Voice-Over for the Documentary
Scenes from the Films of Konkowsky as Recalled by the Executor of His Estate



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This story appeared in different form in Boulevard; nominated for a Pushcart Prize



Nice neighborhood. Konkowsky died in it.

Strandvägen, in the film director’s Stockholm suburb of North Djurgården, was not a tree-lined street, but a house-lined forest. Nothing is more natural in a forest than a forest fire, and last year’s Great Fire of Stockholm got its start only a few doors away.

I say “doors,” but here no doors remain: no doors, no ceilings, no walls. Even windows melted away like sheets of ice. There are only brick stairs to nowhere, birdbaths, and chimneys that rise like exclamation points from the sentence fragments beneath them.

It was a fire that swung from the trees like a great ape. It was a fire that
alighted on seven thousand rooftops. It was a fire that cost the life of a sixty-twoyear- old film director who stood five-foot-three in his boots and weighed one hundred and eighty pounds without them.

Konkowsky had always labored under the weight of a paranoia that his films would be altered. The release of the colorized Battleship Potemkin was, for him, the last straw, and he boarded an SAS red-eye flight to Los Angeles to stage a protest at the premiere. Beneath the shafts of searchlights dueling in the smog-milky night air, before the winking orientalia of Mann’s Chinese Theatre, beside the tongue of red carpet licking up celebrities from limousines arriving at the curb of Hollywood Boulevard, the squat, bearded, wild-eyed, un-plastic-surgered director planted one boot in Hedy Lamarr’s right footprint and his other in Myrna Loy’s left. There Konkowsky tore his contract with Svenskfilmindustri into very small pieces and announced to a flabbergasted press corps that he would never work again.

When several of its most influential directors threatened to follow suit, the
Swedish film organization relented: if Konkowsky paid to double the insurance on his films and to construct a modern storage facility, Svenskfilmindustri would turn over to his custody every negative and every print of each of his films. So it was that the Fichet Lock Company came to North Djurgården and installed in the basement of Konkowsky’s home a bank vault with nine-inch-thick insulated walls and a 2½-ton door — a fortress guaranteed steadfast to the improbable level of twelve hundred degrees Fahrenheit.

But Konkowsky hadn’t reckoned on anything like the Great Fire of Stockholm — and temperatures that reached two thousand degrees. When the director perished, his films — Music, Death, Malmö, Infra-Red; all his films, all copies of them — perished with him.

There is a skeleton in Konkowsky’s closet, and it is Konkowsky. Or was
Konkowsky. Or was presumably Konkowsky. We know only that the ashes found in Konkowsky’s basement vault are the remains of an adult male Homo sapiens who died with a garden shovel in his hands.



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