John Burke: A Study
by Anita L Balestino
Based On the Character Created
Mr. Scott Bakula
In the CBS Film for Television
IN THE NAME OF THE PEOPLE
A CBS Film for Television
Robin Anne Phipps
Music by Mark Snow
Production Design: Ian Thomas
Photography: Nickos Evdemon, C.S.C.
Produced by Lisa Richardson
Teleplay by Tim Boland and Richard Leder Based upon the play by Tim Boland
Directed by Peter Levin
John Burke: A Study by Anita L. Balestino
My grateful and admiring thanks to Mr. Scott Bakula for bringing such an unforgettable, complex, thought provoking character to veritable life, for sharing his vision as well as his immense and versatile talents so generously - and for touching our hearts and uplifting our spirits with his performances.
With sincere gratitude I also thank:
The writers, producers, director, cast and crew of In The Name Of The People.
My family for their unfailing love and support.
Trudy Costagliola and Ann McCabe, for their friendship, kindness and encouragement
Scott Bakula's portrayal of John Burke needs no explanation. It is a tour de force, "perhaps the work of a lifetime," as someone has said recently. Mr. Bakula has given us a complete, quintessential depiction of an unlikely (and unlikable) but completely unforgettable protagonist. He has created a complex, three-dimensional, totally realistic character, capable of both shocking, senseless cruelty and exquisitely tender love. He shows us both the spirit-maiming wounds that Burke has endured and the callous violence he has committed. Bakula paints a chilling picture of a brutalized child who became an adult perpetrator in a twisted attempt to reject those frightened, defenseless aspects of himself that abuse engendered. He creates an eerily realistic portrait of the course of a dying man's journey towards the end of his life. Finally, he radiantly illustrates the redemption of Burke's soul through the unconditional love of his daughter and the unmerited forgiveness of his victim's mother.
And so, the present endeavor may be doomed to failure from the outset. It's a trite but true saying that, "A picture is worth a thousand words." There may be no incentive to read about this marvelous depiction when one can watch it. What Mr. Bakula can convey with the isolated movement of a few facial muscles or a subtle, fleeting expression deep in his eyes, it takes paragraphs to endeavor to describe. However, there is another saying in Eastern Tradition that "to write is to live twice." That is the true purpose of this paper: to write down the intense, personal impressions and feelings with which Mr. Bakula's characterization has affected me - and continues to haunt me. It may be flawed and humble, but it is meant as a sincere and very admiring tribute to his work in the telefilm, In The Name Of the People.
One brief word about organization:
First, this is an analysis of Burke and an in depth description of Mr. Bakula's performance. In order to keep this writing from becoming too unwieldy, the other characters in the film are only briefly sketched in. That is not intended as a slight to the other actors for, without exception, their performances were excellent. Secondly, I have included thoughts about Burke's motivations and history that were gleaned from some (admittedly abridged) research of psychology abstracts and that are not part of the film per se. These segments are indented encased in brackets [ ] and appear in smaller font for clarity.
With Burke's Lawyer
The scene opens as John Burke enters the visitor's area of the prison to meet with his lawyer. Filmed from behind, as he walks slowly toward the stools and counter on the prisoner's side of the glass barrier, his powerful upper body fills the television screen. The angle of his entry and the leather belt around his middle, to which his cuffed hands are chained, emphasize the slim hips and waist and underscore the broad back and shoulders. The focus changes to a close-up of the glass partition from the lawyer's side of the ledge. Burke bends very close to the screen, bringing his face almost into contact with the glass and almost literally into his lawyer's face on the other side. Even from behind the partition, he uses his physical presence and power like a threat, adding urgency to his intended request and trying to compel her assistance. He assumes an exceedingly combative demeanor with his attorney, the one person whose commitment to his interests he should not doubt. Clearly this is a man who trusts no one. Without greeting, without prologue, he begins abruptly to assert his complaint. "Two more phone calls, " he tells her. His tone low, coarse, gruff and irritated, Burke utilizes his voice as well as he stature to coerce her assistance. As he first leans in towards the partition, he looks cold, angry and menacing. But as he sits down behind the ledge on the prisoners' side of the screen, the intimidating stare changes subtly to a surly one and he continues, " That's all they're givin' me." He underscores the phrase with a quick, irritable tilt of his head, lets his mouth lag open contentiously and protrudes his full lower lip, giving a petulant cast to the anger and indignation in his eyes. Waiting for his lawyer's reply with that querulous, demanding expression on his face, he has the appearance of a willful child pouting over some petty disappointment. Burke doesn't even frame his statement to his attorney as a specific request, but rather tosses his grievance at her bluntly and obliges her to determine what he wants. The camera centers on Burke's lawyer. She responds, "That's not right. I'll check into it," and begins to make notes of their conversation. The focus returns to Burke. He stares with focused concentration at what his counselor writes, monitoring her closely to make sure she has interpreted his implied request correctly. As he watches her, his brow furrows into a small crease of concentration and his eyes take on an aggrieved, sulky expression. Seething at what he views as unfair treatment by the prison authorities, (perhaps particularly by the prison warden) his face bristles with resentment and a smoldering sense of injustice. It is the face of a victim. Later it becomes clear that Burke has a long history of victimization and that this image defines how he sees himself.
The camera goes back to the attorney. With some pleasure and excitement, she tells him, "I'm going to the tenth judicial district." The camera focuses on Burke from behind the lawyer's back. Disconnected from the conversation, all animation gone from his face, he seems now to be barely listening to her. His expression reveals only indifference and detachment. The lawyer's strategy to prevent his execution, to save his life, might just as well involve a stranger in whom he has no interest. "They'll turn me down," he replies, his voice flat and devoid of any emphasis or inflection. The attorney rejoins, "Bishop Cole is coming to the clemency hearing." Burke both closes his eyes and turns pointedly away, breaking his tenuous connection with her, dismissing both the counselor and her plan. "Waste of time," he says almost to himself in an undertone that falls with finality. Further emphasizing his disdain for her idea, Burke refuses to even waste his breath with a full sentence reply and continues to avoid looking at her, head turned away, eyes focused resolutely on the distance. The camera centers on the lawyer from behind Burke's back. Her voice rising in persuasion, she tries to convince him that they still have a chance to prevail. "It's independent board," she says.
Burke's broad, muscular back still faces the camera. He lifts his head in curt, conspicuous emphasis and answers as if he were explaining a plainly obvious fact to an imbecile or a naοve child, "They work for the governor." But the attorney refutes his objection in a conspiratorial tone, "The governor won't be there." Now the focus changes to a close-up of Burke. Still aloof and avoiding connection with the woman, he keeps his head slightly lowered and averted, yet looks at her steadily from the corners of his eyes and from beneath his brows. His patience begins to wear thin and his voice drips sarcasm as he says, "He doesn't have to be." Slowly turning to face her at last, Burke attacks his counsel like an enemy for detailing this plan to rescue him from death. Anger mounts in his eyes. The volume, speed and intensity of his voice build in a sustained crescendo with each word, and he informs her stingingly, "He ran on the death penalty." Almost shouting now, eyes blazing into hers, upper lip curling into a sneer, he asks, "What the hell do you think his board is gonna say?" Fury and frustration explode like ordnance from his eyes, as his brows wrench down into an incensed glare. His voice, deeper, harsher and almost guttural, lays heavy emphasis on the improbability of the next two phrases. At the end of each sentence, he inclines his head steeply toward the glass to accent their absurdity and raises his inflection sharply upward, making them a question and, at the same time, questioning the lawyer's sanity for expecting this outcome. "Give him a stay? Commute his sentence," he asks with angry, biting sarcasm.
The camera moves to Burke's attorney. She seems taken aback by his enraged outburst, her face a mixture of dismay shaded with pity. How can she even represent this caustic, sullen man, much less care about him? Abruptly however, the volume, rage and energy abandon Burke's voice like an over-inflated balloon that bursts and loses air all at once. "Not gonna happen," he almost murmurs. When the camera travels back to him, he no longer looks directly at the woman, but somewhere just below her face. A despondent, forlorn aspect plagues his eyes, and the barest hint of a wry, wistful cast warps his lips. He quickly turns his head away from her again and adds like an afterthought, "Not for me." His eyes seem to witness and accept the unfolding of that relentless reality he has just voiced, yet flare briefly with ferocity and resentment. Then he quickly lowers his glance still further and composes his face into a stoic, vacant mask once more. Is that flash of hostility directed at the board for denying his appeal or unconsciously at himself for almost revealing to his counsel those vulnerable feelings that he despises and considers such a threat? The focus returns to the defense counsel. Pausing first to carefully consider her words, she tells her client, "Your mother's bringing Lisa to the hearing."
The camera shifts back to Burke. Sitting with his head bowed and slightly turned aside, his eyes cast down, he looks withdrawn and isolated, absorbed in his own melancholy thoughts. But when the lawyer's announcement penetrates his solitary musing, he abruptly raises at first only his eyes to skewer her with a stare full of alarm, confusion and disbelief. In the next instant, he lifts and pivots his head in a small upward arc, then slowly continues the momentum until he has raised himself upright. His eyebrows draw together intently. His eyes fasten immovably on her face and search her features to comprehend the meaning of her words. Shaking his head in a small gesture of denial, he softly says, "No she's not." His eyes turn imploring now, urging her to validate the truth of his statement; solemn concern replaces the indifferent facade he affected only moments before. The focus returns to the woman. "I think she is," his advocate replies almost mildly and nods her head in affirmation. The camera centers on the window of an observation booth where a guard keeps watch on the visitor's area. In the reflecting glass, we see Burke hurl himself from the chair. Pressing his manacled hands into the ledge in front of him for leverage, he lunges for the screen that separates him from his attorney and threatens her with both his physical strength and his unrestrained fury. "No she's not," he roars, using his rage to bludgeon the woman into compliance. In the silence that reverberates from his explosion, Burke's reflection in the windowpane looms above her with uncoiled menace. When the focus first returns to a close-up of Burke, his face glares with burning, almost brutish savagery. But as he backs ever so slightly away from the partition and just barely dips his chin, an almost plaintive appeal for help or perhaps for understanding replaces that cruel rage, and deep anxiety returns to his eyes. For the first time, there is an intimation that Burke is not a total monster - a murderer with a violent temper certainly - but also a complex, emotionally crippled man, who is somehow still able to care for another person and put her interests above his own.
The focus changes to the lawyer who regards her client with startled but steady compassion. Burke attempts to seize control of the argument by asserting what he clearly believes is his indisputable authority. "Now I don't want her there," he persists, his voice quieter but still demanding and impassioned, his agitated breath rasping in his throat. The focus returns to Burke. He straightens his body into a rigid column and backs away from the screen resolutely. Striving for composure now, he drops his eyelids, takes a breath through his open mouth and relaxes his shoulders. Nevertheless, his face assumes a commanding, almost arrogant expression as he says, "And you tell my mother that I said no!" Dipping his chin and tilting his head adamantly, he lays heavy emphasis on the word 'no'. Immediately, his eyes grow more forceful, and his tongue darts out between his open lips to stress the negation. Holding the attorney's gaze captive, he nods his head twice as a prologue, then continues to move it slowly up and down, keeping cadence with his absolute refusal, and says in a deadly quiet tone, "You hear me? I said no!" On the final vowel, he juts out his chin, exaggerates the roundness of his mouth and draws out the syllable so that the word becomes 'Nooow'. His ultimatum given, Burke watches the woman with close concentration as the intensity in his eyes burns into hers. The camera goes back to the lawyer. Clear concern for Burke in her eyes, she shakes her head sympathetically and advises him, "She's trying to save you, John."
The focus shifts to Burke. Brows pulled into a dismayed frown, head canted to one side in confusion, mouth half-open on an arrested breath, he leans very close to the glass and stares at the woman with eyes that look stunned, bewildered and uncomprehending. He seems unable to force his mind around the concept of his own death to which his lawyer has just referred. And yet, the corners of his open mouth turn down in shock and the contour of his top lip raises and curls with abhorrence. As he continues to stare, speechless, at the woman, his body sinks almost imperceptibly, robbed of strength by her oblique mention of his pending execution. He inclines merely a hair's breadth away from the glass, as though he were pulling back from the edge of that steep cliff of oblivion, while his mouth drops lower in horror, his face freezes with alarm bordering on fear and his eyes become burdened by desperate anguish. Burke seems sorely tempted to accept any offer of help, exploit any means of defense to escape the awful consequence that awaits him. But as he barely straightens his body and inhales a quick, abrasive breath, his eyes grow steady and determined and he turns away from that temptation. Dismissing his attorney's attempted persuasion with a single, inflexible shake of his head and distancing himself a little from the screen, he says, "I don't want my daughter beggin' for my life." He leans just slightly to the side and searches the lawyer's face with eyes that both implore her to understand his daughter's plight and reflect incredulous reproach that the she doesn't already perceive it. The sadness that now pervades his features springs solely from the thought of Lisa's suffering. Then, although he continues to hold the lawyer's gaze with intent, unbending resolve, he moves still further away from the partition and visibly drops the wall of cold, aloof resistance between them. With subdued but unwavering finality, he concludes, "She's been through enough already." And as the scene ends, Burke's face reflects a fierce, unassailable protectiveness toward his child.
Telephone Call With Burke's Daughter/Mother
The scene begins as Lisa answers the ringing telephone in the home she shares with her grandmother. "Hello," she says timidly, her voice rising to turn the greeting into a question. Her father's voice replies through the receiver, his inflection still deep, coarse and a bit blunt, but his tone unmistakably lighter, kinder and warmed with affection, "Hi baby, it's me." Now it becomes obvious why it was so important for Burke to obtain additional phone privileges: these phone calls afford him vital contact with his daughter. The child's face lights with joy at the sound of her father's voice. "Daddy, hi," she says, " I was just reading your letter. Are you okay?" The camera switches to Burke in his prison cell. He speaks into a telephone that hangs on the wall just outside the lock up, its receiver and cord threaded through the bars and into his cell. Standing with his back to the wall, he holds his body stiffly upright and maintains an almost martial posture. He grips the receiver so tightly in his fist that tension strains the muscles in his arm and hand. His face wears a stern, commanding expression; his eyes look determined and unwavering. Burke's inexplicably severe appearance and tense bearing seem totally at odds with the situation and even with the affectionate sound of his voice. As if to point up that incongruity, Lisa's soft, plaintive voice nearly whispers through the telephone, "I miss you so much." Burke's chest rises and falls slightly with a breath that could as easily be an aborted sigh before he says, "I miss you too, baby." As he talks to the little girl, Burke's voice becomes almost gentle - richer and warmer - but also tempered with regret. His eyes soften with tenderness, grow sad and lonely for the sight of Lisa's face, but his mouth and jaw remain firm and uncompromising. "How you doin'," he asks her, clear and genuine concern for his daughter rising into his eyes. But underlying that worry for his child, his unblinking resolve persists. The obstinacy around his mouth and jaw harden visibly; his nostrils flare slightly with unaccountable antagonism. Burke's face appears to be divided horizontally in two halves at the bridge of his nose, each half behaving independently of the other, expressing different emotions and opposing states of mind. The focus returns to Lisa. "I'm okay I guess," she answers, but then turns her mouth down into a glum contradiction of her words. "Good. That's good," Burke replies automatically, almost before the little girl finishes speaking. His words of approval sound more like a dismissal. Burke's concentration has clearly shifted to some other agenda, for he completely misses the hesitation and dejection in Lisa's voice that are the real reply to his question.
The camera centers back on Burke. "Let me talk to your Grandma," Burke tells the child, in a clipped, curt, commanding tone that extinguishes the warmth from his voice. He makes this reference to his mother with an inflection that drops heavily on that last word and becomes brusque with what appears to be distaste. Now, the conflict that had divided the hemispheres of his face resolves as his eyes go harsh and staring and his mouth clenches with grim anger. "But I want to tell you something," Lisa interjects. Burke drops his eyelids in response, stung by the plea in his daughter's voice. Turning his attention more closely toward Lisa again, he looks less preoccupied with thoughts of his mother and the true purpose of his call, but no less adamant. He blinks his eyes a couple of times, trying to cover the small evasion he uses to distract the little girl, then cajoles her, "Just for a minute, okay?" His face almost imperceptibly softens with fondness for his child, but his body remains tense and rigid. His voice sounds more gentle, but still crisp and intractable as he tries to lessen the sting of his refusal and still not yield to her appeal. Testing him now, Lisa tries again, "Please, Daddy!" Given Burke's earlier reaction to having his wishes countered, it seems almost certain that he will respond to his daughter's willful pleading with another furious outburst. But surprising and completely unexpected, his reply consists of yet more mild words and a still more gentle tone. Nonetheless, the pitch of his voice first rises in appeal, but then falls decisively, beginning the phrase as a request, but finishing it as a direction. "Come on, now," he urges her. Burke's singsong intonation and Lisa's immediate, though slightly sulky compliance give an indication that this is a stock response, used often to coax her into complying with his bidding. He sounds like any caring, tolerant parent who uses firmness and patience rather than irate confrontation to correct his child's unwanted behavior. How did this man, an admitted murderer, estranged from his own mother and so obviously filled with rage, acquire the wisdom and composure to deal with his child in this way?
The camera goes back to Lisa. She forms her mouth into a disappointed little pout and hands the phone to her grandmother who has come to stand beside her. Taking the phone and passing the little girl's coat to her, Burke's mother smiles and says, "Hello, John." Burke's voice over the phone returns a short, dry, "Hello." He might just as well be talking to the prosecuting attorney instead of his mother, for his barely civil tone completely lacks any sign of either warmth or attachment. The camera shifts from the mother's smile to Burke's cold, closed, relentless face. His eyes, wide open and wary, seem to flash a warning to the woman on the other end of the connection. Burke is now seated very close to the bars of the cell, but leans forward tensely and stares straight ahead, spurred onward by agitation and his sense of urgency. His hand grasps the phone as if he were ready to crush the instrument with the pressure of his grip. With no words of preface or any pretense of courtesy, he lowers his eyes, turns his head toward the bars and launches impatiently into his ultimatum, "I don't want you takin' Lisa to that hearing." As he speaks Lisa's name, he closes his eyes for a moment in what looks like a weary murmur of regret. When he looks up again, discernible sorrow and pain have sketched shadowed tracings over his eyes and around his mouth. His sight riveted by the projected image of Lisa pleading for his life before a solemn-faced, inimical board, Burke experiences her distress and fear and suffers intense remorse that his crime would threaten to put her in that situation. But just as he finishes speaking, his mouth tightens and his lips thin with fierce determination. His face stiffens with a grim resolve to spare his daughter that trauma, and his eyes snap with intensity and command. The focus returns to Burke's mother. The expectant smile fades from her face, and the woman insists irritably, "If she doesn't go, she'll always wonder what she could have done!"
The camera switches back to Burke. Provoked and frustrated in the extreme by his mother's opposition, he closes his eyes for a long, anguished moment, deploring his inability to prevent his daughter from being subjected to this ordeal. But with smooth, silent menace, he quickly rises to his feet and takes several steps forward, as though he were trying to tower over his absent mother and physically intimidate her into submission with his superior height and strength. The cold, unyielding, barely controlled fury of his response blurs and distends his features. "You're not takin' her! You hear me," he orders, his dangerously soft words gritted out from between clenched teeth and clotting in his throat like a growl. Almost before he finishes speaking, he clamps his jaws tightly together in exasperation and compresses his lips into a thin, bitter line. He glares down in the direction of the receiver with incensed, hostile eyes that smolder with a very old hatred. The camera centers on Burke's mother. Leaning on her cane, she makes a stiff, agitated quarter turn that looks like she is rounding on her son with a reprimand and says stridently, "You can't yell at me, John. I'm fighting for your life!" The focus returns to Burke. Instantly, that icy, restrained wrath ignites into genuine fire, fueled by anxiety and concern for his child. His face twists with urgent, insistent demand and his eyes blaze hot and troubled under scowling brows as he angrily shouts back at her, "When the board doesn't stop this " His mother's voice cuts him off sharply. Interrupted in the midst of his impassioned protest, Burke expels his breath in a huff of annoyance and lets his shoulders drop all at once with the suddenly released tension. He closes his eyes briefly in frustration, and his face goes utterly slack, stripped in an instant of all expression. "Don't tie my hands! Let me help you," his mother cries. For just a second, chilling, stifling fear takes possession of Burke's eyes and his stricken mouth remains suspended in alarm as his thoughts gravitate inexorably to 'this' nameless thing he foresees the board won't stop - his enforced and premature death. Frightened and sorely enticed by his mother's offer of help, Burke struggles against his profound desire for deliverance, for some way to avoid that end, the thought of which caused him to freeze with fear just a second ago. But leaning slightly backward, he compresses his mouth into a taut, restricted band and forbids himself to succumb to that lure of hope for reprieve. As his eyes fall closed and his face falls despondently, he releases the tightness around his mouth and turns his head away to one side. His voice barely audible, the tone flat and wooden, Burke at last finishes his disconnected sentence, " she's gonna blame herself." Now, his eyes go distant, sad and haunted, seeing all too clearly the child he was take on blame for his own parents' misfortunes and seeing the grief and guilt his own child must endure because of his execution.
