Thing is, I wasn't really in it.

Clara: You a good man, Archie. Not excitin -- but good. I glad you don kill yourself.

Archie: Thank you.


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The Film

The end of the world
From the film directed by Julian Jarrold

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