Set against the background of the racial and sexual dynamics of a modern American city, two detectives (Ethan Edwards and Paul Martin) are charged with investigating the murder of a 77 year-old woman (Edith James) who is found dead in her apartment taped-up in a fetal position inside a large cardboard box. It will come out that her apartment had been taken over by a drug and prostitution crew and used for their criminal purposes. Introduced in this first act is a TV news reporter (Julie Newsom) with a history of reporting on Ethan Edwards, who years earlier, in a contentious case, had shot a teenaged youth who it later turned out had had a facsimile gun. The landlord/owner (Charles Husband) of the apartment building where the James woman lived investigated after receiving complaints from neighbors who hadn’t heard from her. Upon entering her apartment Husband finds the apartment in disarray and notifies the police. Set against these events there is an ongoing internal police investigation into alleged instances of planting evidence by the police anti-gang unit in order to obtain convictions against gang members. Ethan Edwards is the star witness for the prosecution as he, as an ex-member of the anti-gang unit, used to be partnered with one of the accused members of the unit. Protests erupt when this investigation comes to light, led by the young black activist Tonja Rhodes, and coverage explodes across all media. As the investigation into the James murder proceeds, the wife of Charles Husband (Elaine Husband) is reported missing by her daughter (Susan Husband) and girlfriend (Billie Sotter); she had reportedly left her husband intending to be with Ms. Sotter. Detective Vera Thomsen is given the missing persons case. Suspicion immediately falls on Charles Husband, especially in light of the fact that he hadn’t reported his wife missing. This changes when an item belonging to Elaine Husband is found amongst the many items discovered in the apartment of the deceased Edith James. A search locates two alleged gang-members who are identified as having occupied and used the apartment of the James woman. It seems obvious that they’re responsible in some way for the disappearance of Elaine Husband, and suspicion then shifts to them as the two investigations begin to merge. Ethan Edwards has doubts as to the guilt of the gang members in the disappearance of Elaine Husband, especially considering the fact that nothing else, besides a gold wedding band, of hers was found in the apartment crime-scene. It turns out that he believes he has testimony from a neighbor who claims to have seen Charles Husband enter the James apartment twice on the day he reported the crime there. Ethan Edwards believes that Charles Husband had plenty of opportunity to plant the ring in the dead woman’s apartment. As the media swirls around these many stories, Ethan Edwards begins surveilling Charles Husband and witnesses his behavior becoming increasingly erratic and troublesome– incidents of rage, along with the acting-out of paranoid fantasies, including his stated insistence that he’s seen his wife alive. The police and civil superiors of Ethan Edwards clamor for results as the city is gripped by protests, in part for the accused from BLM activists, and from women’s groups bringing attention to the missing woman. Continuing his surveillance of Charles Husband, Ethan Edwards begins to believe that his behavior is indicative of something much more as we witness Charles Husband descending into his fantasies, which function as projections of his guilt (they constitute the ‘play within the play’ revealing the truth, as the case happens to be). Ethan Edwards decides to see if he can tip Charles Husband psychologically. This eventually involves tricking Charles Husband into thinking that he’s seeing his murdered wife or, as he begins to believe, her ghost, watching him from across the street from his home. Charles Husband’s fantasies take many forms: from believing he sees his wife alive (once in a passing car, once in a strip mall), to believing he’s seen her on TV, to seeing himself reflected on his TV screen and then falling into the scenes there (most of the ‘action scenes’ in the film are to take place in this register). The media coverage of the grisly murder of Mrs. James, and the fascination with the tie-in with the missing Husband woman has sent the media into overdrive. TV talk shows/podcasts feature it, the news, print and TV are omnipresent. Faced with the demands of his testimony before an internal investigation, pressure from his superiors to make an arrest before the city explodes (who believe, contrary to Edwards, that gangs are responsible for the disappearance of Elaine Husband), being shunned by his fellow officers, hounded by the press, and dealing with his divorced wife and estranged daughter, with increasing pressure Ethan Edwards finally frightens Charles Husband into going to his wife’s grave site to check if she’s still there. Digging up the grave where he buried his wife’s body, the final shot will center on her fixed and dilated pupil before dissolving into the black screen.
–The racial/gender of the characters is meant to be changeable; I envision Ethan Edwards as white, forty-six, Charles Husband as white, approximately fifty years old, Julie Newsom as black, twenty-seven, etc. The dynamics can change as the race/gender changes. This choice can be left to the film-maker.
–Random violence is to be the rule; the opening scene, a car-crash, random violence at a protest, a crow eating the corpse of a squirrel, etc.
–There is to be a general sense of filth/garbage everywhere: fast food wrappers, plastic bags, trash blowing.
–Life in screens; all things mediated, not through the image, but through the screen (ie the blind gaze). When possible everything is to be seen on a screen: TV screens/monitors (police interviews viewed from security cameras on screens outside of the interview rooms, TV news programs, interviews, etc. Charles Husband will see himself reflected on TV screens before falling into the TV scenes. The Mort Rivers talk-show can be presented as a podcast if desired.
–A visual device that can be employed at certain times (the protests, the opening scene at apartment building): “What happens here is structurally homologous to a formal procedure often found in film noir and Orson Welles, when they mobilize the discord between figure and background: when a figure moves in a room, the effect is that the two are somehow ontologically separated, as in the clumsy rear-projection shots in which one can clearly see that the actor is not really in a room, but just moves in front of a screen on which the image of a room was projected.” (Slavoj Žižek)