The camera travels back to Burke's mother and daughter. Standing impatiently close to her grandmother, the little girl demands insistently, "Give me the phone!" In a perfunctory tone that still retains that hard edge of domination, Burke's voice now instructs his mother, "Let me talk to Lisa." Although he makes the request offhandedly, he is obviously trying to redirect the course of his manipulations. Frustrated in his attempt to sway his mother, he changes the subject in hopes of distracting her, expecting that he'll have more success controlling his daughter. But the woman penetrates his rather transparent ploy and, with an evasive glance towards Lisa, refuses him, "I don't want you to upset her. She's upset enough as it is."
The camera returns to Burke. He stands very close to the bars of the cell, his face framed on either side by an upright metal rod, an alert, almost hyper-vigilant look arrested on his features. As he stares straight ahead and listens closely to this account of his daughter's state of mind, his eyes sharpen with alarm and anxiety, yet cloud with overarching sorrow. The corners of his solemnly, but softly closed mouth raise very slightly with a trace of pain that he endures like an obligation. His mother's outright refusal to let him speak to Lisa gives Burke more than ample excuse to vent his violent temper again. But instead, her mention of the child's distress halts him in his tracks, smothers any reply and erases any thought of anger, any thought at all other than Lisa, from his instantly worried, contrite mind. Absorbing his mother's words, he concentrates intently on connecting with his daughter's emotions and empathizes so strongly with her suffering that he feels it in his own soul.
But, his mother's voice shatters that connection, "I'm late for the doctor. When can you call again?" As Burke lowers his eyes and pulls his thoughts away from his child, the grim, callous bitterness returns to his face. Turning his head quickly, he looks off toward one side and his eyes flicker briefly like a little shiver of fear at the foresight of some danger. His barely audible answer sounds more like a quiet reassurance that he voices to himself. "Tomorrow, " he says. A long, hesitant pause follows his terse reply. Burke turns his head a little farther to the side so that his profile is bordered and confined by the vertical bars and looks out over his shoulder. His eyes seem to detect the threat he has been sensing and are held transfixed by the chilling image visible only to him. He inhales a short, thin breath through his slightly open mouth that catches in his throat like a gasp of dismay. Transferring his weight very slightly, he lifts and stiffens his spine. His face blanches with a kind of mild shock. His eyes troubled, wary and absorbed, his slightly open mouth tentative and uneasy, Burke contemplates the shadowy vision of that very real peril, incapable for a moment of tearing his sight away. But he shifts his weight to the opposite foot, blinks resolutely to break free of its terrible power and turns his head to look toward the front again. " I can call you tomorrow," he finally adds with only a little more volume and purpose. Now, he stares straight out between the bars of the cell, looking off into the distance - or more likely into the future. An honest, defenseless simplicity cleanses the bitterness from his face while hesitant, almost innocent fullness softens his lightly closed mouth. His eyes grow large with doubt, apprehension and, underlying all, a soul-deep fear to see his tomorrows so circumscribed. Because Burke understands that each tomorrow brings him ever closer to his final day - to the end of his tomorrows. That is the threat he identified with such frightening clarity just moments ago as he spoke the word. Rather than a vista filled with possibilities, 'tomorrow' is a very unreliable prospect for Burke. The focus moves to Burke's mother and Lisa. Responding to her son's assurance, she whispers, "Okay," then glances at her granddaughter with a small smile of apology and tells him, " 'Bye." She hangs the phone up with a decisive click, but turns back to the little girl with another fond, reassuring smile.
The camera goes back to Burke. His position unchanged, he looks out between the bars of his cell and stares into the distance, overwhelmed by anguish, dread and isolation. He quickly moistens one corner of his suddenly dry mouth with his tongue, straightens his head and takes the receiver, still clutched very tightly in his fist, away from his ear. As he admits and agonizes over his powerlessness to protect Lisa from the suffering this crisis must bring her, crushing anxiety weighs heavily on his face, apprehension and bewilderment overspread the fear in his eyes and his mouth sags slightly open on a little breath of pain and uncertainty. Distancing himself farther from the phone in his hand, he lifts his head and draws his spine upright, then presses his lips together in a tight, rueful grimace. For just an instant, frustration with his mother for thwarting his goal to shield Lisa turns his eyes brittle, and anger hardens his features. But that ire quickly disappears, and he drops his chin and lowers his eyes in defeat. Then, lifting the phone closer to him again, he looks at the receiver with a deep longing and a deeper regret, as if he were seeing his daughter's face - or perhaps her uncertain destiny. He releases the tightness around his constricted mouth, swallows with difficulty past the anguish that closes his throat, then purposefully opens his fingers to relax the excessive tension in the hand grasping the telephone. He turns toward the opposite side of the lockup and inhales a small breath through his slightly open lips to relieve the cramping sorrow in his chest. The cell bars once more frame his utterly despondent face as he takes a hesitant step backwards, lowers his eyelids until they nearly cover his eyes and very softly closes his dejected mouth. Slowing the pace of his movements conspicuously, he moves a sideways step closer to the phone mounted outside his cell, reluctance, weary resignation and acute pain mirrored in his expression. He leans a little farther to the side and begins to reach through the bars of the cell to place the receiver in its cradle. As he tilts his head sideways, the metal bars nearly bisect his profile, throwing the heartbreak on his face and the hopeless endurance that arches his lips into striking counterpoint. At the very last moment before he hangs up the phone, he briefly closes his eyes like an unwilling farewell to his child or a spasm of pain at this separation. The camera quickly switches to a close-up of Burke's hand. Even after he places the phone back in its cradle, he holds on to the instrument, unwilling to break this illusory connection with his daughter. His unexpectedly graceful fingers slowly, tenderly stroke the handle as he slides them up over the top of the earpiece like a caress. The scene ends with this gesture - Burke's hollow substitute for the freedom to embrace his child and his futile attempt to maintain contact with her.
With Victim's Father
The scene opens as a guard admits Jack Murphy into the prison visitor's area. Murphy nods his thanks to the guard and steps into the room. But glancing up, he comes to a sharp halt, an expression of shock and more than a little fear in his dilated eyes. The camera centers on a distant view of Burke from the entrance door behind Murphy, across the length of the visitor's section. He is seated behind the glass partition separating the prisoner's side of the room from the visitor's area. Even from across this large room, his unblinking, sidelong stare radiates pure animosity and cold-blooded menace. In contrast, his posture looks quite docile as he sits with cuffed hands folded decorously on the ledge in front of him, like an obedient schoolboy. But his body almost vibrates with a barely restrained tension, a violence held in check that looks as if it could explode at any moment. The focus returns to Murphy. Visibly unnerved by the sight of Burke, he blinks apprehensively and begins to move into the section. The camera goes back to Burke. He does not alter his position or give any outward sign of acknowledgement to the man walking toward him. His head and torso remain absolutely motionless. But those cold, brittle eyes track every step Murphy makes and glitter as they watch him come near like those of a wild animal, more dangerous for being trapped, that awaits the arrival of an enemy or a victim and prepares to attack. Simulating Murphy's approach to the glass barrier that divides the room, the camera tracks slowly closer to Burke. Murphy's shoulder comes into view as he stops behind the ledge, but the focus stays on Burke's dangerously still figure on the other side of the screen.
Confronting each other on opposite sides of the glass partition, neither man speaks. Instead, each man stares at the other while the concussion of their mutual hatred resonates between them. There is no question, however, that Burke firmly controls the dynamics of this situation. Manipulating the moment, fixing Murphy with that relentless, piercing glare that seems to search the other man's thoughts, Burke lets the silence draw out ominously until he decides it should be broken. With no other prelude, he demands rudely, "What d'ya want?" His tone quiet, but also harsh, deep and insultingly flat, Burke's voice declares the extreme insignificance with which he regards both the answer to that question and the man standing in front of him. The camera centers on Murphy from behind Burke's back. Stunned into silence by Burke's threatening presence, Murphy stands a careful distance behind the ledge and makes a pointless gesture with his hands but no answer. The focus changes to a close-up of Burke from the visitor's side of the glass. He still has not changed position or displaced even the least muscle. But his deep-set eyes now hold just a trace of suspicion as they stare unremittingly up at Murphy from beneath the ridges of his brow, and his full lower lip looks swollen with antagonism. When Murphy does not respond, Burke embellishes his question. "What the hell do you want," he asks with a little more volume and heat, his tone caustic and annoyed. The contrast between Burke's appearance and the sound of his voice gives that blunt inquiry an almost disembodied oddity. For his face remains blank and closed, divulging nothing. Only those unrelenting, venomous eyes betray any sign of feeling. Again, Murphy makes no reply but remains speechless for the extent of a long, oppressive pause
In the silence, Burke's ceaseless stare turns more forceful and his eyes seem to expand with anger. But at last, he breaches the wordless impasse, "Last six years, every chance you got, you made damn sure they'd give me the needle " Burke lays stress on the word 'damn' with both the weight of his voice and the smallest forward motion of his head. Still, he neither makes any added movement, not even a blink of his dominating eyes, nor alters the impassive look on his face. With no delay for breath, he continues, " now you got nothin' to say?" Burke raises his tone distinctly on the last word, not only turning the phrase into a question but also lacing it with ample sarcasm. Burke may mean to challenge Murphy with that sarcasm or possibly goad him into revealing himself. But whatever other purpose he has, Burke unquestionably points up this perceived irony with the intention of making Murphy squirm. When the camera returns to Murphy, the look on his disconcerted, nearly dazed face shows that Burke has succeeded. The real irony, however, is that Burke complains to the father of the young girl he murdered about that man's efforts to see Burke punished. Behaving with the arrogance and self-absorption of a sociopath, Burke displays no shame, no remorse for killing Murphy's only child. For a moment, Murphy cannot break free of Burke's powerful stare. But after inhaling several shaky breaths, Murphy finally finds his voice and asks, "You don't think we have the right to kill you?" Perhaps Burke's penetrating eyes have seen into Murphy's thoughts and discovered his conflict and misgivings over Burke's execution. For Murphy expresses his right to exact that ultimate retribution from his daughter's murderer in the form of a question and not a statement.
The camera again centers on Burke from the opposite side of the glass screen. For the first time since this interview began, he stirs from an absolute stillness that radiates coiled, latent energy. Burke tilts his head very slightly to the side and faintly draws up the lower lid of one eye into a scarcely detectable squint, taking Murphy's measure, calculating both the man's weakness and his own advantage before he softly replies, "You tell me." His voice sounds mild and reasonable, yet somehow perilously quiet, implying both invitation and threat with his brief response. The insinuation of a shrewd, cunning dare all but quickens Burke's features, as if he were engaging Murphy in gamesmanship and enjoying the sport. And although the faintest hint of a malicious smile plays at the corner of Burke's mouth, his eyes remain feral and deadly. The focus returns to Murphy. That implied challenge in Burke's words and manner has obviously strengthened Murphy's determination, for his bewildered unease disappears, replaced by legitimate and unwavering condemnation. " You murdered my little girl. You son of a bitch," Murphy says with quiet vehemence. Stepping close to the screen, he places his hands on the ledge and leans close to the glass, then finally looses his own hushed anger, "You sick son of a bitch. I have lived with such hatred of you."
As Murphy moves even closer to the partition, the camera follows him and consequently picks up Burke's reflection in the glass. Displayed through that mirrored likeness, Burke inclines his head forward and frowns with a concentrated, visible effort to understand Murphy's admission. Strangely, this image appears more handsome, less villainous, certainly more engaged than the direct views of Burke in this scene. Whereas, the lighting, camera angles and makeup of those straightforward views magnify every irregularity of Burke's face, giving his features a vicious, even unsightly cast. The juxtaposition of these two greatly different images illustrates the dichotomy between Burke's private and public selves. The reflected image brings to light Burke's own perception of himself and the inner reactions he so rigorously conceals, while the direct aspect shows the detached, completely impassive, sinister mask Burke affects for the outside world. Despite his invective, Murphy's eyes now reveal more candor than hatred as he locks glances with Burke and adds, "I have killed you hundreds of times."
The camera once again centers directly on Burke's stony, deliberately emotionless face. The venom in Murphy's harsh confession has no power to pierce Burke's dense armor or to cause him even the slightest recoil. Inexplicably, the malevolence has receded from Burke's stare, but his eyes still scrutinize Murphy with sharp, heightened attention. "My wife lives to see you die. And I have nothing to live for," Murphy continues, breathless agitation deepening his voice. In response to this mention of Murphy's wife, Burke very slowly inclines his head just a little to one side and studies the man with even keener perception, discerning in Murphy some private insight beyond what his words convey. As Murphy puts embittered emphasis on the word 'die', Burke faintly draws up his lower lip and almost undetectably secures his mouth as if he were shutting out that word, closing off his senses to prevent its entry into his awareness. But other than this subtle movement of his lips, Burke gives no indication that Murphy's scathing comment has had any disturbing affect on him. In fact, although Burke's eyes never relinquish their look of unassailable vigilance, an incongruous, fleeting hint of humor very slightly alters his stoic mask. Far from distressing him, this report of Mrs. Murphy's zeal to witness his execution merely amuses Burke. His nearly smug expression makes it very clear to Murphy that this particular volley of contempt has badly misfired. As Murphy goes on with his disclosure, Burke watches him without ever breaking eye contact, without so much as taking an obvious breath, while his eyes remain astute and probing but completely unfathomable. " I want to punish you. But the minute you're dead, it's your family that suffers," Murphy almost whispers. His voice falters with ambivalence at this mention of the anguish Burke's family will endure when he is executed. And the reference to that anguish finally prompts a clear and immediate, though still unobtrusive reaction from Burke. Heavily restraining the force of his response, he almost furtively contracts and lifts isolated muscles on either side of his nose and draws his lips firmly together. At the same time, he expands his chest and shoulders on a small, slow, sickened breath, inhaling as if the air itself had been fouled by Murphy's last remark. Now the hostility returns to his undeviating eyes, yet beneath that hard antagonism lies a nearly concealed point of pain and distress. But Burke quickly hides his abhorrence of the effect his death will have on his daughter and slips the soulless guise over his features once again.
Reflected in the glass partition, Murphy returns Burke's unbroken gaze and persists, "The day you murdered my daughter, I stopped believing in God." The focus switches to Murphy. Still leaning his arms on the counter, he drops his head forward and struggles to contain his spilling tears and recover his choked voice. Now the camera shows Burke's image mirrored in the glass screen. The reflection makes Burke visible as he lifts his chin and tilts his head to the side, then knits his brows together and briefly closes his eyes in an attitude of intent concentration. Once again, his inner likeness appears to make a real effort to connect with Murphy, to understand his intimate avowals, almost to empathize with him. Murphy however, confines his sight to the counter below him and fights to regain his composure as he haltingly continues, "I want to believe again. I want something to live for."
The focus centers on Burke from the opposite side of the screen. In striking contrast to those of his reflected image, Burke's features display no sign of compassion or humanity. His bearing remote, cold, even alienated, Burke stares at Murphy's lowered head with antagonism and disdain. His mouth has narrowed into a thin line of derision. His jaw stiffens and protrudes into a rigid, arrogant block. Contempt and suspicion inflame his eyes and provoke his angry, condemning scowl. Burke regards Murphy's tears as weak and unmanly, his lack of self-possession as a loss of dignity. The bereaved father's outpouring of grief presents not only an affront but also a threat to Burke's inflexible gender code, and so Burke responds with hostility. As the strained, silent interval stretches out, neither man moves. Then Murphy, visible in the reflecting glass, raises his head at last and looks questioningly into Burke's face, practically begging him to restore that shattered faith and lost reason to live. A fraction of a second later, Burke no more than inches his head upward to confront Murphy's half-pleading, half-accusatory look head-on. Gradually, Burke's face undergoes an almost indiscernible change. His lips and jaw relax only the smallest measure while his eyes imperceptibly soften, lose their severity and turn watchful and observant again. Now it is Burke's turn to search Murphy's countenance for - something - something quite tangible and specific known only to Burke. Apparently he finds what he has been seeking. For deep in Burke's eyes there appears the faintest hint of light - an inspiration - an embryonic hope.
With Cellmate/Pictures of Daughter
The scene opens with the camera focused on Burke's hands, slowly arranging pictures of his daughter, Lisa, on his bunk. The pictures chronicle her life from babyhood through toddlerhood to the present. In surprising contrast to the coarse, blunt sound of his speech and the hardened, vicious facade he shows to the world, Burke has beautifully articulated hands. His long, graceful fingers touch the pictures tenderly, almost reverently, as he lays them with exacting precision in front of him. Vainly trying to substitute preoccupation with these two-dimensional, frozen stills for genuine participation in Lisa's life, Burke compulsively fashions the mosaic of his daughter's history. The camera moves to a close-up of Burke. Seated at the foot of his bunk with his back to the cell bars, he looks down pensively at each picture as he places it on the bed. An aura of total absorption and wistful, solemn tranquility softens and transforms his unguarded face. Defenses down, mask completely removed, his features retain no hint of their previous hostility, coldness or cruelty. His movements have a trancelike quality, as if the ritual of laying out his child's snapshots produces some altered state of consciousness for Burke, affording him comfort and an illusory escape from imprisonment and impending death.
The focus changes to another death-row prisoner in the cell opposite Burke's. Standing close to the prison bars, the man puts a cigarette into his mouth and lights it, as the soft clink of his lighter echoes in the still, hollow space. "You awake, Garcia," Burke asks. Garcia inhales deeply, then replies around the escaping tobacco smoke, "No point sleepin', man." The camera focuses through the bars of the cell and shows Burke from behind. He responds to Garcia's comment in a casual, detached tone that conveys inevitability, "Gonna sleep forever pretty soon." Despite the finality of his words and inflection, Burke sounds as if he were telling a story to the other man, relating a fable that as yet had no real immediacy for either of them. Using the same flat, fateful tone, Garcia quickly agrees, "Yeah." Burke sits on the cot with his back to Garcia, his legs folded tailor-style beneath him and his elbows resting on his knees. He tilts his head reflectively to one side to admire the pattern of his mosaic, then leans over his knees to put another photograph on the blanket. The ease and simplicity of his position calls to mind a boy at summer camp. But that image crumbles in the arresting breadth, power and muscularity of his back and shoulders that taper down in an extraordinary V into his narrow waist and hips. Measured out on the grid of the prison bars, the exceptional proportions of his body dominate the scene.
Offhandedly, still absorbed in arranging Lisa's pictures, Burke says, "That girl I killed her old man came to see me today." When Burke speaks of the killing, his voice contains no indication of guilt or remorse - indeed no emotion of any kind. The view of his back seems a metaphor for his state of mind. For he has literally turned his back on the reality of his crime, completely detached himself from the murder he committed and its consequences. They hold no more significance for him than what he ate for breakfast that morning. As well, he seems to have thoroughly disconnected from or thoroughly denied to himself the emotional maelstrom that occurred during the interview with his victim's father. The focus switches to Garcia. He leans his elbows on the flat crosspiece that anchors the upright bars and asks, "You talk to him?" The camera returns to focus through the cell bars on Burke from behind. Bending forward and a little to the side, he places another picture in its desired spot and answers, "My lawyer told me to." His voice like a casual shrug of disavowal and sheer disinterest, Burke discards rather than states his response. Once more, the camera centers on a close-up of Burke's hands. They gently deal out the pictures of Lisa as a round-cheeked baby, a laughing child and a solemn faced girl, while he continues, "Said it'd look good at my hearing." Burke drops his intonation steeply at the end of that sentence, telegraphing his cynicism of the attorney's advice before he puts that doubt into words.
