is a black and white short film (30 min) from 1999 starring and directed by Steven Wright
. Also starring is Sandi Carroll
The film tells the story of a confused soldier (played by Wright) who narrates throughout the movie his bizarre thoughts about the army and war in general, using Wright's trademark deadpan humor.
The film is told entirely in retrospect, from a veteran of the American Civil War who may already be executed. During the war, his job was to play music for a general who decided, in the soldier's words, "where hundreds of men would die." He has come home from the war skeptical about the meaning of life (or even that there is a meaning), and trying to search for answers. He attempts to express his thoughts and doubts to his wife Becky, but she remains unconvinced that life is horrible and thinks he is crazy and going to hell. Convinced that people have come to have too much influence over art, he tries to play music not written by people by drawing music lines on his glasses and playing the stars as if they were notes. He also tries to get in touch with God, but, not wanting to be intrusive, he merely hangs about outside the church and whispers through the windows, "God...hey, God...whatcha doin'?"
Finally, after many hints, it is revealed why he is sentenced to death: he fought in the war because a rich man paid him to fight in his (the rich man's) place. When the rich man showed up to see how he was fighting, he found the soldier standing and playing the accordion during a battle. The rich man gave him a gun and started yelling at him, so in frustration the soldier shot the rich man instead of the Confederates, picked up the accordion, and left him lying in the field. "He killed the wrong man in the war."
As he is about to be executed, the soldier has an epiphany: "My God...I wasted my whole life thinking about this stuff. I should have just gone fishing! I should have had a sandwich, or had a few laughs! Now I get it!" His illumination is cut off by the firing squad.
He (in spirit form?) walks through a graveyard, and muses, "I'm gonna miss being alive." The credits follow.
Becky: Didn't your grandfather commit suicide?
Soldier: Yeah, I mean, I'm not saying that's something you should do...but, what he used to say was, just because you leave the table in the middle of dinner doesn't necessarily mean you didn't like the food.
Becky: Is that supposed to mean something? All that means is that insanity is hereditary.
Becky (finding the soldier sitting in front of a fireplace with no fire)
: Why isn't there a fire?
Soldier: There is a fire, it's just not here. There is no fire because there is no wood. I mean, there's no wood in here.
Becky: Didn't you just chop a big tree down yesterday?
Soldier: Yes. I chopped it down. And I dragged it back to the house, chopped it into little pieces, and stacked it behind the house. But I can't burn it. I can't do it. The tree was standing there so tall...I mean, who am I to cut it down?
Becky: Honey, you're thinking too much again. Just relax and...and don't think so much.
Soldier: ...the tree!
The soldier is lying on the floor, staring off into space.
Becky: What are you doing?
Soldier: I'm waiting for the moon to pass by that window. What are you doing?
Becky: I'm going to have a baby.
: That's wonderful. That's fantastic. A little child from the world of children. With little tiny toes, and little tiny eyeballs. Let's boil the water right now. Let's boil all the furniture! I'll go outside and boil the horses! Aw, I don't care if it's a boy or a girl, as long as it's a boy. Maybe we should never name it, that way it can never be drafted. How do you feel?
Becky: I'm okay.
Soldier: That little baby gets to live inside you for nine months...I'm jealous! And what if it doesn't want to live here with us? What if it doesn't like it here? And then, when that little baby is about 80 years old, we'll just be dust
! Oh, Becky, I love you!
With that, he crosses his legs and stares out the window again.