The focus changes to a front view of Burke. With the hint of a rueful smile and a dismissive shake of his head, he makes a quick, ironic shrug with his eyebrows to underscore the mocking tone in his voice and discounts the lawyer's comment, "That's crap. But " Adopting an air of complete unconcern for everything mentioned in this conversation, Burke turns his total attention to the pictures. He looks at them, selects one to place on the bed and positions it in exact relation to the others as he resumes his disavowal, " what the hell do I care if I talk to him?" The apathetic inflection and cadence of Burke's speech invests the question with sheer indifference and triviality. Again, he attempts to deny the profound emotions that flared in both Murphy and himself during their meeting. But as Burke continues to organize his precious photographs, his body takes on a faint tension that inadvertently reveals his turmoil over the encounter with Murphy. And to further contradict his spoken denial, some plaguing thought now intrudes on his concentration and interrupts his repetitive rite with the pictures. Pausing, he lets one hand drop onto each knee and holds the remaining pictures suspended over the arrangement growing in front of him. The tip of his tongue rests on the roof of his open mouth, as he looks at the photos in his hand with eyes that are distant, preoccupied and speculative. His face takes on a troubled, reminiscent, vaguely sad look, caused perhaps by thoughts of the longed-for child in the snapshots or possibly by disturbing memories of the meeting with Murphy or even by some indistinct notion that sparks a connection between the two. But briefly closing his eyes and turning his head away, he puts these musings firmly aside and resumes his ritual. "Six years, " he says, clicking his tongue silently in amazed disapproval and flicking the hand that holds the pictures with a little twist of disgust, " he's still shook up like it was yesterday." As he finishes the thought, Burke closes his lips in a grimace of ridicule and embarrassed pity for what he views as Murphy's weakness and his pathetic display of grief and tears. Burke's rigid standards of acceptable male behavior unquestionably prohibit a man from showing such emotions. Burke will not even permit himself to experience intense sorrow and mourning, much less manifest them, for that would render him weak and powerless, would make him feel like a victim - a feeling too painfully close to the reality of victimization he endured as a child. And so Burke violently rejects any such impotent sentiments and instead masks them in resentment, bitterness and rage. Bewildered and threatened by Murphy's emotional reaction, Burke refuses to understand the man's continued grief and refuses to accept his own culpability in causing it.
Brushing his fingertips lightly, lovingly over every photo, Burke begins to minutely adjust the position of each picture so that the mosaic is perfectly aligned. The complacent, smug, almost pompous expression on his face suggests that he takes great pleasure in his ability to order the arrangement perfectly. Because of the chaos Burke experienced as the child of a brutal alcoholic, he needs to feel - absolutely requires feeling - as though he can now control everything around him. This pantomime of mastery over the arrangement of Lisa's pictures gives him the illusion of control over the child they represent. But in fact, the pantomime is a parody, for Burke's confinement on death row denies him any authority over his daughter's fate. Now Garcia, who is still visible in the background behind Burke's shoulder, deflates that attitude of smugness in Burke. Projecting his words through the bars of the cell and nodding his head for emphasis, Garcia defends Jack Murphy's protracted grief. "What do you expect man? He is her father," he asks. At the sound of the word 'father', Burke lifts his gaze sharply from the images of Lisa and stares without seeing at the emptiness before him, while his captured eyes turn remote, disturbed and sorrowful. His hands halt in the midst of their meticulous adjustments and go quite still, his fingers hovering motionless above the photographs. Burke feels such a sense of awed gratification in the fact that he can call himself 'father' to the smiling child in the photographs. But at the same time, he suffers tormenting regret that he will never be able to fulfill the trust of that role for his daughter in more than this ineffectual, absentee way. As his execution draws ever closer, Burke faces each day with the certain prospect and deep despair of losing Lisa forever. Now Garcia's clear and simple comment has made Burke realize that Jack Murphy's own cherished daughter, Jenny, was also lost to him forever, taken away by the murder Burke committed. For the first time, Burke has a glimmer of awareness into Murphy's grief, and Burke's soothing, meditative mood is shattered. But as he looks fixedly into the expanse just below him and broods on these troubling insights, his eyes suddenly change, go haunted and dead, then flare with hatred and a hint of pain. Although he quickly drops his eyes towards the pictures again to conceal that flash of malice and hurt, a grim pall of resentment suffuses and embitters his face as the memory of his own father engulfs him. He no more than inclines his head over his shoulder and briefly shifts his eyes sideways, both trying to toss that memory away from his consciousness and casting a surreptitious, glance of antagonism toward Garcia for the remark that provoked it. All the while, his sullen, pouting mouth reflects the vestiges of damaging and undeserved injury.
Briefly skimming his eyes over the arrangement of pictures, Burke selects a particular photograph of Lisa and lifts it from the blanket with a determined clutch of his fingers. In spite of the harsh rancor on his face, his voice gives rise to surprisingly little feeling as he declares, "My old man was no good." The absence of any angry intonation makes the statement sound like a simple accepted fact - an accustomed situation to which he has long since become indifferent - a familiar circumstance of reality for which he knows no other alternative. Still, as Burke rises from the bed and turns toward Garcia, a long, heavy, discouraged sigh escapes him and a look of wounded resignation drags at his profile. Letting his body go slack, he leans into the turn while his free arm hangs limp and swings out to counterbalance him, then falls back to rebound against his side. His movements mirror the weary endurance on his face and in his voice and describe unmistakable dejection and helplessness. As he makes that slow, negligent half-circle to face Garcia, he mutters, "Drunk, angry son of a bitch." The camera focuses on Burke from outside the door of his cell. Holding the picture of Lisa in both hands, he takes several steps closer to the barred opening, drops his head in the merest twinge of compunction, but quickly raises it to encounter Garcia and says, "He's the one I shoulda' killed." The chilling words lack any emotion or emphasis. Burke merely states a fact that is patently obvious to him. He has enough self-knowledge to understand that the abuse he endured at his father's hands is the source of his unremitting rage and that this repressed rage was the impulse for the senseless act of murder he committed. But he disconnects from the grave offense inherent in murder and the callousness of substituting one victim for another. Burke stops at the cell door and leans slightly forward, looking through the bars at Garcia. His face displays neither the fury nor the hatred that would seem essential to this appalling acknowledgement. Rather it is the candid, anxious, bewildered face of a battered child who is frightened by a horrible desire to do violence to his tormenter and appeals for understanding - or help.
The camera centers on the other inmate's solemn reaction to Burke's admission. Uncomfortable with the ingenuous plea on Burke's face, Garcia drops his eyes and stares thoughtfully at the area beneath him. At the same time, Burke continues, "Now I'm sittin' here waitn' to die " The modulation of his voice rises unsteadily on the word 'die', then hangs there on an expectant pause. Immediately, the camera returns to a closer view of Burke from outside the cell bars. Raising his chin, he turns his head to meet the destiny that stalks him, his shadowed eyes seized by the sight of that fate, his face overtaken by an utterly still watchfulness and that same anxious expectancy. Seemingly lost in the contemplation of his own death, Burke shifts his weight and, at that moment, another more compelling thought clearly supplants his fatalistic musing. As he considers the desperate consequences that his death will mean for his daughter, Burke's eyes turn anxious and tragic. A fraction of a second later, he drops his eyes steeply, then lets his head fall onto his chest in defeat and dejection. His voice loses volume, energy and hope with each word as he confides, "My kid's gonna be all alone." In a deep, desolate, hesitant tone, Burke almost whispers that last word as though he were reluctant to say it aloud, fearful that giving sound to the word might have some supernatural capacity to call this forsaken end down on his daughter.
The camera moves back to Garcia. With a small puzzled frown, he raises his eyes to Burke once more and says, "I thought she was stayin' with your mother." The focus changes back to Burke. Standing as before with his head suspended on his chest, he holds the picture in both hands just below the range of the camera, and contemplates the image of his daughter with a heavy heart. He lingers a moment over her likeness, then brings his head up briskly, at first fixing his eyes on the space in front of him, then quickly tilting his chin up to meet Garcia's stare as he shifts his body to one side and backs away from the bars. "My mother's got a bad heart. She's not gonna live long," Burke responds, transferring his weight from one foot to the other and preparing to turn around. As he moves, the cell bars first bisect and then frame his upturned face. Wiped clean of even the slightest indication of concern, his countenance appears thoroughly neutral. In the same manner, his voice lacks any sign of special feeling or sympathy. Stating the first sentence in a merely informative tone, Burke simply relates a commonplace fact about his mother to Garcia. On the second sentence, Burke's inflection falls with finality, giving his declaration the sound of a dismissal - a predetermined outcome that has not much personal relevance for him. In Burke's reality, his mother has as much immediate significance as if she were nonexistent, already dead and relegated to memory. The focus returns to Garcia. Troubled by Burke's disclosures and a little bewildered by his lack of feeling, Garcia searches Burke's face, but then drops his eyes and turns his head slightly aside. Garcia's appearance now reflects more concern and empathy for Burke's mother than that of Burke himself.
The camera centers on Burke from inside his cell as he steps to the side and begins to turn away from the bars. He stares fixedly toward the floor, but turns his sight within himself, his focus preoccupied by some new thought that consumes him. The indifference and neutrality of a few seconds ago have vanished from his face, displaced by stubborn, angry determination. The muscles in his jaw contract and harden with indignant tension. His mouth tightens into a grim, sullen slash, the corners pulled down obstinately, the lower lip full and swollen with resentment and hate. But his eyes possess that same tragic quality that afflicted them when he spoke of his daughter's unprotected plight after his death. Fierce and fearful at the same time, they seem to behold something deplorable that he absolutely refuses to accept. But as he takes a step to the other side and turns his back completely on Garcia, his eyes lose their intensity and go dull with worry, sorrow and hopelessness. Pulling in his lower lip slightly to ease the muscles in his jaw, he says, "Don't want my kid endin' up in no damn foster home." Burke grits out the words, 'no damn foster home,' from between tightly clenched teeth, as though merely giving voice to the concept leaves a putrid taste in his mouth. He begins to sit down on the bunk, but turns his head to the opposite side and looks away from the bed. His injured, unguarded eyes widen slightly, caught without warning by an abhorrent vision that seems clearly to be a vivid, painful memory. As Burke sits down on the bunk, he thins his lips into a grimace of disgust and a whisper of breath escapes between them. He briefly drops his eyes to clear the hateful illusion, then raises them again and turns his attention to the pictures of his daughter. The bitterness dissolves from his face, softens into tenderness and longing as he looks at the images of his child. In a gesture of endearment, he tilts his head to the side and gently, carefully places the photograph in his hand back into its space among the other pictures, letting his fingers trail above it for a moment before he withdraws his hand. Looking up from the snapshots and turning his head slightly toward the wall, he stares steadily into the distance, but turns abstracted eyes into the inner vista of his memory. As the detested apparition returns to haunt him, the character of his face grows vulnerable and innocent, wounded and unspeakably sad. His voice a barely audible murmur, his manner of speaking like a warning he recites to himself, Burke says, "Foster home just mess you up." Abandoning all attempts at conversation, he withdraws into himself, but his eyes remain ensnared by the ghost of memory, possibly of his own childhood tribulations in a foster home. When he can tolerate the sight no more, he averts his eyes in stages, shifting them first to the opposite side and then down toward the floor. Yet wisps of the fading vision still cling to him and mingle now with his renewed anxiety for his daughter. Almost imperceptibly, he draws his chin and lower lip inward, firming his mouth and sketching a gesture of both resentment and futility. At the same time, his chest rises softly with an indrawn breath, then falls as he expels the air on a troubled, melancholy sigh. Was that last whispered warning an indictment of his own life or a prophecy of his daughter's?
With Warden/Guards: Changing Cells
The scene opens on demonstrators outside the prison, one group protesting in support of Burke's reprieve, another demanding his death. Their signs indicate that the scheduled execution is five days away. The camera focus changes to Burke in his cell. He sits crosswise on the bed, his back reclining against the wall, his feet and ankles hanging awkwardly over the side of the bunk. Composed in a nearly funereal posture, his hands lie slack and motionless and rest just above his knees. He stares unceasingly out a window positioned high on the wall and at a right angle to his bed. His body devoid of any tension, quiescent and almost inert, Burke remains absolutely unmoving as though he were in a state of suspended animation. He seems as much circumscribed by an invisible barrier of solitude within the cell as by the physical deterrent of the bars outside it. In the characteristic manner of one who knows he is dying, he has withdrawn deeply into the seclusion of his own spirit, disengaged from all diversions or interaction with anyone, grown increasingly unresponsive to external stimuli. Already, Burke's life force appears to be dimming, preparing to slip away from the shell that houses it. An aura of calm resignation lights his upturned face and bestows a placid, serene, almost spiritual essence to his features. Through the cracked, grated window, he looks up toward the sunlit, blue sky. His line of sight reveals his soul's desire to be free of the confines of the cell or perhaps of the confines of his body. And yet his mind recoils at the prospect of his imminent execution and the thought that he must forever relinquish the achingly beautiful image of that sky. The outer door to the death row section clangs open. Without losing his serenely remote, contemplative demeanor, Burke turns his eyes from the window and cants his head to one side. The sound has broken in on his reverie, but his face remains sublimely unperturbed, almost ethereal in its repose. Nonetheless, his chest visibly rises and falls as he takes a fortifying breath. Clearly, he has been expecting that sound - knew that he would soon hear it - knows that it means they are coming for him.
The camera shifts to the warden and several guards approaching Burke's cell through a long passageway that is bordered on either side by prison cells. The group stops outside Burke's lockup, and the warden says, "Burke, five days. Time to move." The focus returns to Burke. Ignoring the activity of the prison staff, he turns his eyes back to the window and inwardly retreats even farther from his surroundings. He gives no indication by word or movement that he has heard the warden's summons or the metallic creak of his cell door opening to admit two of the guards. The focus reverts to the warden. He stands stiffly just outside Burke's cell and needlessly asks, "Got all your things ready?" The camera goes back to Burke. He neither acknowledges the man nor answers his question but remains in the exact same position, completely still except for the smallest of facial movements. He very slightly displaces his lower jaw out to one side, then takes an exasperated breath through his open lips, before he adjusts the jaw back to its normal position and closes his mouth tightly. The gesture amounts to a passive sign of Burke's annoyance at the question and his aversion for the warden. The small facial movement may also serve as a way for Burke to brace himself before proceeding to this next step in the inevitable advance toward his execution. But whatever the purpose of the inconspicuous signal, Burke quickly restores his face to its previous calm detachment and awaits the guards who are coming to put on his restraints.
The camera centers on a close-up of the guards' hands as they lock Burke's ankles and wrists into the restraints and tug on the chains to assure that the clasps are secure. Then the focus travels from Burke's outstretched arms and coupled but relaxed hands to his face. Although he watches the guards' actions as they fetter his hands and feet, he does so with composure and a countenance that remains impassive and stoically compliant. The camera pulls back to focus on Burke and the guards inside the cell. As one of the guards places his hand beneath Burke's elbow to support and assist him, Burke slides to the edge of his bunk and gets to his feet. His freedom of movement hampered and made clumsy by the shackles, he takes a lumbering step to the side and waits, outwardly unresisting, for the guards to put the leather belt around his waist. But when they bend to fasten the restraint, he lifts his head and closes his eyes in a humiliated, harassed expression of complaint, then flares his nostrils and draws the corners of his mouth down into a small wince of pain, protest and revulsion at the constriction of the chains. Almost immediately the blank faηade drops down again to cover his face, but the ethereal tranquility that occupied his features just a few minutes ago is gone, replaced now by this mask. The focus returns to the warden. Holding Burke's file tucked under one arm, he watches from the passageway just outside the open entrance to the cell. Behind him and a little to one side, Garcia leans against the bars of his cell and casts a look of animosity at the warden.
The camera switches back to Burke. His body stiffens and tenses as he clamps down hard on his disgust and waits for the guards to fasten the bonds. With his hands cuffed and chained in front of him, head bowed and eyes lowered, he assumes the posture appropriate for a docile, obedient prisoner. But his stubborn jaw and rigid, down-turned mouth shout defiance and an unrepentant spirit. When the guards motion him forward, he drops one shoulder resolutely and wills his body to relax, then begins to walk toward the opening to his cell. Keeping his head low, he eases the rigidity of his mouth and jaw just a bit, once again giving the appearance of compliance. But as he exits the cell and approaches the warden in the passageway, he very slowly and quite deliberately raises only his eyes to look at the man from beneath his eyebrows. For the briefest moment, Burke's eyes flicker with harsh, bitter resentment verging on hatred, then alter slightly to throw out challenge and contemptuous resistance. His head down and tilted to the side, Burke looks up persistently from beneath lowered brows and confronts the warden with an insolent, offensive stare. The camera goes back to the warden. At first, he meets Burke's challenging glare and maintains a stern demeanor while the two men stay deadlocked in their contest. But shaken by the power of Burke's hostility, the warden breaks off eye contact with a dismayed blink and drops his mouth in confusion. The focus returns to Burke. Marking the warden's reaction with perceptive, unblinking eyes, he stands with his head no longer bowed, but erectly raised and draws himself up to his full height, his bearing a declaration of dominance over and disdain for the warden. For an instant, Burke's keenly observant, intimidating eyes glitter with triumph and put the warden on notice that Burke has identified the man's weakness and is fully aware of his retreat from their encounter. Then lowering his chin and cocking his head slightly, he tosses the warden a smug, sidelong, scornful look that is very nearly a smirk and claims his meaningless victory before he begins to walk out of the cell and into the passageway. The camera moves to the warden who quickly turns away and starts to leave the section.
(Burke's conspicuous animosity toward the warden seems clearly to be rooted in his history with his own father. He has transferred his unresolved conflict with and suppressed rage against his father specifically to the warden who represents the symbolic male authority figure. Burke unreasonably ascribes blame to the warden for the extremity of the state's punishment and feels unjustly attacked - violated and victimized - the way he did as a child enduring his father's drunken abuse.]
As the warden exits the scene, the camera centers on a close-up of Garcia's earnest, anxious face. Almost leaning between the bars, he inclines his head forward and directs his voice out into the passageway, obviously eager to reach out to Burke with his words of encouragement and solidarity. "Right behind you, man," Garcia promises. The camera focuses on Burke, preceded by the warden and flanked by the guards, as he walks down the passageway and passes Garcia's cell. Despite the fact that Burke has lived in close proximity to Garcia and confided personal and private information to him, Burke does not even glance at the man as he leaves. Fixing his eyes firmly forward, he seems to disown any connection or kinship with his fellow death-row inmate. With no hint of either friendship or regret in his voice or on his expressionless face, Burke merely advises him, "Take your time." Burke closes his mouth firmly after he says the word 'time' and insinuates a little grimace of derision at his own predicament. For, time is a commodity that is in very short supply for Burke. But as he approaches the barred door leaving the death row section, his face once again becomes closed, hard, unyielding and completely uncowed.
The camera now centers on Burke, accompanied by the warden and a small contingent of guards, as they walk down another long passageway. Burke's escort is taking him to an isolated and continuously watched cell close to the room where the execution will take place. His stride shortened, his feet turned in slightly to accommodate the enforced proximity of his legs, Burke moves with a curious shuffling gait because of the chains that connect his hands and feet. Since his natural arm swing is curtailed by the restraints, he rolls one shoulder forward a little as he steps out with the opposite foot to establish a rhythm and assist his momentum. The warden calls Burke's attention to one of the screened and glassed in rooms facing the corridor. "You'll take your visitors in here from now on," he says, pointing out the space. Burke turns his head disinterestedly in the indicated direction, but like some bored adolescent on a field trip, does not linger long enough for his eyes to actually make contact before he looks away. Even though he makes this cursory gesture of tractability, his expression loses none of the recalcitrance that glares from his eyes or the determined toughness that tightens his mouth and jaw. From behind a screened enclosure, the focus switches to a guard on one side of a metal door. Burke and the warden, visible through a small window cut into the top of the door, approach from the opposite side. The guard unlocks the door into the sequestered area that is Burke's destination, swings it open and then waits at one side for the group to enter. Passing through the door, Burke keeps his head lowered, but raises his eyes to flash a brief, blistering look of pure venom at the waiting guard, retaliating as though the man had personally affronted Burke by opening the door. But he immediately drops his eyes, replaces the malicious look with his habitual air of uncompromising rigidity and follows his escort into the section. The warden signals for Burke to wait while the guards transfer the box that holds his belongings. Barely turning his head, Burke nonetheless shifts those astute eyes to the side and watches them closely while they make the exchange. In fact, Burke watches every move his jailers make in an attempt to satisfy his compulsion for the control that was entirely lacking in his violently unpredictable childhood.
Still focusing from behind the heavy wire screen, the camera follows Burke and the prison officials down another passageway toward the cell where he will live under constant surveillance for the five remaining days until his execution. His face shown in profile, his gaze cast down, Burke retains the severe, sullen expression that gives away no inkling of his inner self. But as he takes a step forward, his eyes involuntarily raise a little with the impetus of his stride. At that exact moment he accidentally catches sight of something and his face registers uncomprehending shock. The watchfulness in his eyes turns startled and bewildered; the outline of his mouth turns from sullen to grim. Disrupting the already-impeded rhythm of his gait, Burke falters and takes a second, even shorter step forward than the restraints would dictate. Instead of moving ahead with the momentum of the footstep, he pulls his body straight up and leans back very slightly as though he wanted to resist getting any closer to the thing he sees. Still, he has no choice but to proceed and advances unwillingly on the sight, staring as if overpowered, incapable of turning away. With each successive step, his eyes register the growing realization of what the object is and what it signifies. Until finally his brows draw down into a deep, alarmed frown while fear and repugnance take possession of his eyes. The focus quickly changes to reveal what has seized Burke's vision. Behind a window adjoining the passageway, a guard is turning a manual crank and lowering a black gurney with angled armrests from an inclined to a horizontal position. Burke has just seen the black and steel horror of the execution table and knows immediately that it symbolizes the concrete reality of his impending death. The focus switches to Burke and his escort from the opposite end of the hallway. His eyes transfixed by the sight of the table, Burke turns his head over his shoulder to keep the thing in view, then lowers his head again after he passes the glassed in execution area. For the rest of the walk down that long corridor, Burke's manner alters visibly. An air of preoccupied anxiety steals into his downcast eyes. The slackened set of his jaw and his full, slightly parted lips look injured and stunned as if he has been punched. Although he tries to assume an undaunted bearing, the view of that table has clearly shaken and subdued him, chastened his resolute endurance and changed it into uncertainty and fear.
Burke and the prison officials approach a barred doorway leading to a guard's area and, next to that, the isolated cell Burke will occupy until his execution. As he waits for the guards to open the door, the camera centers on a close-up of Burke's profile. The surly, imperturbable mask not quite replaced over his features, Burke's face manifests a more youthful and guileless, unprotected and uneasy core. Lifting an improbably long fringe of lashes that only adds to the candor of his appearance, he raises his eyes hesitantly and watches the warden walk through the door. Now the camera focuses on the adjacent guard's area from inside Burke's cell. Burke follows the warden into the section, pauses with his back to the guard's desk and stares through the bars in front of him at the cell that is meant to be his quarters. With a brief, backward glance to protect his own back and keep the man always in sight, Burke looks quickly over his shoulder and locates the warden at the desk behind him while the accompanying guards open the cell door. As Burke passes through the doorway into the cell, his cheeks twitch upward in a vague, fleeting wince of unwillingness to be confined again and distaste for the small, solitary space. Still, Burke walks into the center of the cell and, after merely suggesting a look behind him to establish the position of the two guards, turns and sits down on the bunk. As soon as Burke steps into this cell, all evidence of that previous candor and apprehension disappears from his face and he retreats into the armor of taut, closed, emotionless acceptance. Chin raised, back straight and erect, he sits unresisting on the bunk and lifts his limbs passively and with studied, deliberate resignation while the guards remove the cuffs from his feet and hands. Long accustomed to the routine, his precise, smooth, almost elegant movements like a familiar dance he performs with his jailers, Burke stands without prompting and lifts his arms away from his body to give the two guards access to the leather restraint around his waist. As the guards pull the belt away from his midsection, he closes his eyes and a look of long-suffering patience spreads over his face. At the same time, he presses his lips together and exhales deeply with a small, silent 'hum' of forbearance. Although he adopts an outwardly obliging and submissive demeanor, the small ripple of a tightened cheek muscle on one side of his face betrays his animosity for the personal indignity of this restraint ritual. Their duties completed, the guards exit the cell and lock down the barred door.
As if the exertion of maintaining his hardened shell has exhausted him, Burke sits slowly, wearily on the bunk. Like an old man who is tired and stiff, he inclines his body forward, leans his hands and arms on his thighs to support his weight and gradually lowers himself to the bed. Burke's stark profile stands out against the background of the closing bars. His eyebrows are drawn together in a deeply troubled frown over eyes that mirror apprehension and unremitting loneliness. The isolation of his situation oppresses him; the finality of the coming ordeal of execution overwhelms him; anxiety and fear of death assail his spirit. But, stiffening his resolve as he straightens his back, Burke slowly pulls his torso upright, closes his eyes for a long moment and lets the tension drain from his body as he relaxes his shoulders and releases his breath. At the same time that he lowers his eyelids, Burke simultaneously lowers his customary disguise over his features. For when he raises his eyes at last and stares persistently forward, he has cleansed his face of all distress and restored the rigidly neutral, stoic mask securely to its place. The warden stands in front of the cell bars to Burke's left and beyond his line of sight. The man seems to recognize Burke's turmoil and watches his efforts to contain his dread with a kind of baffled empathy. Sensing the warden's eyes on him, Burke abruptly turns his head toward the bars and lifts his chin in defiance. His mouth tightens with hostile indignation. His eyes flare in a belligerent warning. As before, Burke fixes the warden with an unwavering stare, trying to re-engage him in a contest for dominance. And just as before, the warden retreats under the withering intensity of Burke's stare, turns away and walks out of the section. Burke eyes remain unblinking on the warden until the man is well on his way to the outer metal door. Then Burke pivots his head back to align it perfectly straight on his stiffly vertical spine and stares with stubborn determination at the distance ahead of him. As the scene ends, the camera moves in for a close-up of his stern and impassive profile. His face adamantly expressionless, his eyes severe and immovable, his mouth grim and chin unyielding, Burke's countenance gives testimony to the rigid control with which he subdues his feelings. Burke has locked down his soul within himself as securely as the state has confined his body within this secluded cell.
With Victim's Mother
The scene opens on Connie Murphy's tense face as she waits to visit with John Burke in the special security section of the prison that adjoins the execution chamber. The camera focus then switches to show a guard admitting Burke to the visitor's area through a locked outer door. Ankles cuffed and chained together, arms shackled in front of his body and attached to the leather strap at his waist, Burke is bound into the restraints he must wear whenever he leaves his cell. Ordinarily, he holds his manacled hands in front of him, loosely facing each other, purposely relaxed and casual. Burke uses this nonchalant posture as an extension of his impassive expression, employing both his face and body to effect a calculated display of supreme indifference to the shackles and, by extension, to his imprisonment and coming execution. But as Burke walks through the door for this interview with his victim's mother, he clasps his hands tightly together in front of him. The knuckles strained and turned outward, the palms facing his body at the level of his groin in a clearly defensive, protective posture, Burke's hands belie the indifference he tries to assume. Obviously, he feels threatened by Connie Murphy's presence. He precedes the guard into the room and takes several steps forward while the custodian locks the outer door behind him. Entering the visitor's area, Burke raises his eyes to Mrs. Murphy's face and hesitates in mid-stride, stopped short by something he sees there. As if he has run into some physical barrier, his body recoils faintly from the unseen impact. For a brief instant he looks at the woman intently, searching her face for the source of the powerful energetic obstruction he feels. Finding that source and identifying it, he gradually hardens his own face into a glare of pure animosity in reaction to the bitter loathing he sees in hers. Like some fierce, cornered creature that threatens to attack at the scent of danger, Burke returns her stare with malevolent, unblinking eyes and ferocity so intense it seems almost bestial.
The focus switches to Connie who responds with wide-eyed, paralyzed shock to the force of Burke's enmity. She breaks eye contact with him, inhales a little, gasping breath and blinks nervously. The focus returns to Burke standing just inside the door, staring steadily at Connie Murphy. Inexplicably, the fierceness begins to disappear from Burke's expression. For an instant his eyes reflect the faintest trace of concern, perhaps even regret over his brutal reaction to the woman. Then, consciously backing away from the confrontation, he deliberately looks away from her, lowers his eyes and walks with measured steps toward the chair behind the visitor's screen. Slowly and cautiously, almost gingerly, he lowers himself into the seat, angling his body so that he does not face the glass squarely but turns partially away from it. Purposely clearing his features of the excessive malice that had occupied them moments before, he composes his face into a taut expression of determined neutrality. With an abrupt, emphatic drop, he lets his shoulders slump and releases the tension from his body all at once, willing himself to relax.
Despite the detachment he tries so hard to project, Burke's eyes remain alive with anxiety. They dart to the side warily, flickering three times in Connie's direction before they slide furtively away from her face without ever making full contact. There follows a small, strained silence which neither Burke nor Connie Murphy seems willing to break. Each one feels that speaking first might give some sort of advantage or signal surrender to the other. But finally Burke breaches the impasse and with no further overture says, "I talked to your husband." Although he has apparently resolved to avoid confrontation with the woman, his tone is curt and blunt, bordering on surly. Over Burke's shoulder, the camera shows Connie Murphy standing before a window by the far wall, a position as far away from the visitor's screen - and Burke - as she can get. She responds, "Yes I know." Burke looks briefly off to the side, then turns his head over his shoulder so that his face is averted from Connie and softly says, "Yeah I figured that's why you came." His tone deep, barely audible and more than a little smug, Burke voices the phrase like a confidential aside to himself, as if he were privately commending his own ability to anticipate this woman's behavior. In order to maintain his sense of control, Burke must reassure himself that he knows with certainty not only the whereabouts but also the motives of all the players in his personal drama.
Connie makes no verbal response to Burke's arrogant statement, but instead begins to walk cautiously forward. Hugging the far wall, reluctant to get to too close to him, Connie Murphy crosses to the corner of the room in order to face Burke directly. The camera still shows Burke only from behind. He rotates his head as she changes position and closely watches her progression in silence. But then, he leans forward with some urgency as if he needs the impetus of his body to help him pronounce his next words, shakes his head in a small, almost earnest gesture of negation and says, "I didn't want to talk to you." Perhaps he takes offense at her pointed aversion to get too close to him and responds in kind, intending his statement to convey the message of his similar antipathy for her. But Burke's voice, although still gruff and deep, has lost its sullen overtone and now reverberates with the authenticity of his shamed unwillingness to confront this woman. Burke has grudgingly, almost against his own volition, revealed the truth - and something of himself - to the mother of his victim. Connie takes a few hesitant steps closer to the screen and almost cuts Burke's disclosure short as she asks, "Why?"
The focus now switches back to Burke's face. He avoids looking in Connie's direction and stares slightly off to one side and out into the distance. For an instant, his eyes appear stark and haunted, reflecting some intense, private anguish. But then, his upper lip curls angrily in extreme distaste and contempt. He takes several shallow breaths through his nostrils, as though he were being forced to inhale something noxious. His eyes gradually go dull and hard with wounded bitterness and focus, immovable and unseeing, on a repulsive memory. Burke finally answers, forcing the words out in a quiet, tightly controlled tone, "Your husband was one thing - man to man " While he speaks Burke closes his eyes briefly, blotting out the offensive memory of that meeting with Jack Murphy and turns his head back towards the woman. Still he does not look straight at Connie Murphy but keeps his eyes lowered and distant. He hesitates now and closes his mouth tightly on a momentary pause. His focus flickers briefly from side to side, searching the near distance below him for words. The starkness, drawn from the well of distress and oppression he feels at enduring these meetings with the parents of the girl he killed, returns briefly to his eyes. He continues in a still quiet and reflective voice, " I could do that." Tightening his lips firmly on the words, he pauses for a longer space. His face closes and hardens while he once again encases himself in his protective armor of cruelty. Still, his eyes gravitate irresistibly in Connie's direction, as if dragged there against his will by some magnetic force outside himself. But he reclaims them and halts their slide just an instant before they reach her. Almost imperceptibly, he purses his lips together in a momentary delay. Then, in a tone that is much more harsh and cynical, he grits out, "You're " Hesitating for an even longer space, Burke lets the unfinished phrase hang in a vacuum. His empty stare goes dead and flat with inexplicable hatred. Then slowly, he shuts his eyes and presses his lips together in a near grimace, fortifying himself before he spits out the completion, " her mother." Burke snarls that last word from deep in his throat, giving it a guttural intonation that is close to a growl. It resonates in Burke's mouth like something obscene, twisted and ugly - an insult. His eyes shift even farther in Connie's direction but again stop short of her face, as he shoots her a sidelong glance filled with uneasiness and what looks like superstitious fear. Burke continues to reproach her in the same churlish growl, overlaid now with a tone of self-pitying indignation, "I knew you'd stand there and look at me like that."
[What broken bond of maternal trust provokes Burke to associate such negative images with the word 'mother' and causes him to use such invective to spit out the word? In Burke's experience a mother has the potential to nurture, help and protect, but accomplishes none of these things. Because of that fundamental failure, she is a figure to despise and dismiss as Burke does his own mother. He initially brings this same scorn and distrust to his dialogue with Connie. But Burke also senses something very different and much more powerful in this woman. She has fought like a lioness to avenge her murdered child. She possesses some strange ability to draw involuntary disclosures from his locked-down soul. And she has the capacity to fulfill or deny his desperate appeal on behalf of his daughter. For he plans to take the enormous risk of asking this woman, whose child he murdered, to mother his own child - to help, protect and nurture, to fulfill all the promise of that word for Lisa, after his execution. So of necessity Burke must invest Connie with some of his vital and tightly grasped control. She is a person to be feared.]
The camera shows Connie staring at Burke with outright abhorrence. She replies to his complaint with contempt both obvious on her face and dripping from her words, "How am I supposed to look at you?" The camera again turns to Burke. For an instant he looks caught off guard by the depth of her hatred. His expression hurt and vulnerable, he stares directly back at her with wide, watchful eyes and a slightly open mouth. But as he continues to scrutinize her, his eyes narrow a fraction and become unyielding and harsh, glaring hatred back at her. He breathes in through his open mouth as if to retort, but hesitates in mid-breath and halts the vicious words before they are spoken. Once again, Burke withdraws from confrontation with the woman and, instead of responding with similar hostility, continues to take in more air, expanding his chest fully on a long in-breath to restrain himself. He closes his eyes for a moment in resignation, compresses his lips tightly to further imprison the ill-advised reply and calls up his reserves of patience. As his breath escapes with a soft, drawn-out huff of forbearance, he allows the pent up tension to drain from his shoulders. Determinedly composing his face into a neutral appearance, Burke passively avoids meeting her glance and reins himself in more firmly. In a reasonable almost mild tone, he says, "I understand."
Camera focus changes again to Connie Murphy. Choking back her tears, she moves closer to the glass screen that separates her from Burke and upbraids him, "Don't say that. Do you hear me? Don't you ever say that you understand to me." As she begins to turn away from the screen, the focus quickly goes back to Burke. His body slumped and his shoulders rounded, his mouth grim, his eyes shamed and somber, Burke appears deflated, like a young boy enduring a reprimand for some misconduct. But as soon as Connie has turned to face the opposite direction, he shifts his glance sharply toward her retreating back and glares at her from the corners of his eyes with suspicion and antagonism. Focus returns again to Connie. Standing before the window on the far wall of the room, presenting her back to Burke, she begins her own admission, "My daughter went to the movies and she never came home again." Her tone sounds both disbelieving and accusatory as she turns around to face him once more.
The camera goes back to Burke. He has averted his head and lowered his gaze and stares resolutely at nothing. His profile callous, shuttered and unrelenting, his mouth and jaw set in stubborn denial, Burke's expression clearly depicts his refusal to hear, much less comprehend what the woman is saying. He wants to block both her words and the images they evoke from his consciousness, to deny that they pertain to him, to disavow his responsibility for the act that prevented her daughter from ever coming home. Yet, although he tries to keep it at bay, the memory of that act of murder floods his awareness with clarity so vivid that it sickens him. Unbidden, those gruesome and haunting images engulf and disgust him. Burke quickly closes his eyes and keeps them shut, while he inhales sharply to quell the rising tide of nausea that tugs his upper lip into a queasy grimace. He extends the breath deeply to fully inflate his lungs and draws his head and body upright with the air. Then, leaning back heavily at the top of the breath, he feels the full burden of his guilt descend onto his chest and reels under the weight of it. Eyes still closed in anguish, he attempts to turn away from the memory, to shift the encumbrance of his crime by moving his head in a slow curving arc toward the opposite side. His bearing a symbol of retreat from both the disturbing visions and the approaching woman, he raises his eyes at last and stares sightless over his other shoulder with a look of profound sorrow and helpless remorse.
The camera returns to Connie Murphy who slowly walks closer to the partition and proceeds with her disclosures, "And since that moment, nothing has been the same in our lives. We get up with it every morning " Using both hands, she pounds on the ledge extending from her side of the barrier and leans her face very close to the glass that separates her from Burke. " and we go to sleep with it every night." She furiously slams her hands on the ledge again with a sharp, staccato impact, hitting the counter as if she were, instead, delivering the concussion to Burke's body. The focus switches to Burke who now sits squarely in front of the woman with his shoulders rounded humbly, looking up at her angry face. At the same instant the sound of her sharp impact reverberates, Burke closes his eyes, firms his mouth into a thin line and juts out his chin defiantly. But he deftly turns his head away at the last moment so that Connie can deal him only a glancing blow. Uncharacteristically, he merely looks off to the side, his face devoid of all expression, clamps down hard on any instinct to respond and patiently accepts her strike. The camera switches to Connie. She turns her back on the screen, walks again towards the window on the far wall and continues to acknowledge her despair to Burke, "I wanted to die. Oh God I wanted to die too." Turning to face him, she slowly walks towards the glass again and says, "But I had to live. I had to live a long, long life. And do you know why?" Her last phrase sounds more like a dare, a challenge she throws out to Burke to see if he has the skill - or the courage - to guess her reason for staying alive after her daughter's murder.
Focus returns to Burke. He looks almost submissive as he sits with his gaze lowered to avoid seeing Connie's outpouring of sorrow. But the depth of her grief and his culpability in causing it register nonetheless in the small furrow of his brow and the distant look in his somber, almost hidden eyes. In an effort to withhold any show of emotion, Burke contracts his mouth so tightly that his lips almost disappear. His face a study in stoic patience, he tolerantly bears the whipping of her words. But when Burke hears the challenge in Connie's question, he accepts it without hesitation. Very deliberately and by slow degrees, he raises his eyes and looks fully, frankly into her face. Intentionally relaxing the stricture around his mouth, he composes his features into a neutral, yet still implacable and unyielding expression that holds the barest hint of defiance. Burke wants Connie to know that he isn't afraid of her answer, that the consequences of her dare do not intimidate him. He keeps his eyes locked on her face. His expression does not change. His stare does not fluctuate. He almost does not breathe as he listens to her next words. "Because I made a promise to myself, " Connie says as the camera focus returns to her tear stained face. " That I was gonna live, " she continues, leaning close to the glass, " to see you, " drawing closer still, " dead!" She speaks the last phrase directly into the barrier and into Burke's face behind it, forcing the words out between her tightly clenched teeth. Focus changes back to Burke. He sits in exactly the same position as before. His face remains unresponsive, unmoved by her righteously vengeful hatred. But for just a hair's breadth of time, his brows draw together faintly, his eyes widen almost imperceptibly and a hint of something akin to fear glimmers in their brittle depths. Regardless of Burke's smugness, the woman has hit her mark. Still, Burke acknowledges the casualty for only a fraction of a second before his face smoothes out to reflect unconcern once again. The telltale glimmer of apprehension fades from his eyes and they become intensely watchful. Only those vigilant eyes move, tracking her and following every movement she makes as Connie straightens and backs away from the glass. The sobbing woman then turns her back and walks away from the screen, returning to the window across the room.
Over Burke's shoulder, the camera focuses on Connie from behind the visitor's screen. His broad, powerful back, the shoulders pulled forward tensely, takes up the foreground. Her back, bowed with grief, occupies the distant space before the window. After a pause, during which the roiled emotions that charge the atmosphere of the room subside a bit, Burke says quietly, "You're gonna get your wish, lady." His voice is very deep and coarse, but almost totally flat. He speaks without laying stress on any word, with no emotion, almost without inflection. His fatalistic tone lacks any sense of urgency, self-pity or resistance. With the certain foreknowledge of approaching death that the dying often have, Burke knows in the deepest part of his being that his own end is near. Total, unquestioning acceptance is the only response open to him. Still shown from behind, Burke lifts his head slightly in Connie's direction and leans forward a little in his seat, as if he were preparing himself to do something difficult. Then the focus goes back to his face, and he visibly hesitates. Burke looks briefly towards the woman but his eyes reflect only his thoughts: apprehension, uncertainty and a compelling need. Yet his face also possesses a faint air of fragile but eager hope. He looks like a young, inexperienced soldier steeling himself for a dreaded but vital and inescapable battle. Burke lowers his eyes and opens his mouth as if to speak to Connie but, instead, closes his lips tightly on the idea and drops his head abruptly to look down at his lap. He lingers for a moment, staring down at something he holds in his hands below the counter, seeking courage or inspiration from what he sees there. His face and posture now reveal undisguised tenderness and a melancholy longing. Fortified by the sight of the object he is holding, he noisily thrusts his chained hands onto the ledge behind the glass and glances at Connie for a brief moment, both doubt and determination discernible in his face. The camera shows Burke from behind again, as he leans on an elbow and pushes himself up from the stool. He rolls first his back and shoulders, then his hips and buttocks forward and upright to stand. Although the restraints render his movements clumsy, his actions also possess an agile grace as he rises from the chair and slowly, rhythmically, unfolds his body. His powerful back and wide shoulders fill the screen, but are strikingly offset by his improbably narrow waist, which is further accented by the leather restraint, his slim hips and his trim, muscular seat.
[In this section of the scene, Burke's face appears strikingly younger and more ingenuous, more the countenance of an authentic self, because he has removed his protective mask. We see beneath the cold, angry, unapproachable, controlling veneer he uses like a wall to protect himself. Or more accurately, he uses that remote faηade like a drug to anaesthetize himself from experiencing any of the softer emotions like sadness, fear, tenderness, joy, hope, love - what Burke considers weak feelings. In fact, he stringently suppresses any feeling other than rage, for those weak emotions represent great danger to Burke. They make him feel unprotected and powerless, much too close to the overwhelming helplessness and fear he experienced as a result of his childhood abuse. And so he cannot tolerate those sentiments, but quashes them rigidly and converts them into anger and exaggerated masculinity and stoicism. Burke does not dare remove his protection for any reason that involves himself, but for his daughter Lisa, he takes the perilous risk.]
The camera now shows a close-up of the screened and glassed-in barrier between Burke and Connie. Burke's chained hands carefully place a picture of his daughter under the screen - the same picture he was holding and studying as he talked to Garcia in his cell. Handling this photograph with the same fond, gentle precision he used to arrange Lisa's pictures on his bunk, he gives it a little push and slides it to the other side of the ledge. Then, he tilts his head to the side and rests it nearly on his shoulder, in an instinctual gesture of tenderness that allows him to continue looking at Lisa's now inverted image. Reluctant to pull his eyes away, he keeps them fixed on the photo of his daughter and lingers lovingly over the details of her likeness. "That's my daughter, Lisa," he tells Connie. In a tone that sounds no longer coarse, but lighter, warmer, rich with unmistakable affection and as smooth and fluid as honey, his voice caresses the words 'daughter' and 'Lisa'. The focus returns to Connie. Looking cautious and stunned, she starts to walk back towards the screen and listens as Burke continues, "Her mother died four years ago. My mother's had her since then but she's got a bad heart." The camera returns to Burke. His head still tilted to one side, he remains absorbed in his daughter's picture, contemplating the snapshot as if he were seeing it for the first time. One corner of his lip pulls back ever so slightly in a soundless stutter, a hesitant pause, before he goes on, "When she dies " The phrase hangs unfinished for a moment - a signal of Burke's reluctance to continue and his misgiving over how Connie will receive what he plans to say. He turns his lips inward and presses them together lightly, then opens his mouth and takes in a nervous breath to ease the apprehension he feels. His eyes, just visible behind lowered lids and still fixed on Lisa's picture, turn stark and sad now and fill with genuine pain. The interval of silence stretches out for a bit, heightening the tension and uncertainty of the moment. During the lull, one corner of his mouth lifts slightly upward in an unconscious and uneasy twitch. Without changing the angled position of his head, Burke raises his glance laterally upward and looks at Connie from beneath his brows and out of the corners of his eyes. The woman comes slowly closer to the glass screen, but he brings his head up only slightly to acknowledge her approach. Frozen in oblique scrutiny of Connie's face, his eyes look wary, calculating and suspicious as he gauges the effect of his words on her. He narrows his lips and draws them toward each other tentatively, then holds them immobile, stretched taut and barely separated with doubt. The camera briefly returns to Connie. While she glances at the picture of Lisa, Burke finally continues his statement, " Lisa's goin' to strangers."
Focus returns to Burke's face. Making no sudden movements that might startle the woman, he lowers himself slowly, carefully, warily to sit down. In a radical departure from his previous behavior, Burke attempts to de-emphasize his physical strength and dominance, to diminish the implied threat of his body looming above Connie as she gets close. His cautious, anxious eyes veer three times back and forth between Connie's face and the image of his child. Burke's manner alters subtly each time he looks back up at the woman. At first, he appears cunning, almost crafty: pulling her strings, leading Connie's eyes down to Lisa's picture with his own. The second time he glances up at Connie, his face reflects his crucial need, a mute plea for her help and a numbing fear of her refusal. The last time, he barely lifts his eyes to her face, but seems wholly focused and intent on his efforts to persuade her, to win her agreement by sheer force of his will. Burke goes on, "Your husband said that he wanted something to live for again." His inflection tapers off expectantly at the end of the phrase and intimates that more significant words will follow. Like a brief, faltering stammer, his eyelids flicker once before he raises them and looks openly into her face. Burke's eyes widen with naked appeal and undisguised candor that is only slightly clouded by a hint of fearfulness at his own audacity in planing to make this request of her. The focus reverts to a shocked, bewildered Connie. As she looks at the picture of Lisa, Burke resumes his cautious persuasion, "After I'm dead, you're gonna n-need somethin', " he pauses for a quick nervous breath, " too." Any pretense of surliness, rigidity or arrogance has faded from Burke's voice and behavior. He anxiously falters over his words and all but holds his breath as he tries to promote his plans for his daughter. Connie reaches for the picture and slides it closer to her as Burke says, "I wanted to a-a-ask ya " The camera goes back to Burke. Initially his line of sight is slightly lowered and extremely guarded as though he had been watching, uneasy and motionless, while the woman accepted the picture of Lisa. Gradually, tentatively, in a series of slow steps, he raises his eyes to Connie and asks, "Would you take Lisa?" There is urgent entreaty in those eyes; both embryonic hope and crippling doubt radiate from them. His profound love for his daughter and his pressing need for help to ensure her welfare illumine and nearly leap from their depths.
The camera switches back to Connie who begins to laugh with deranged, hysterical mirth. The focus then returns to Burke intently watching Connie's face. For just a moment, Burke looks slightly bewildered, puzzled over her unexpected, incongruous reaction. Then his eyes widen slightly and flare with alarm as he realizes the danger her response signifies to his hopes and plans for his daughter's future. Nonetheless, Burke consciously disregards his dismay and hastily drops his eyes from her face. Resolutely choosing to ignore her crazy laughter, he moistens suddenly dry lips with his tongue and doggedly continues his request in a voice that is suddenly stronger and more purposeful, "You and your husband, would you raise my daughter?" When he finishes speaking, Burke does not lift his eyes to Connie's face but keeps them level and stares determinedly at the middle distance ahead of him. Perhaps he fears the repudiation he might read in her face. Perhaps he does not want her to see too plainly the anguish in his own. For the acute and very real pain of knowing that he must abandon Lisa forever shows unmistakably in Burke's eyes. He recoils at the thought that he will be forced to leave his daughter and already mourns her loss. Focus returns to Connie. Her mindless laughter turns gradually into unrestrained weeping. But Burke persists in his request. His words tumble out faster now as though he feels pressed to get them all said before she has a chance to refuse. Burke's tone takes on a coaxing accent as he urges her, "Good people like you - you make a difference. I'd - I just want you to think about it." The emphasis, urgency and speed of his voice increase until the words nearly collide with one another. His rising inflection makes them sound like a plea. But Burke's persuasions fall on deaf ears, for Connie has reached a breaking point. In fury she slams Lisa's picture against the glass screen with the girl's image facing Burke.
The focus changes back to Burke. His eyes are pulled and held to the picture with the force of a magnet. His whole being seems absorbed in contemplating Lisa's image. The sight of his daughter's face and the depth of his love for her stun him into silence, completely consume him, leave him energy for no other thought or action. Both his expression and his bearing betray an intense longing, an unfulfilled hunger for her nearness. His mouth looks strained, his lips parted slightly and drawn with the ache of missing her. Burke directs and concentrates all of that longing into his wide, ardent and intent eyes - almost as if he believes that by doing so, he could summon Lisa's actual presence and enfold the living child in his arms. But then a subtle change eases Burke's features. Overcome by a wave of tenderness, he relaxes and softly closes his lips, swallows against a constriction in his throat and breathes deeply. His eyes go very soft, warm and luminous with love for his daughter. A tiny ghost of a smile tugs at one corner of his mouth as the joy and wonder of that love and of this child suffuse his spirit. He does not move or speak but centers himself in the peace and comfort of that miracle. Then finally, reluctantly, Burke withdraws from his meditation on his daughter's likeness and returns his glance to Connie's face, as his eyes implore her once more. The camera reverts to Connie again. She responds to Burke's appeal with an angry curse. "You bastard!" Connie says through clenched teeth. Still holding Lisa's picture up to the glass before Burke's eyes, she intentionally and conspicuously crumples the picture in her fist.
The focus returns to Burke. He immediately raises his chin in alarm and sits upright in the chair. His brows come together in a deep frown of warning over eyes that burn with protective anger. Burke seems to interpret Connie's act of destruction to Lisa's picture as an actual threat of harm to the child herself. He initially responds with an impulse to spring angrily to her defense. "No," he forbids Connie, speaking half to himself with an audible quaver in his voice. Although the threat to his daughter's safety exists only as an illusion in Burke's mind, a small jolt of fear nonetheless clenches at his belly and constricts his chest, leaving him without enough air to shout his dissent. Then, Burke straightens his head with a little upward tilt and stares hard at Connie's clenched hand, which completely obscures the image of Lisa from his sight. Tangible sadness and pain blur the look of alarm in his eyes and drag the corners of his mouth down into a semblance of the mask of tragedy. He looks as if the woman had somehow whisked his daughter out of existence, leaving him bereaved without her. The camera goes back to Connie preparing to leave the room. With the crumpled picture of Lisa still closed tightly in her fist, she backs away from the screen and says with quiet venom, "I hate you!"
Burke's reflection appears dimly in the glass of the partition. His jaw hangs open with shock. He begins to rise in a bewildered daze as though his body were being pulled slowly upward by a string. The focus shows Connie turning away from the screen and Burke behind the glass getting to his feet. He thrusts his chained hands up and leans heavily onto the ledge in front of him to push himself up and go after her. But he is hampered by the restraints and frustrated by the partition. As Connie starts to walks toward the outer door, he calls after her again, "No " His voice sounds somewhat louder now, but again wavers on the word 'no', as if he had been punched in the gut and the word escaped on the grunt of air that followed the blow. " Gimme my picture," Burke demands, his tone dumfounded and incredulous that she would abduct his cherished photo. The woman stalks away from Burke and toward the door, but turns around to yell at him, "I hate you so much!" Burke is on his feet now, trying vainly to follow Connie's forward progression, but only able to move like a crab sidewise down the row of cubicles that line the partition. He keeps his body crouched and low, ready to chase her with a burst of speed. He hunches his powerful shoulders and presses them forward, stirred by the impulse to pursue her - or attack her. But he can't get past the screen or out of the cage. So he shouts after her, "Hey, that's my picture!" His voice blares loudly with anger but his face twists up with savagely repressed grief. Focus reverts to Connie who stands at the outer door and tells the guard, "Let me out." The camera returns to Burke. He stands fully erect, flush against the screen and roars, "Gimme back my picture!" The room reverberates with the sound of his thundering bellow. His eyes expand and bulge. His gaping mouth stretches wide. The muscles of his neck strain into corded bands. His face goes rigid and distorts with temper. Rage consumes him and transforms him into a rabid beast. Burke has obliterated all the hurt, disappointment, regret, fear and loss with which this encounter has left him into blinding, uncontrolled, animalistic fury. But Connie meets his fury with her own. She whips around to face him again and shouts, "Gimme back my daughter!" The scene ends as Connie pounds on the outer door and screams at the guards, "Let me out! Let me out!"
With Victim's Father II
The scene opens on a close-up of Burke's missing, crumpled picture of Lisa as it is pushed back under the visitor's screen to the ledge on the prisoner's side. With the duplicity of a magician performing an illusion, Burke's cuffed hands reach rapidly up to the counter, form a tent over the photo and conceal it behind both palms. The camera then shows Burke and Jack Murphy facing each other on opposite sides of the screen. Burke slides the picture, still hidden beneath his palms, surreptitiously along the ledge and back towards his body with cautious, fluid, stealthy movements. He raises his chin defiantly, daring Murphy to make any objection. Yet, his eyes remain locked on Murphy's in a faintly deceptive attempt to divert the other man's attention from the activity of his hands. Even though the picture belongs to Burke, he seems more comfortable using subterfuge and deceit to reclaim it. Life has taught him that the only way to provide for his own needs is to take what he wants by force or by stealth. When he has drawn the picture close to his body, he lowers his chin and skewers Murphy with an extremely hostile look of distrust, tinged with a good deal of outrage for being in possession of Burke's picture. Burke sees no aberration in his censure of the Murphys for taking his daughter's photo, even though what he took from them was their daughter's life. "Why aren't you at the hearing," Burke asks, without greeting or acknowledgement. He takes a step back from the screen and slowly folds his body to sit down on the stool behind the ledge. Burke never takes his searching eyes from Murphy's face but looks at him with a mixture of skepticism, incomprehension and suspicion as Murphy responds, "My wife's taking care of that." Burke doesn't understand why this man would come to see him rather than attend the clemency hearing. The tone of voice Burke uses makes the rude demand for an explanation also sound like a reprimand, as though he were chiding Murphy for not doing what Burke expects him to do. Burke cannot find a rationalization for Murphy's actions. They are unexpected and therefore a danger to Burke, a threat to his necessity for control - his need to predict the movements of everyone important in his life and ascribe motives to their behavior.
The camera focuses on Murphy who sits down behind the counter on his side of the partition and says, "My wife told me what you said about your daughter " Focus returns to Burke. He looks inaccessible and guarded, constrained by enmity and suspicion. Above a severe and unyielding mouth, his eyes are intent, alert and cautious. Those eyes level a harsh warning at Murphy when the man refers to Burke's daughter, Lisa. Burke looks as though he interprets Murphy's mere mention of Lisa as some kind of threat and so regards him as an enemy who represents a serious danger to the child. Murphy continues speaking, " about wanting us to raise her after " The reference to Lisa's future and Burke's realization that he can in no way be a part of that future further abrade an already raw gash in his heart. For, now Burke's expression of hostility and distrust becomes blurred by a look of stark sadness. His eyes look bruised and brittle, burnished with pain that is forcefully held in check, yet threatens to burst out of him as grief. His throat convulses as he swallows with difficulty past the tightness that lodges there. The cheek muscles on one side of his face ripple as he first clenches his jaw, then separates his lips to release the tension. His chest rises and falls with short, shallow breaths as he struggles to prevent sorrow from swamping the dam of his control. The camera goes back to Murphy as he says, " after your dead." Murphy draws back hesitantly when he talks about Burke's death. The other man's reaction is not lost on Burke. When the focus returns to him, Burke seems more composed, less on the verge of losing his hold on himself. Instead, he looks at Murphy with alert attention and observes his face very closely in hopes of sensing even a small opening that might benefit Lisa. Burke's own face, on the other hand, is unknowable. What thoughts he might have about Murphy's recoil and its significance for Lisa are well hidden behind his searching, watchful eyes. The camera returns to Murphy. He leans forward slightly and earnestly asks Burke, "Why would you do a thing like that? Wh-what were you thinking?"
The camera switches back to Burke. It may be that Burke is reacting to Murphy's genuine attempt to understand his intentions or to Murphy's apparent hesitancy about the execution. Perhaps Burke simply calculates that the truth represents his best chance of obtaining help for his daughter. But for whatever reason, Burke chooses to shed his mask and respond to Murphy's question with honest, heartfelt self-revelation. He bites down hard on his upper lip and struggles to suppress the anguish and remorse that again threaten to disintegrate his self-discipline and unman him. Scarcely repressed tears scald his eyes and shimmer there unshed. "If I could just give her a ch-chance, " he replies in a voice that is halting, hushed and choked with his desperate wish to bequeath a secure future to his daughter - a future he wants so badly to give her that it feels like a wound in his heart. A small grimace of gnawing pain pulls at his upper lip. His eyes look full and heavy with grief, constricted by desolation and failure. And yet, a fragile but still fervent hope glimmers faintly deep within them. Burke continues, " do w-one thing right by her." His soul lays utterly bare and exposed in his eyes - eyes that are seared by an unremitting ache of guilt and regret for failing his responsibility to his child. Still, beneath the torment smolders that faintly shimmering hope and an urgent plea for help.
Searching for the right words to explain his thoughts, trying to communicate the sincerity of his feelings, striving to convey the necessity of his appeal, Burke draws down his brows and narrows his eyes in a frown of concentration. Then he gives a quick, earnest toss of his head and takes a short, nervous breath through slightly open lips before he continues, "You and your wife were good parents " Burke pauses almost respectfully before he utters the phrase, 'were good parents'. His head nods in slow, deliberate emphasis, while his voice lays rich, reverential stress on the word 'good'. A profound longing to be a good parent to his child burns in Burke's face. But the fire is dampened by his bewildered unfamiliarity with what that ideal truly entails and by his hopeless frustration at forever being prevented from fulfilling that role for Lisa. Burke's tone and manner also imply an explicit contrast not only to his own parents who were the antithesis of the Murphys, but also to himself who, for so long, was merely a biological parent to his own daughter. He knows the difference an opportunity to grow up feeling loved and secure - the difference good parents - can mean to a child's development. And he knows first hand, in fact, is living proof of the way a lack of those essentials can destroy a life. After a pause that hangs with the promise of more to follow, Burke continues in a voice that grows firmer and more resolute, " and she needs that." His lower jaw projects out determinedly as he stresses the word 'needs'. His compelling eyes bore into Murphy's, demand his acquiescence through the sheer force of Burke's will. That pressing, insistent appeal on Burke's face stands out in distinct counterpoint to the calm, reasonable tone of his voice. The focus quickly changes to Murphy who is markedly unimpressed with either Burke's reasoning or his manner. But Burke persists with his petition and continues, "And you need Lisa " The camera returns to Burke. His brow draws down in distress over a mouth that is pulled up into a wince of pain. His eyes have gone bleak, haunted and repelled. They focus in Murphy's direction but do not see him. Instead, they seem to look with abhorrence at that senseless act of murder to which he is about to refer. Burke haltingly goes on, " after " He can no longer look in the direction of Murphy's face but drops his gaze in two lurching stages as if it is being dragged down from below. His eyes seem to search inwardly for the words or the courage to mention his act of murder to his victim's father. Finding neither, he settles for euphemism and evasion, " all you've been through." Burke shifts his mouth briefly to one side, like a grimace of repugnance, when he uses the word 'all' to refer to the murder. For the rest of the phrase, the sound of his voice is much smoother - almost courteous - cajoling and persuasive. As he finishes speaking, his eyes lift briefly to Murphy's face, hesitate there a moment then slide, guilt-ridden, away and down again. Finally, Burke turns his sight within himself and for an instant his eyes take on a look of disgust.
The camera reverts to Murphy. He is stunned that Burke has the audacity to try to comfort, much less compensate them for the loss of their daughter. Burke was the murderer who caused their immeasurable loss. Ready to walk out and end the interview, Murphy stands and says in disbelief, "You don't know what we've been through." The camera switches quickly to Burke. In the momentary pause before he begins to speak, he sits staring down blindly and off towards the side closest to Murphy. Burke looks transfixed by the memory of his crime, consumed by his own guilt. Staring at his own demons, his eyes look alarmed and appalled by a sight so terrible that they want to turn away but are trapped and held fast. His slightly open mouth is pulled down at the corners into a silent huff of resistance and revulsion. He replies, "Well, I got a good idea." As he speaks, Burke's eyes dart quickly to the side away from Murphy then drag his head over with them. Once his head and eyes are aligned and slightly averted, his eyes shift even farther away to the side. Seeking to distance himself from the man standing over him, striving to gain a measure of emotional latitude, he searches for something other than Murphy to look at. On the last word of his reply, he drops his head and his eyes even lower. Another thought, more momentous and infinitely mournful, visibly overtakes him. His eyes go distant and desolate. Sorrow scalds them from the inside. Despair settles oppressively over his face. Burke can only be brooding on his inevitable loss of his own daughter. But Murphy gives him no time for contemplation. Almost before Burke finishes speaking, Murphy cuts in angrily, "No you don't you son of a bitch!" At the sound of the other man's retort, Burke catapults his body out of the seat and lunges for the screen shielding Murphy. Burke launches himself at the partition like an attack dog that is staked to the ground but throws its weight against the length of chain to set upon an intruder. The bellow arises from somewhere deep in the pit of his belly as Burke thunders in reply, "Yes I do!" The three words build in a short, sharp crescendo so that the last word roars into Murphy's face. He hurls it at the man like a missile. Burke's eyes blaze, frenzied and furious. His neck muscles bulge and strain. Rage twists his face into a distorted, grotesque figure.
[Burke's excessive and irrational outburst could be a reaction to Murphy's anger. Murphy standing above Burke, shouting at him angrily may have felt too much like the circumstances of abuse he endured as a child. Once matured and no longer physically vulnerable, Burke had resolved never again to allow himself to be the brunt of another male's anger and so erupted in defensive hostility. But just as likely, Burke could not allow himself to feel the awful despair and loneliness that surfaced moments before as he thought about losing Lisa. When the provocation of Murphy's anger was added, it was much safer, more bearable for Burke to sublimate those despondent and, to Burke, unacceptably weak feelings into fury.]
In the aftershock that follows the violent explosion and as the reverberation of his last words fade, Burke's look of contorted rage quickly and inexplicably dissolves into a silent, urgent cry for understanding, a desperate attempt to reach Murphy's compassion. His penetrating, yet plaintive eyes search Murphy's face closely. His brows are pulled in and upward in a questioning frown. Burke straightens from his forward leaning crouch and takes a step back from the screen, away from Murphy's face. He inclines his head and opens his mouth to suck in several short raspy breaths, gathering momentum for his next crucial attempt to breach the almost impenetrable barriers between Murphy and himself. A glint of disbelief flares in his eyes. He appears confounded and incredulous that Murphy cannot comprehend his predicament. For when he is executed, Burke will lose his child as finally - as irrevocably - as Murphy has lost his daughter. Burke's eyes never for an instant leave the other man's face, neither their probing brightness nor the limitless sorrow that reflects deep within them fade. He shifts his weight to his back foot, holding his torso upright and slightly away from the glass. Then transferring back to the other foot, he lowers his front shoulder and leads with it to drive his face and body into the screen again. His movements are fluid and organic, like a shark circling away from its victim only to renew the attack. For as he leans into the glass, the wrath returns to his face and voice, erupts from the well of violent anger within him and propels him into Murphy's face again. "I'm never gonna see my kid again, either," Burke shouts, the volume of his voice rising once again to a bellow. But the shout could as easily be a poignant cry. Under a deeply scowling brow, his open mouth is pulled down at the corners and away from his teeth like a snarl. His neck is so constricted and taut that his howl of protest seems to be choking him. His eyes blaze with anger. Still an undertone of dejection colors them. Although he attempts to use his fury like a weapon as though he could somehow batter understanding from Murphy, his enraged outburst has a wounded quality to it. For Burke can only deal with the lesion of giving up his daughter forever by numbing it with anger. Yet on the last word of his outcry, Burke backs away from the partition, angles his body and leans forward intently, straining to make Murphy comprehend. And as quickly as it was contorted by anger, his face just as abruptly transforms into unendurable pain and uncomprehending sorrow.
However, Murphy can find no sympathy for Burke, can see no correlation between their two circumstances. The focus returns to Murphy. Face close to the glass, he hisses at Burke like a feral cat, "I didn't kill your daughter!" The camera goes back to Burke. He is frozen into immobility, all excess emotion drained from his face. Murphy's vehement reply has punctured Burke's carefully erected defenses. Burke can no longer avoid internalizing responsibility for his act of indiscriminate murder. A deep frown of concentration creases his brow. He locks his eyes unwaveringly on Murphy's face and searches deeply into the man's soul for some hint of a breach in his vengeance that Burke might exploit for Lisa's welfare. However, beneath those intently searching eyes, Burke's mouth and jaw are neutral and compliant, his facial expression candid as though he were also opening his own soul for Murphy's inspection. As Murphy straightens and pulls back a little from the screen, Burke follows his every movement, tracking the man with his head and eyes. He lightly flexes the muscles in one cheek. Then almost imperceptibly, still keeping his eyes glued to Murphy's, Burke dips his chin in a subtle gesture of acknowledgment and acceptance, silently admitting his moral culpability for killing Murphy's daughter. Burke's eyes look stricken and somber, naked self-incrimination and futile remorse laid bare in their depths. Focus returns to Murphy. He remains unaffected and stares at Burke resolutely with legitimate anger and hatred.
The camera moves back to Burke. Although his unblinking eyes steadfastly continue to search Murphy's face, Burke has slightly lowered his head. He positions it just below Murphy's, giving ground, accepting defeat, admitting that Murphy's moral arsenal far outweighs his own. But a stubborn perseverance fortifies Burke's expression; a calm serenity imbues it. He can never abandon this battle. Nor will he leave this field without a parting shot. For Burke's eyes also reflect the surety that accompanies the clear, undeviating contemplation of incontrovertible truth. Shaking his head repeatedly to accompany his words with subtle but emphatic negation, he says, "She didn't hurt anybody." Burke's deep, quiet, rational voice resonates with that same certainty as he asserts this indisputable fact. His brow creases deeply in absorbed concentration. Leaning close to the glass with his head slightly inclined, his body straining with the need to communicate, Burke locks his eyes onto Murphy's. Those eyes remain insistent, urgent and imploring as Burke attempts to influence Murphy, but also pained and deeply sad as he affirms Lisa's innocence. There follows a long silent pause during which the pupils of Burke's eyes move fractionally back and forth, searching Murphy's face for some sign of acknowledgement - of accord. Then, he briefly flicks his head to one side as a gesture of insignificance, fastens his eyes on Murphy in unblinking and unguarded appeal and says, "She's just a kid." Burke's inflection rises slightly to underscore the word 'kid' and stress his daughter's blamelessness, while his eyes plead with Murphy not to brand Lisa with her father's blame. Burke's face as well displays a passionate appeal for justice for his child, a plea that her life not be condemned and ended along with his. But at the same time, his frank and candid eyes, his pliable and slightly parted lips give him an open and ingenuous appearance.
The camera switches to Murphy. He sighs and pulls his eyes away from Burke's searching stare. Obviously Burke's last thrust has struck home, deflated his anger and disconcerted him. Focus returns to Burke. His head tilted attentively, his eyes vigilant and perceptive, he leans back from the partition and closely observes Murphy's reaction. As he takes a step back from the screen, he pulls himself up to his full height and claims the higher moral ground for himself, using his body to reinforce his just and unassailably truthful defense of Lisa. Then he issues Murphy a knowing, self-assured, unshakably determined look and maintains that expression as he pointedly stares at Murphy over his shoulder and turns to leave. But then, the mask slips back into place over Burke's face. That closed, smug, inscrutable faηade returns and closes off any further dialogue between the two men. The scene ends as Burke turns his back on Murphy and walks away from the visitor's area.
With Burke's Mother
The scene opens as the guards unlock the outer door and admit Lynette Burke into the visitor's area of the prison deathwatch section. Leaning on her cane to support herself, Burke's mother walks toward the screened partition through which she will talk to her son. One day remains before the scheduled date for Burke to be put to death by lethal injection, but he has been granted a temporary stay of execution. The camera focus switches to Burke behind the screen. His expression distant and preoccupied, his body constrained and compact, his thoughts reflective and solitary, Burke has withdrawn totally inside himself. He sits with his arms pressed in close to his body, his hands clasped tightly together and leans on the ledge in front of him. His shoulders hunch and pull forward slightly. His head and torso incline over his hands toward the counter. But his head is also tilted and averted slightly toward one side, further increasing his attitude of withdrawal. Although he anchors his jaw with firm resolution, the outline of his mouth looks taut, pensive and sad. A small frown creases his brow. His intently focused eyes stare entirely within himself, trained on the internal survey of his spirit. An air of tension, or more precisely, agitation surrounds him and manifests in the restlessly working fingers of his clasped hands. One finger extends straight out from the tight bundle of digits, then returns to the knot as a different finger repeats the action. This man has obviously begun the process of separating himself from his surroundings and preparing himself for death. The increased uneasiness and apprehension in Burke's restive movements are typical of a dying person whose death is imminent.
Burke's mother sits down on the stool in front of the glass partition opposite Burke. Just as Burke often does, she begins the conversation abruptly without greeting or introduction, "Did you talk to Nancy about the stay?" Burke remains so isolated and distant, so unaware of circumstances outside himself, that he does not see his mother walk in and sit down directly in front of him. Her voice startles him and pulls him reluctantly from his personal musings. His head comes up with a small, sharp jerk at the sound of her first word. For a second or two, Burke looks disoriented. His eyes need to refocus while he pulls his sight back to the external world and identifies the source of the distracting noise. As his mother finishes her question, Burke refrains from looking at her, but instead keeps his eyes lowered and stares vacantly at the space just above his folded hands. His reluctant expression suggests either an unwillingness to answer his mother's question or an aversion to return to interaction with anything beyond his inner contemplation. His eyes skim briefly over the counter under his hands as if he were searching for something - a way to answer her question or a way to predict whether this provisional reprieve will ultimately permit him to stay alive. In a quiet voice that is devoid of energy, he responds, "She doesn't know." As he speaks, he lifts his eyes momentarily in the direction of his mother's face, but before they make contact, quickly turns his head away. Burke's tone drops off steeply on the last word of his reply, disclosing his fatalistic and foreboding perspective on the outcome of this stay. He closes his lips tightly on that last syllable and punctuates his statement with an ironic grimace at the precarious nature of his future. Burke's hands are still folded almost prayerfully before him but now betray an attitude of enforced patience. He turns his head even farther away from his mother and looks off, nearly over his shoulder, toward the opposite side. Conveying a vague sense of doubt, he briefly sweeps his eyes back and forth over the space in front of him. His eyes widen slightly and grow bright as he discerns the precarious hope that his execution might be forestalled and, against his better judgement, clings to it eagerly for just a moment. Then he swings his head back to the center, staring again at the emptiness beyond his clasped hands and says, "This one may hold. It may not." Burke gives his head one small shake of denial and resignation to underscore the words, 'may not'. And just as before, his soft, strangely flat and lifeless voice drops meaningfully on the last word of his remark. His tone both dismisses the importance of whatever eventual outcome may occur and disengages from it so thoroughly that it might as well involve someone else's life - or death. Burke pauses briefly, chews doubtfully on the inside corner of his mouth and stares fixedly at the void in front of him. His eyes give the lie to the detachment his tone proclaimed earlier for they become remote, somber and a little fearful. Burke has a distinct foreknowledge that this stay will not hold and is already looking with dread at the event of his impending execution.
Then Burke raises his head and, for the first time since the interview began, looks straight at his mother's face. His own face undergoes a remarkable transformation and, also for the first time, becomes absorbed, passionate and alive. His eyes wide and bright, direct, eager and imploring, Burke probes into his mother's eyes and asks, " How's Lisa?" In the pause that follows his question, Burke's mouth remains slightly open, his breath nearly suspended as he hungrily anticipates news of Lisa. Clearly, his daughter, even hearing about his daughter, nourishes Burke's existence, sustains him and restores animation to his spirit. As he waits for his mother's reply, anxiety colors the look of earnest intensity on Burke's face. He desperately needs to be assured that Lisa is all right, but knows and yet dreads to be told that she is not. The focus switches to Lynette. In a melancholy tone she tells him, "Sad now, mostly." The camera goes back to a close-up of Burke. The light - the life - has completely faded from his expression. He no longer looks at his mother but turns his sight inward again. His eyes have gone dull, turned barren, numb and stricken as he internalizes his daughter's sadness and experiences it in the core of his own being. So strongly does he identify with his child and her feelings that his own face appears young, defenseless and powerless. Then, as if he were trying to distance himself from her unwelcome words, Burke shifts his eyes away from his mother. Growing heavier with the burden of sorrow and self-blame at each transition, his eyes turn a little to the side, then again drift a little farther away before they drop under lowered lids. As he tucks in his chin ruefully and projects his lower lip a little, he nods his head in a single, barely perceivable token of assent. With this small gesture, Burke assumes the responsibility for causing his daughter's suffering, shoulders the weight of that responsibility and reluctantly accepts that he is powerless to relieve her distress. And in the brief pause that follows, his lowered, averted eyes seem to look with frank clarity at just how much his crime and approaching execution have hurt his child and blighted her life.
The camera centers briefly on Lynette. Now she broaches the subject that is the main purpose of her visit to her son. "Connie Murphy told me you asked her to raise Lisa," she begins. While Lynette is still speaking, the focus returns to Burke. He immediately lowers his head and eyes to avoid his mother's questioning gaze and looks at the ledge in front of him. Although his face takes on an abashed yet unrepentant look, he fixes his mouth into a thin, resolute band. Turning even further away from his mother, he quickly lifts his head a bit and glances off to the side. His face has become stubborn and fractious, his mouth sulky and obstinate. But almost immediately, he drops his head far forward and lets it hang there, concealing that obstinacy behind a rather grim embarrassment. From the time his mother begins talking about his arrangements for Lisa's future, Burke's movements possess a hurried, secretive uneasiness that makes him look as if he were searching for somewhere to hide, as if he would gladly look anywhere but at her face. He knows his plans for Lisa will provoke his mother's strong disapproval - will actually hurt her - but he adamantly refuses to alter them. In a voice that sounds false and forced Burke says, "Yeah, I was gonna tell you." He very slightly raises and turns his head aside again and addresses his comment not to his mother, but to the vacant space diagonally below him. As he utters his last word, Burke drags up his eyes, flicks them back and forth briefly and evasively, then fixes them again on that oblique emptiness. His closed and deceptive face cannot conceal the intractable light that glows from those eyes. Burke is almost certainly lying. He had no intention of telling his mother that he had asked the Murphys to care for Lisa after his death. He hoped to have those plans arranged and completed before his mother found out and could interfere. Both his compulsion for control and the history of distrust and betrayal that mars their relationship prevent Burke from confiding in his mother. However, none of that has any import now, for Lynette has discovered his plans and strenuously objects. The focus returns to Lynette. Her words a command, her tone domineering, the woman's argument cuts off the end of her son's reply. "You can't do that, John. She's my granddaughter," Lynette contends.
The camera switches to Burke. Keeping his head slightly lowered and still partially averted to maintain his detachment from her, he lifts just his eyes sharply to his mother's face. He glares a blistering, sidelong look of warning at his mother from beneath a scowling brow and says, "She's my daughter." Burke clenches his jaw adamantly on his last syllable and expels his anger through slightly parted lips. Now, he looks at his mother through eyes partially narrowed by antagonism. His deadly quiet voice has an unmistakable tone of menace and the sound of indisputable authority. Burke is asserting to Lynette that although he is imprisoned, he retains not simply the dominant, but the final control over decisions about Lisa's future. He is Lisa's parent and, as long as he remains alive, his determinations for his daughter take priority over his mother's. Lynette continues to plead, "If you take her away from me, I'll have nothing." Burke's eyes slide away from his mother's face, first lowering, then shifting off to the side, then again swerving further away. He firmly closes his slightly open lips as if by doing so he could shut out her words. Tightening his mouth into an inflexible, obstinate seam, he inhales a small, frustrated breath through his nostrils. As his mother says, 'I'll have nothing', the barest hint of pity for her softens his eyes, but intransigence and enmity quickly harden them again. The focus returns to Lynette. Her tone becoming more strident and more demanding with each word, she declares, "I need her! She needs me!"
The camera shifts to Burke. He immediately wrenches his eyes back to his mother and retorts, "She needs a father." His emphatic, overly precise tone declares his exasperated impatience. He distinctly emphasizes the word 'father' and forces it out from between his clenched teeth. His face is tightly drawn with anger. The flared nostrils, unyielding mouth and commanding eyes that bore into his mother's face charge that anger with intimidation. The focus returns to Lynette. In a tone of parental rebuke she says, "You owe me more than this." The camera travels again to Burke. He keeps his head still somewhat averted from his mother and drops his mouth barely open with outrage at what he considers her self-serving declaration. Wrenching his brows close together and heavily downward into a glower of stunned incomprehension, he stares at her with deeply wounded disbelief in his eyes. Incongruously, his voice sounds quiet and almost mild, as if he were merely recounting a well-established fact or relating an intimate understanding between the two of them. "I don't owe you a damn thing," Burke contests. Narrowing his eyes to slits and elevating his head while he speaks, Burke scowls his ridicule directly at his mother. He points his chin at her and tosses his head in her direction on the word 'damned', hurling the insult into her face. On the last word of his response, his inflection first rises, then descends in a kind of mocking singsong. The resonance in his voice lets the expression dangle, makes it seem incomplete and implies the unspoken phrase, ' and you know it.' From beneath the deep, angry ridge of his brow, Burke continues to stare straight at his mother with intense, incredulous eyes. But his mouth looks injured and defenseless.
The focus returns to Lynette. She remains silent for an extended moment, looking closely at her son and probing the intensity of his bitterness towards her. At last she says, "You still blame me for him." The focus goes back to Burke. For an instant his face wears the traumatized, confused, apprehensive look of the abused child. Staring sightless into the past, his eyes look heavy and dull - wounded, violated and vulnerable. Very quietly, his tone deep, hushed and unemotional Burke says, "You didn't do a damn thing to stop him." The phrase sounds breathy as though giving voice to these memories closes his throat. As he speaks, Burke swings his eyes sideways to his mother's face and aims a look at her that both accuses her of betrayal and assaults her with contempt. Shunning the sight of her, he slowly drops the lids over his eyes, pauses and then barely opens them again. But his disdainful glance has already turned away from his mother. Burke quickly averts his face from her as well and pointedly dismisses her, as he looks off into the emptiness beside him. His eyes are captured again by the sight of those disturbing memories that lay like a barrier between mother and son. And the abandoned, unguarded hurt returns to his face. The camera switches back to Lynette. As the injury now emerges in her eyes, she says in her own defense, "He hit me too."
The focus quickly returns to Burke. Refusing to hear his mother's words or accept her excuse, he compresses his lips into a thin strip of resistance. But within the adamant denial of his face, his eyes bear a tragic, nearly unbearable sadness. They are the eyes of a child who tries to repress all the damage inflicted on him and contain it inside himself - a child who is not permitted, or will not permit himself, to tell anyone about the bruises - a lonely, deserted child who can depend on no one to help him. That look lasts only an instant before Burke dispels it. He inhales deeply through his nostrils and begins to turn back toward his mother. His top lip curves up and pulls back into a sneer of nausea and revulsion for the father whose apparition his haunted eyes cannot banish. His shoulders contract and hunch like a convulsion, turning his body and dragging it forward. As he tastes the sickening bile of his hatred, his tongue thrusts out between his teeth. His eyes go flat and dead with detestation for his father and loathing for that forsaken child who was his father's victim. Burke presses his arms against the ledge in front of him and leans far forward. Breathing in a short gasp of air through his open mouth, he struggles to quell the intense emotions that threaten to overwhelm him. His countenance plagued and possessed, his face almost touching the glass partition, he stares down at the void below him but sees again the specter of his father. And just before his eyelids falter once, then blink more distinctly to clear the vision, his eyes vividly mirror the little boy's fear.
Absorbed by his own thoughts, Burke keeps his eyes lowered while the wounded look fades and quickly converts to one of fierce resolve. With stern purpose and a nearly physical force, Burke pulls himself back form the brink to which his memories have led him. Blinking again to obliterate the remnants of those images, he says firmly, "We have to think about Lisa, right now." He addresses the severe warning to his mother but looks as if he directs the advice to himself. Then, as he pronounces his daughter's name, his eyes raise to meet and hold his mother's. He fixes her with a look of such compelling, commanding certainty that it tolerates no disregard or resistance. On the last word of his admonition, his mouth closes into a thin, insistent line and his jaw tightens with rigid persistence. A tense pause follows during which Burke takes his mother's gaze captive and, almost not breathing with the effort, silently, intently obliges her to concur. Then, as Burke prepares for his next attack on her opposition, he compresses his lips inward until they nearly disappear, grimly distends his nostrils and stares at her with brutal and unblinking determination in his eyes. But the menace quickly leaves his face as he says, "Stay or no stay " Now Burke's struggle has become internal. Closing his eyes and leaving them closed for a moment, he clamps down on the torment provoked by the thought of forsaking his daughter and reconciles himself to the laceration. He expels a breath like a reluctant sigh, struggles to remain reasonable and calm and fortifies himself to put the thought into words. Lifting his eyes to his mother again, he says, "I'm not gonna be there for her " His expression once more severe and unyielding, he looks up into his mother's face from beneath his lowered brows with steady, clear-eyed perception and forces them both to see the unvarnished truth. In a clipped, curt, cruel voice he adds, " and neither will you."
Burke glowers up at his mother, his eyes penetrating, relentless and harshly frank. Although, he swallows with difficulty at pressing this awareness on her, his face reveals no pity for either his mother or himself, only an uncompromising decision to do what is necessary for his daughter. As he makes ready to deliver his concluding strike, Burke imperceptibly sucks in his lower lip with distaste and further stiffens his jaw. His intent and penetrating eyes blaze with command. But, for just an instant before he speaks, they grow wider and betray the faintest hint of dread. Nevertheless, he grants neither himself nor his mother any mercy, allows neither to shrink from their destiny and says with exacting finality, "We both have a death sentence." Using his body as an instrument of coercion as he speaks, he lowers his head and leans to one side so that his eyes are on a level with his mother's, then presses himself as close to her face as the screen will allow. After he casts the stroke, Burke waits and allows the silence to draw out, impaling her with the unrelenting intensity of his stare, driving his understanding into her mind. Then, with a forceful tone and a metered cadence, rhythmically nodding his head to propel and buttress each word, he orders, "We have to do what's best for her!" The words 'have to do' issue from deep in his throat and through tightly clenched jaws. Burke keeps his head lowered and on a level with his mother's, while those fervent, hypnotic eyes glare steeply up at her from underneath his brows, demanding compliance from her - and from himself. In the face of his compelling, indomitable will, Lynette's arguments are useless. Hurt, frightened, bereaved, but left with no other choice, she raises her head to meet her son's eyes and silently acquiesces to his decision as the scene ends.
In Cell With Warden
The scene opens with a close-up of Lisa Burke's picture chronicle arranged in its neat mosaic at the foot of her father's bunk. The camera pans the length of the bed and finds Burke, sitting in front of the photographs, his legs folded beneath him and crossed at the shins. With frenetic energy, he is writing a letter to his daughter on a yellow tablet which he balances on his knee and steadies with his free hand. His body and bearing exhibit a sense of urgency, his torso inclined forward at the waist and leaning over his legs, his shoulders tense and hunched, his head bent low over the tablet. It is the night before the date of his scheduled execution. And on this night, Burke is no longer withdrawn and contemplative as when he sat staring out the window of his former cell four days ago or when he awaited his mother's visit earlier that morning. But the agitation and anxiety that were apparent earlier today in his restlessly moving fingers have increased dramatically. Now, he seems unable to hold himself still and composes his letter with almost manic effort. As he writes, he rocks his shoulders forward eagerly, nods his head over the message to mime its punctuation, impatiently jerks the tablet across his knee to reposition it and silently mouths the words his hand sets down. Burke appears driven to concentrate a lifetime of communication with his child - all the musings, thoughts, stories, explanations, encouragement, advice and, most importantly, the love from a father's heart - into a few pages and a few short hours. Frantic to set it all down, he exhorts himself to write faster, to tell her more and to tell her more clearly. Because Burke knows if not consciously, then through some deeper understanding and on a purely somatic level that his death is very near
At the metallic sound of the section door sliding open, Burke glances up absently, distracted for a moment from his intense preoccupation. His face shows mild curiosity, tinged with a little irritation at the noise, but barely any interest. He quickly bends over his tablet again, his concentration still absorbed by the letter. But his head barely descends over the paper before first his eyebrows and then his eyes lift back up again almost of their own volition and pull his head and torso up with them. Caught off guard, Burke stares at the cell door with his mouth slightly open, astonishment and anxiety arrested on his face. His eyebrows lift and draw together while his forehead creases with misgiving. As the agitated movements of his body abruptly cease, his hand holds the pen suspended in mid-character over the tablet and his torso leans over his knees, halted in the midst of a forward sway. His face - his whole body - crystallize with benumbed suspense. He knows that the sound of that door can mean only one thing: the stay did not hold, his execution will go forward as scheduled. And so he sits motionless, eyes fixed on the source of that grating, metallic noise, an expression of apprehension and powerlessness frozen on his face, and awaits confirmation of his fate.
The focus switches to the warden. He walks through the outer bars into the deathwatch section of the prison and stands before Burke's cell. The warden pulls himself up very straight and looks straightforwardly at Burke. But seemingly uncomfortable with the duty he must perform, the man drops his head before he calls out, "Burke " The warden closes his mouth almost ruefully on Burke's name and expels what sounds unexpectedly like a sigh. Given Burke's hostile and antagonistic behavior toward him, the man's reluctance to tell Burke that the execution will proceed as scheduled is surprising. The camera goes back to Burke. His body seems to have congealed in that same position of checked activity that it took on when he heard the bars slide open. Although he has moved not at all since that sound interrupted his feverish writing, he looks deflated and appears to sag as if the vigor had deserted him or his spine had suddenly compressed. However, an even more profound difference emerges in Burke's face. He still stares warily at the door of his cell and at the warden standing beyond it, but his expression is devoid of all animation. Heavy with foreboding and dread, his brow seems too ponderous to hold up. It falls low over his eyes and drags his eyelids into a slight droop. His eyes squint up at the outer corners, while his brow wrinkles and pulls upward into a semblance of the premature wince that anticipates a blow. In the silence that follows the warden's stilted greeting, Burke inconspicuously removes his eyes from the man's face and fixes them on some vague shadow just below it. Then, forestalling the warden's announcement, he asks, "When d'ja' find out?" The deep, quiet tone of his voice sounds casual and conversational, as if he were merely asking for the time of day or the weather conditions. Only a hint of anxious dread deep in his eyes and a tragic cast around his mouth betray him as a man who has lost his last chance to live, who stares into the countenance of his own death. The focus returns to the warden. He first glances down, then lifts and stiffens his posture even more and says in an official tone, "The decision just came down."
The camera switches back to Burke. He has just received the news that he will be dead in a few hours, but his facial expression barely varies. His only visible reaction is to extend and shift his lower jaw sideways just a bit, as if he were dispassionately pondering the implications of the warden's statement. But, still partially screened beneath that lowered brow and transfixed now by a glimpse of the unknown and unknowable mystery of dying, his eyes look forlorn, confused and very frightened. That look lasts for only a moment however, before his eyes rebound with resistance and shock and pull away from the image. First lowering only his pupils and turning them away to the side, Burke then drops the lids slightly over his eyes to shield them before he asks, "My family know?" Reluctant to even think that his daughter must hear the news that her father will certainly be executed and even more unwilling to put that thought into words, Burke's voice is barely audible. He truncates the question and hastily cuts off the last syllable, firmly sealing his mouth in distaste on words that are bitter and galling to his tongue. His brow creases with worry. His anxious, sorrowing eyes brood on the suffering this information will bring his child and on the untold damage his actual death will cause her. The camera returns to the warden. With apparent difficulty he replies, "Your lawyer is going to tell them." The focus goes back to Burke. He has not altered the suspended, stationary position of his head or body since the warden walked through the outer door. But his face is disconsolate and stricken, his lowered eyes desolate, ringed with shadows and staring into emptiness, his mouth injured and grieving. Then slowly, Burke raises his eyes to look full into the warden's face. All trace of the stoic, hardened mask has fallen away from him. His expression completely open and unguarded, Burke inexplicably allows this man, whom he considers an enemy and a threat, to see the acute distress that pervades his features. Yet embed deep in his saddened, searching eyes is a faint but unmistakable demand that the warden, along with Burke, recognize what the report of this decision and the execution itself will do to Burke's family.
However, the warden ignores Burke's implied command and resorts to convention, "The officers will ask you if you need anything " As Burke hears this recital of execution protocol, he pointedly looks away from the warden. Lowering his eyes and turning them aside in two distinct progressions, Burke then averts his head slightly toward the wall beside him and dismisses both the man and his narration. The cold, impenetrable mask descends over Burke's features once more, as his stare turns flat and dead, his mouth sullen and obstinate. The focus goes back to the warden. Resuming his instructions, he finishes, " what you want to eat." The camera moves quickly back to Burke. At the warden's inane recitation, Burke has visibly hardened his expression, refusing to hear or react to the man's absurdity. Beneath narrowed, intently staring eyes, the uncompromising, almost angry set of Burke's mouth silently shouts his bitterness. The warden prattles about inconsequential matters like food while Burke must die knowing that his daughter will eventually be left orphaned. Concern for Lisa plagues him. His creased, heavy brow and the profound anxiety in his eyes disclose the depth of that worry. Then, just before the camera shifts away from him, Burke's lower lip softens; as he eases the rigidity in his jaw, his eyes grow agonizingly sad and lonely.
The focus returns to the warden. He takes in Burke's mute, distant, inflexible demeanor, nods his head with compassionate acceptance and turns away to leave. As the warden bends to speak to the guard beside the barred entrance door, Burke call to him, "Warden?" The man turns around to face Burke, startled that the prisoner has re-established contact after withdrawing into himself so completely, but more startled that Burke addresses him with such unaccustomed civility. The use of the warden's official title represents a radical departure for Burke. He usually begins his conversations abruptly and without any from of greeting. Indeed, Burke never even uses the name of the person to whom he is speaking - except when that person is his daughter, his baby. The focus changes back to Burke. He has just risen from his bunk and begins to walk toward the front of the cell. His head tilted to one side as if to beckon the warden, Burke looks candidly at the man with a query on his face and an agitated breath softly escaping through his partially open lips. But by the time he walks the few steps to stand before the bars, the questioning look has turned into an imploring one. Framed by the thick metal rods that imprison him, his face depicts uncertain hope stained by crippling apprehension. Brows pulled lightly together and lifted in a worried plea, eyes eager, forsaken and fearful all at the same time, mouth softened, innocent and lifted slightly at the corners by aching doubt, Burke once again permits the warden to see him unmasked. Obviously, the question Burke intends to ask must concern his child, because he will only risk the peril of such openness for Lisa's sake. Burke lowers his chin slightly to draw in a narrow breath, a short, scarcely audible rasp of air, then barely drops the pupils of his eyes like a silent, uneasy stammer and raises them again to look beseechingly at the warden. In a deep quiet voice that vibrates with hesitation and misgiving he asks, "Any mail for me? The camera switches back to the warden. He cannot meet the tenuous hope in Burke's face and dips his head before he says, "No not today."
The focus returns to Burke. He lowers his eyes behind half-closed lids, hope extinguished from them like a smothered flame, and stares into the empty distance a little to one side. His facial muscles collapse under the weight of despondency and defeat while his mouth opens slightly in a soundless 'ah' of disappointment. Despair presses heavily on his temples and further compresses the openings of his eyes. Burke pauses motionless, absorbing the setback. Then, moving nothing else but his lower lip, slowly bringing it up underneath his teeth, he closes his mouth to form a sound - to frame a last, desperate appeal. Compelled to ask his next question but afraid to hear an unfavorable response and completely powerless to affect the outcome, Burke's lips hesitate, silent and paralyzed, on the primary sound of the first word. Finally forcing the abbreviated question past his throat, he stutters, "Ph - - - phone calls?" Eyes almost pleading for an affirmative answer, but already bruised by the dejection of what he knows will be a denial, Burke lifts his glance once more to the warden's face. The camera goes back to the warden. Once again unable to issue his negative response directly into the ebbing hope in Burke's pleading eyes, the man looks at the floor and says with obvious hesitancy, "No, Nothing." The warden resolutely returns his glance to Burke as the camera centers back on the prisoner. Burke no longer looks at the warden but stares distantly at the metal bars below him. Even though he expected the warden's adverse reply, the devastation of this last stunted hope for his daughter's future bears down so heavily on Burke that his eyes nearly close under the strain. His lips too close softly, the ghost of a sad, ironic, self-disparaging smile sculpting them. As he prepares to speak, the barest intimation of a despondent flinch appears around his eyes and brow. His lips open on a little breath, a small defeated gasp, before the words drop from his mouth, seemingly propelled by their own impetus. Without moving or changing his expression, without even lifting his eyes, Burke says, "Thought I might be hearin' from the Murphys." His voice sounds very deep and soft, as hopeless now as his eyes, the strength, all the vitality drained from his tone. Burke murmurs the words half to himself, almost unaware that he pronounces them aloud. With time running out and his plans for Lisa still not achieved, he feels so heartsick, so alone that he makes this unsolicited disclosure in spite of the other man's presence. For the second time since this encounter began, Burke offers the warden, on whom he has irrationally centered all the rage and resentment that stemmed from his violent childhood, a glimpse into his inner self.
The focus returns to the warden. Seeing Burke again silent and withdrawn, he turns away and asks the guard at the desk outside Burke's cell to unlock the section door. Standing before the exit, waiting for the guard to let him out, the warden turns his head to look at Burke again and observes him with a somewhat stiff but surprisingly genuine sympathy. The camera centers quickly back on Burke. Head turned slightly aside, eyes remote, steeply lowered and nearly closed, he stands in exactly the same position he has occupied since the warden told him there had been no phone calls. But Burke feels the warden watching him, immediately recognizes that the man has witnessed Burke's sadness and fear - emotions that Burke considers detestable and unacceptably weak - and recoils at his pity. Burke constricts his lips so tightly together that they form an angry gash across his face. As he slowly, deliberately raises his eyes to meet the warden's scrutiny, he rigidly forces down the despair that ravaged his face only seconds ago and resolutely conceals it behind his customary mask. Hostility and venom lash out at the warden from the corners of Burke's deeply shadowed eyes. That forbidding look clearly orders the warden not to intrude any farther into Burke's private grief and not to dare offer Burke any sympathy. The camera goes back to the warden. He instantly responds to the injunction in Burke's warning stare, breaks off his observation, turns away and leaves the section. The sound of the bars rattling closed behind him echoes in the silence with appalling finality.
The focus returns to Burke. As the guard locks down the barred door, Burke's head and shoulders slump. This last effort to affect an angry facade for the warden's benefit has clearly depleted him, almost left him without the energy to uphold himself. Now, the full extremity of both his own and his daughter's situation grind him down. But before he gives himself permission to fully experience his dejection, he takes a step forward and looks through the bars of his cell toward the outer door. Checking to ensure that the warden is gone and that he is alone, Burke surveys the barred entrance and the area adjacent to it for a long moment, then turns toward the inside of his cell. He searches the caged space for some way to avoid the seemingly inevitable realization of his worst fears for Lisa, tries to find some miracle that will rescue her future, although his is now certainly lost. Burke takes several steps forward and looks toward one side of the cell. His eyes widen slightly, grow dismayed and frightened, as if he were again seeing that sterile, hard, black table with its fearsome bindings and armboards and watching the inexorable progression of hours leading to his death in its cinched embrace. Moving away from that terrible image, he takes several more steps toward the center of the cell. Thoughts of Lisa soften his features with tenderness and longing. But as he stops and looks into the distance ahead of him, the outside corners of his eyes crease with grief, the skin beneath them folded and puffed from the pressure of restrained but insistent tears. With genuine torment, Burke helplessly perceives the cruel circumstances that will stalk his abandoned daughter's future and foresees the bitter progression of years that will comprise her barren life. And just as the scene ends, beneath the ache and anguish scoring them, a hint of chilling fear returns to his eyes - for his daughter and for himself.
With Burke's Daughter
The scene opens as a guard allows Lisa to enter the visitor's area in the section of the prison where her father is incarcerated. As Lisa looks timidly toward the glass and wire barrier that divides the room, we hear a door open on the opposite side and her father's labored, agitated breathing. The focus switches to the other side of the glassed screen. A guard opens the door to give Burke access to the room. From the moment he becomes visible, while half his face is still obscured behind one of the posts that frames the screen, Burke's eyes are riveted solely, single-mindedly, fervently on Lisa. A deep, worried frown pulls at his brow. Quick, heavy, anxious breaths rasp from his open mouth. Striving for speed but hampered by the chains on his ankles, he moves hurriedly almost frantically through the door, his body bent forward at the waist, his gait fast but ungainly. Desperate to reach Lisa quickly, yet so frustrated by his fettered clumsiness that he nearly cries out in exasperation, he lurches into the room as his frown deepens and his eyes squint up at the outer corners. Rushing headlong toward his daughter, his body advances on the glass partition as though he has forgotten it exists. But unlike the first scene where Burke used his proximity to the barrier to intimidate his lawyer, now his stance declares only care, protection and solace for Lisa. Involuntarily halted with his face nearly on the glass, he lifts his head to look at his child with wide, intense eyes, his mouth open in wonder on a withheld breath. Both anxious empathy and nearly palpable love suffuse his countenance. Burke looks as if he were trying to experience the entirety of his daughter - not just the sight of her, but the fresh scent of her hair, the sound of her soft voice, the innocent taste of her cheeks, the touch of her small hand - through his acutely focused eyes.
The camera returns to Lisa. She walks hesitantly forward as the guard closes and locks the door behind her. Standing in front of the screen, she looks up at her father and says in a hushed tearful voice, "Daddy," then lowers her head. As Burke bends so that his eyes are level with hers and leans closer toward her, a part of his shoulder and the side of his head become visible in the scene. Agitated by her unexpected visit and overwhelmed by the sight of her, his breath is not quite sufficient to support his voice as he says, "Hi baby." His deep, still-rough but very gentle intonation gives the phrase the sound of a caress. Pausing for a moment, he looks at her closely and pulls her eyes up to meet his own. Then he straightens and walks sideways toward the seats on either side of the partition as the little girl follows him. With a little hesitant twist of her mouth, Lisa says, " The Murphys brought me here." The camera goes back to Burke. Both cuffed hands press into the counter in front of him as he gives one short, sharp nod of his head, then looks at his daughter with absorbed concern. Uneasy and still a little breathless, he answers her, "Yeah." Burke glances away toward the door leading to the corridor where he assumes the Murphys' are waiting. He isn't sure why the couple brought Lisa to the prison, but looks in their direction as though trying to detect a deeper purpose behind their actions. The little girl sits down on her side of the partition as Burke turns back toward her. Once more engrossed by the sight of his daughter, he bends to slowly lower himself into the seat on his side, but pauses in his descent to look down at her. His chest and shoulders incline toward Lisa protectively, overshadowing her small figure to shield it. He stares at her intently and fills his eyes with her, his brows drawn slightly together into a worried frown, his mouth open to pull in a harsh breath. But beneath the anxiety, his face also projects a sense of such wonder at her presence - at her very existence - that his whole being seems taken over by that miracle, leaving no room for any other awareness. Finally, dragging in another sharp, gasping breath, he collapses onto the seat and lists weakly to one side, depleted by the overpowering experience of his child and his love for her. The focus moves to Lisa. With doubt and disbelief on her face and in her voice, she says, "Am I really going to live with them?"
The camera switches back to Burke. He sits with his cuffed hands in his lap, still leaning weakly to one side, his mouth open hesitantly on an answer he doesn't quite know how to phrase. Gazing at his daughter for a long moment with totally immersed concentration and tender compassion, Burke's own eyes grow troubled and mirror her distress. But he nervously takes in two short, faltering breaths and lifts his cuffed hands in a quick, indecisive, upward jerk, an ineffectual false start toward the ledge in front of him before he replies, "If they say yes." His voice sounds diffident and uncertain, taking on strength and purpose only as he pronounces the last word of his response. As he speaks, he drops his head steeply toward his clasped hands, regretting the turmoil he knows his words will cause Lisa and momentarily avoiding the look of confusion and dismay on her features. Then he determinedly positions his hands and forearms close to the screen, the manacles resounding with a purposeful clatter on the counter, inclines his head and shoulders towards her and resolutely raises his chin to look fully, openly into her face. His glance no longer passively consumed by her but rather actively reassuring her, Burke self-consciously attempts to assume the role of a supportive parent, to inspire Lisa with a confidence that he affects but is far from feeling. The focus goes back to Lisa. At first she lowers her eyes and fights back her tears, visibly confused by the swirl of sudden changes that have descended on her. Then, she looks up at her father with both doubt and trust apparent on her face and asks, "Is that what you want?"
The camera returns to Burke. His countenance is wholly engaged in the contemplation of his child. He crushes his lips together tightly as he witnesses her distress and feels it pierce his own soul. An anguished ridge creases his brow. The reflection of his daughter's suffering fills his eyes to overflowing and merges with his own biting sorrow. His intent solemn stare reaches out to her, nearly touches her with poignant empathy and a deep longing to console her. In the pause before he responds, he drops his gaze very slightly for a moment and merely allows the direction of his eyes to slip. But with that sinking glance, that little equivocation, he confesses the genuine answer to Lisa's question. What he really wants is to stay with her always, to never leave her, to look after her like a father in fact and not just in name. But that desire he can never attain. And at the thought of that deprivation, a mist of grief clouds his eyes, a soundless lament disengages his mouth and his face goes slack with a profound sense of loss. But drawing in a long, audible, sustaining breath, he raises his eyes to his daughter again and becomes absorbed once more in the sight of her face. A barely perceptible wince appears around his eyes and mouth just before he chokes out his reply. "They can take care of you," Burke assures her. Although the promise sounds strangled and clotted in his throat, he inclines his head toward her, making a slow nod of encouragement and persuasion as he emphasizes the word 'care'. Then, keeping his head lowered and tilted slightly to hold his daughter's gaze, Burke steadies his compassionate but nonetheless compelling eyes on hers. With that forthright stare, he wills her to understand the significance of his words and urges her to accept these new circumstances, but softens the sting with a look of such gentle kindness and consolation that blends with his own heartfelt regret at being forced to give her up.
The camera returns to Lisa. She bows her head and bites her lip as her sad, frightened tears threaten to overflow. Then gradually raising her head to look at her father as she speaks, she sobs, "I won't be their real daughter." The focus goes back to Burke. Fully open and intimately linked to his daughter's words, her tears, her feelings, he once more centers all his attention, his entire identity intently on watching and listening to Lisa. In that brief moment, as he drinks her in, assuages his spirit with the sight of her, marvels that she exists and is in fact his daughter, poignant awe and wonder illuminate his face. Both humble gratitude and overwhelming love for her glow in his gentle eyes, while the ghost of a smile barely tugs at the corners of his mouth. But he quickly forces himself to break off his awed observation of his daughter and shutters his eyes, first letting them sink, then pulling the eyelids down over them like shades. His eyes take on the full weight of her sadness and tears as they descend and become bleak, heavy and dull; his head falls abruptly towards his hands under the burden. As he briefly moistens his upper lip with the tip of his tongue, the light of wonder disappears from his face, replaced there by concentrated but reluctant obligation. He compresses his lips together tightly and strains to swallow against the obstruction that blocks his throat. Then, forcing himself to avoid looking into her tear-stained face, obliging himself to mouth the words that will deliver her to someone else's care, he says, "They need you." Burke expels a troubled, pent up breath along with the last word of his persuasion. The barest hint of a wince pulls up the corners of his mouth, while a fleeting recoil harries his brows and the edges of his eyes, revealing his anguish at the thought of giving up his daughter. The focus returns to Lisa. An expression of disbelief evident on her features, she steadily searches her father's face. In a voice that is little more than a whisper, she insists, "I'm your daughter."
The camera moves quickly back to Burke. Still avoiding his daughter's gaze, directing his head and eyes toward the counter below him, he endures her words like a wounding. He hardens his face, closes his eyes and clamps down on his mouth, pressing it into a taut, tense and thin scar to bear the pain her words convey and to stop himself from asserting his right to her. Turning his head away from her to look off toward the distance beside him, he struggles to control both his emotions and his response. His tormented eyes range over that space, searching for a way to answer her, searching for the strength to guide her attachment away from himself and toward those who will take his place. As that reply pushes at his closed lips, Burke's mouth moves spasmodically but produces no sound. Before he speaks, he clicks his tongue reluctantly against the roof of his mouth and draws in a sharp breath. His lips form around the first syllable of his remark but hesitate there, generating only air on words that bruise his heart before he pronounces them. Finally, keeping his head averted to avoid looking at her face, he stammers out, "Y-You're gonna need them." His voice falls despondently on the last word, giving it the tone of a lament. His frown deepens only minimally, but his eyes grow desolate as they foresee that time when he will be dead and his daughter will need the Murphy's help. The camera goes back to Lisa. Eyes distant and sorrowing, she shakes her bowed head repeatedly in denial and chews on her bottom lip. A deep sobbing breath escapes her before she finally raises her tear-filled, imploring eyes to her father, both questioning disbelief and a silent appeal for an explanation visible on her face. Her voice gradually fades to a breathy murmur as she says, "I wish you hadn't killed that girl."
The focus returns to Burke. He keeps his head deliberately averted from Lisa and stares steadily inside himself with bleak, haunted eyes, his sight captured by images of the vile, repugnant act he committed. Unable to withstand that sight for long, he lowers his eyes, moistens dry lips with his tongue and begins to turn his head away toward his other shoulder. Like an act of self-reproach or self-punishment, he compresses his mouth so tightly that he bites down on his lower lip, then lifts and rigidly contracts the muscles of his chin. Burke swings his head in a rapid arc to the opposite side as if to disavow the act of murder or at least to rid himself of the vision. But reaching the limit of its turn, his head drops. His eyelids fall closed while revulsion and self-disgust drag down the corners of his severely closed mouth. All the muscles of his face collapse and he is overcome with remorse. In that instant of stinging self-knowledge and in the presence of his child, Burke visibly assumes the responsibility for taking an innocent life. Not yet capable of looking into Lisa's face, Burke keeps his head and eyes lowered for a moment and tries to recover enough self-possession to make some response to Lisa while the shadow of a weak, shamed smile twitches at the sides of his mouth. Then he briefly raises his apprehensive, yet completely candid eyes to her and nervously moistens the corner of his mouth. But his eyes close again for an instant as his chest rises, then drops abruptly with a deep, anxious, audible breath that seems more like a sigh of futility. Once more Burke lifts his eyes to Lisa, this time revealing in them both unreserved confession of his guilt and sincere contrition for how his crime has affected her - laying open his soul and its stains to his daughter and appealing for her forgiveness through the medium of his eyes. For a moment, he tries to hold her searching glance but cannot do so. In the face of her silent, trusting request for some justification for his actions, Burke's culpability harasses him and makes him squirm with sharp discomfort. His eyes drop a fraction to a point just below her face, then shift away to one side but, as he lowers his head, drop even more steeply and shift again to the opposite side. He can find no words to either defend himself or console his daughter and so resorts to the rote phrase he uses to distract and cajole her, gently saying, "Baby, come on now." As he finishes speaking, he briefly closes his eyes with painful humiliation and regret and turns his head slightly away from her once more.
The camera quickly centers on Lisa's distraught and anxious face. With an urgent plea in her voice, she says, "I don't want you to die." The focus goes back to Burke. He stares intently at the empty space beneath him, a troubled frown creasing his brow. Despite the grim, enduring set of his mouth, his forlorn, tortured eyes betray a small, sharp point of fear as they reflect his daughter's distress and, at the same time, seem to witness in dread detail the execution that will bring about his death. But after his silent confession of guilt, Lisa's ardent wish for his survival, her undiminished love and concern for him and the unshaken loyalty in her voice serve as a form of absolution for Burke - and a benediction. As he raises first only his eyes and then his head to look at her, the light of that blessing seems to break over his countenance. His mouth softens almost imperceptibly, the shadow of a fond, grateful smile barely touching it and tugging at its corners. An expression of humbled awe at the full measure of forgiveness his daughter grants him passes over his features. His eyes cling urgently to her face and fill with his intense need and heartfelt gratitude for that forgiveness, as well as his tender devotion for his child. But the illumination lasts only a moment. As he lifts his head still higher, Burke's appearance becomes more adamant, his mouth turns firmer, his eyes grow more compelling, his frown deepens slightly. Without words, with only that unwavering glance and a just noticeable, yet insistent dip of his head, Burke informs his daughter that what she wants - what either of them wants - has no bearing on the implementation of his death sentence. Silently, he obliges her to accept the fact that he must die. Still, at the sound of her little gasp of disillusionment and shock, the signal that she understands his mute message, profound sorrow for Lisa once again softens Burke's eyes. And the father mourns more for his inability to give his daughter what she desires than for the impending loss of his own life. The focus returns to Lisa. Intolerable anxiety puckers her face into an entreaty. The tears pool in her eyes. Her voice rising in panic, then breaking with a gasping sigh, she says, "Daddy please! Don't leave me."
The camera goes back to Burke. Tension registers around his narrowed, taut, strained mouth, and a frown of deep concentration wrenches his brow. Once again, he observes his daughter with total absorption. Concern for her wipes away all vestiges of his own feelings. Eyes completely open to her, filling solely with her, he experiences her words, her tears, her dismay and takes her suffering into his own organism. But as his endurance quickly forsakes him, Burke closes his eyes against her torment and presses his lips into a tight band of anguish. In an agony of despair that he is powerless to comply with her frightened demand - that he cannot promise not to leave her - his head wavers weakly up and down in small helpless nods, like soundless keening or silent sobs. He squeezes his eyes tightly shut and contracts his brow into a deep seam as his whole facial structure spasms briefly with pain, before his head falls onto his chest. Head bowed, eyes closed, Burke pauses for a moment and lets his sorrow wash over him. Then, with a plaintive click of his tongue against the roof of his mouth, he relaxes the tense muscles in his jaw and lets his mouth fall open. Drawing in a ragged, rasping breath, he releases the crushing dejection that constricts his chest and nods his still-lowered head rhythmically to accompany his voice as he says, "I need you to be strong ..." On the word, 'strong', Burke dips his head in a slower, larger gesture of emphasis and finally opens his eyes, staring for a moment at the emptiness before him. He pauses and turns his gaze slightly away to the side, searching perhaps for that strength himself. But as he anticipates the exhausting ordeal that looms over both his daughter and himself, his face falls wearily and a disturbed, desolate cast appears in his eyes. With a blink and a deep frown, he tries to quickly dispel that foreknowledge. But his face retains an agonized expression as he finally lifts his head, looks directly at his daughter and goes on, " Lisa " When he speaks her name, his brows lift in supplication and his wide, earnest eyes, brimming with unshed tears, deliver both an exhortation and an urgent appeal to his child. At the same time, he inclines his head toward her and tilts it to one side, giving her a lateral nod that is also part assurance, part desperate plea. The focus changes to Lisa. She tilts her bowed head bravely in an effort to comply with her father's urging. But a tear balances on her cheek and drops to the counter below her as she raises her glance to him. Nonetheless, she makes another determined attempt to be valiant and purposefully firms her dejected mouth while her father's voice continues, " so strong " Trying to bolster his child's embryonic courage, to brace up her confidence, Burke intentionally deepens his tone - strengthens it and gives it more weight, conviction and resolve as he says the word 'strong'. The camera shifts to Burke. Where previously his face bore an almost tearful appeal, now his expression is purposely firm and insistent. His lowered brow knits into a deep, intense frown of determination; his mouth tenses with a concentrated effort to fortify his daughter's spirit. He compresses his lips so firmly that they almost disappear and increases this constriction on the initial sound of his significant closing phrase. " For both of us," he finishes. As he says the word, 'both', Burke nods his head deeply in his daughter's direction, encouraging her, empowering her, emphasizing her capacity to offer support to him in these last hours. During the pause that follows his request, he captures Lisa's gaze with his urgent but entirely honest stare and permits her to see both his need and his vulnerability. As he eases the tension in his face, his softly parted mouth looks wounded and tragic. At once insistent yet gently pleading, his eyes glimmer with the barest hint of brimming moisture and achingly poignant sadness. Then, inverting his bottom lip and hesitating for a moment, He takes an audible sustaining breath and calls up his own beleaguered reserves in his continuing effort to hearten his daughter.
Burke leans closer to the screen and to his child behind it, clasps her gaze securely to his own and tells her, "When you live, I live." His firm, warm, richly fluid voice declares the sentence with resonant precision. The certainty of his faith in this affirmation lights his features as he tries to impart that conviction to Lisa. The slightest trace of astonished joy fleetingly touches his mouth. Hope awakens in and animates his eyes. For, Lisa is his only hope to redeem his blighted life, to glean some value, some purpose from his troubled and depraved existence. Perhaps because he has obtained an opportunity for his daughter to escape a similarly doomed life, because he loves her so much - loves her in the highest sense of desiring only good for her - his memory, his spirit, will indeed live on and hold a cherished place in his daughter's heart. As he prepares to speak again, Burke takes several short, agitated breaths, his respiration hampered by his feelings of wonder at the thoughts that come to his lips. Shaking his head in amazement, he says, "I'm a part of you." For an instant Burke's eyes turn anxious and a little desperate, clinging to the sight of his daughter to reassure himself that this miracle is true. Then, his eyes growing wide and intense, his face becoming determined and almost fierce, he breathes in hoarsely and continues, "And they can " He lifts his chin and turns his head away to look toward the outer door and the passageway beyond it where the warden and guards also wait. His mouth closes firmly, the corners turning down in disgust and the lower lip jutting out belligerently and defiantly. As he pauses to contain the excess of emotion that surges in him, his eyes look, not so much angry as injured, melancholy and perhaps a bit frightened. After another grating breath Burke repeats, "they can " He turns his head rapidly back toward his daughter and locks his angled gaze onto hers. As tears barely glisten in the corners of his eyes, but catch prominently in his husky voice, he shakes his head in negation and finishes, " never take that away from us." For a moment his eyes seem to issue a challenge and warning to anyone who might try to sever his relationship with his child. But Burke maintains his stare steady, fixed and certain on his daughter and pledges his eternal bond with her, commanding her to believe and remember his avowal, impressing his words - and himself - into her memory.
The camera returns to Lisa. With tears spilling from her eyes and tracing down her cheeks, she sits behind the screen and looks directly at her father. But, her bottom lip begins to tremble, and she lowers her head, squeezes her eyes tightly shut and turns away from him. We hear Burke say, "So I want you to uh " As Lisa begins to cry in earnest now and audible sobs escape from her open mouth, her father's voice fails him, breaks in the middle of his command. He expels a pent-up breath on his last spoken word and seems to run out of both air and perseverance at the sound of her weeping. The camera moves back to Burke. Almost unable to endure the sight of his sobbing child, he needs a respite from his intense observation of Lisa and stares fixedly at the hollow space just below her. The lower half of his face appears rock hard, the upper lip clamped firmly closed, the chin and lower lip protruding slightly. But his eyes look distant, stark and tragic as he clenches his jaws tightly together, holds his emotions in check and tires to master his own grief. Finally, Burke elevates his eyes, the telltale brilliance glittering conspicuously at their corners, and looks at his daughter with empathy so intense that it lacerates him. He releases his jaw and opens his mouth for a strident breath. Then with a visible effort at control, he presses his lips together and pulls his chin grimly up towards them before he very briefly closes his eyes in agony. As he seeks her face again, his eyes lift quickly and fill with pain and anxiety, but his mouth looks as if he is goading himself to anger. Disengaging the muscles of his jaw and mouth with a soft click of his tongue, Burke blinks away the concern in his glance and fixes Lisa with an admonishing stare from beneath his lowered brows. Then nodding his head to underscore his words with gravity, he continues, " stop cryin' now." Although he pauses for a moment and sets his jaw resolutely, his mouth looks bruised and anguished. His eyes cannot maintain their cautioning stare, but fill again with sorrow and compassion and brim with brightness that threatens to overspill its boundaries. Burke draws in two short breaths that sound like convulsive sighs. Then, keeping time with the rhythm of his speech, he dips and raises his head to signal another stern warning and says, "You hear me?" The authority in that very parental, very overbearing question is completely undermined by the sorrowing break in his voice and the precarious glimmer in his eyes. Watching her for a long moment with a sidelong glance, his eyes hold deep sadness, but also a suggestion of something akin to fear as though her weeping somehow threatens him. He reacts to that threat by pressing his lips inward and barely narrowing eyes that turn slightly hostile. At the same time, he tilts his head almost unnoticeably like a little tic of helplessness and futility that signals his reluctance to unleash, but inability to restrain the emotion that seizes him. With no other warning Burke suddenly twists his face into a distorted grimace of contempt and fury. He frowns so hard that deep ridges appear between his brow and at the bridge of his nose. Pulling his lower lip up severely and thrusting it out, he turns the corners of his mouth down in disgust. He wrenches his chin inward and up toward his mouth so that the musculature around it creases and indents. His cheeks form deep notches on either side of a nose raised with repugnant force. As he scrunches up his eyes and closes them tightly, wrinkles of misery form in their outer corners and give that part of his face the appearance of a child who is about to utter a heartbroken cry. But rejecting his own sorrow and enraged at the grief that threatens to swamp him, Burke resorts to his conditioned reflex, his defense against the perceived weakness he despises, and relies on his anger to mask his vulnerability. He pounds the counter in front of him with a sharp, violent blow and demands through clenched teeth, "Don't cry!" Despite the hostility of his face and actions, his voice prolongs the sound of the word 'cry' as it quavers and throbs with suppressed mourning. Plainly, Burke directs the infuriated order as much to himself as to his daughter.
The camera centers on Lisa just as the echo of Burke's savage impact resounds. She catches her bottom lip between her teeth, lowers her head and turns away from him with a start. Obviously becoming more distressed by her father's outburst, she cries audibly, then whimpers and shakes her head in denial. Visible only from the back, Burke emits a strangled sound - a grunt of overflowing sadness that escapes from him without his consent - and chokes back both tears and the anger he wishes he could retract. Abruptly, his head falls low over his hands, then rebounds as his torso convulses with a latent sob. Crying without relief, Lisa squeezes her eyes shut and mournfully shakes her bowed head. At the same time, Burke leans on his elbows and straightens his hunched posture. In a very liquid and congested voice that he tries to disguise by feigning a quite casual tone, Burke effectively dismisses his daughter and bids her, "Go tell the Murphys that I want to talk to 'em." He lifts his head to look at Lisa only as he completes this instruction and sniffs back the remains of the unbidden moisture that clogs his speech. Lisa stares up at her father, unbelieving that he would ask her to leave without any further words of comfort, then forms her mouth into a little pout of resistance. But Burke nods his head briskly at her and urges gently, "Go on." Burke obviously feels on much safer ground assuming this role of parental authority and tending to the matter of Lisa's care. This stance puts him firmly back into the characteristically male model of protector and provider and allows him to conceal the helpless grief that he considers emasculating and that represents such a threat to him. But Lisa's need for consolation is too great to allow Burke to get away with this evasion.
The focus changes to include Burke seated on one side of the partitioning glass and Lisa, seen from behind, sitting on the other. Hands clasped tightly together on the ledge in front of him and leaning on his extended forearms and elbows, Burke earnestly inclines his body toward the screen and looks intently down at his daughter. With a small whimper, Lisa abruptly springs forward and presses her hands to the glass, frantically seeking some final connection with her father. An intense, slightly perplexed frown on his features and a bewildered cast to his partially open mouth, Burke directs his sight down at her hands and stares at them as if they were some foreign object whose function and meaning he could not comprehend. Almost imperceptibly, he lifts his head and leans back slightly, giving himself some figurative space from those hands. As he continues to regard them, his face and raised shoulders sink very slightly, while his expression reflects a trace of dismay and apprehension like a forewarning that those hands signify danger and could cause him great harm. The child moves her hands, aligns them directly over his folded ones on the other side of the counter and again presses them against the glass. Burke briefly closes his eyes and presses his lips together, internalizing the pain and pathos of her futile attempt to touch him, experiencing utter defeat that this barrier thwarts him from granting her the contact she so desperately needs. Then he opens his eyes, releases the constriction around his mouth and concentrates steadily on those small hands, willingly, patiently bearing the wounds they inflict on his heart. The camera proceeds to a close-up of Lisa. Tears pool in the hollows below her eyes as she looks down at her father's hands. With a small shuddering cry, then a louder gasp, she raises her gaze to his face. Her eyes overflow with tears, enlarge with the abject fear and loneliness of an abandoned child and silently plead for his help.
The focus returns to Burke on one side of the partition with a view of the child's back on the other. At the sight of Lisa's tearful, frightened entreaty, Burke presses his forearms heavily onto the ledge, rocks forward in his seat and tries to stand - to somehow bridge the distance between himself and his daughter. Brows tugged down, mouth pulled back into a grimace that looks like a cry of frustration, his face reflects angry disappointment at his failed attempt to rise and bitter defeat that his restraints keep him from getting near her. He rocks forward a second time and hauls himself clumsily up from the seat to soothe and support her with his closeness. Lifting his hands from the counter, he rounds his shoulders in an attitude of caring protection and strains toward her. His slightly open lips protrude and fold together softly with the same profound yearning and tenderness that transforms his entire face. His eyebrows draw together and elevate into an intense frown of anxiety and sympathetic concern as he narrows his vision and centers it solely on her hands. Finally, he places his own manacled hands opposite hers on the glass and inclines his chest closer to the partition, using his body in a vain attempt to surmount the barrier between them. But the glass obstruction allows them no closer proximity. And so, purposely but gently firming his lips in an effort to reach her with his thoughts, if not his actual touch, Burke longingly contemplates his daughter's hands with deeply cherishing love. But Lisa, frightened and still desperate for contact with her father, repositions one hand more closely against his on the other side of the screen. As Burke observes that small movement of his child's hand, another stab of pain seizes him. He opens his mouth and inhales sharply through his nose to hold back the insidious moisture that springs to his eyes. Bending his head slightly lower over Lisa's hands, he tries to shift his own chained hands closer to hers, but frowns heavily in annoyance and pulls his mouth back from gritted teeth in a grimace of frustration at his fettered awkwardness. With a loudly expelled breath - an impatient huff of exasperation at the impediments that hamper him from consoling Lisa with a last caress - Burke arranges his open, gracefully curved fingers over the area where Lisa's hands rest on the glass and symbolically enfolds them within his own.
The camera returns to a close-up of Lisa. She stands up from her seat and brings her face close to the glass partition. Eyes wide and urgent, full and swollen with tears, she looks earnestly at her father, presses her palm to the glass and tells him, "I love you, Daddy." Alternately dropping her head and squeezing her eyes shut as the tears overcome her, then raising her heartbroken glance to her father's face, she strokes the glass twice with her hand as if she were petting her father's shoulder, extending comfort to him despite her own misery. The camera goes back to Burke. He stands with his shoulders raised and hunched tensely, his head bent down so that it is even with his daughter's forehead. Eyes softly shut beneath a brow dragged down in torment, mouth closed and gently pulled into a travesty of a smile, his face is transformed into a frozen mask of unendurable pain. As he bends his head lower, that mask cracks and crumbles into a deafeningly silent cry of mourning. The torment on his brow now cuts a deep horizontal scar into the space above the bridge of his nose. He squeezes his eyes so tightly closed that tortured creases appear at the outer corners and extend back toward the sides of his head. His cheek muscles carve brackets of agony on either side of a mouth stretched painfully wide by that contorted, suffering smile. As his head descends still lower, the anguished tension of his mouth and cheeks eases for an instant like a breath that gathers momentum, but then constricts the facial muscles even more tightly in a soundless lamentation. Now his head falls helplessly onto his chest, while three inarticulate sobs convulse his throat and distend it with entrapped despair but never escape. Finally he bows his head to the level of his daughter's hands which still rest on the other side of the glass, and the mute sobs wrack his body with tremors of grief and remorse. Humbled and contrite, he prostrates himself in front of Lisa and pours a paroxysm of sorrow and regret into her hands.
[This moment when Burke gave full and open expression to his pain, grief and remorse - remorse equated with contrition, i.e. sincere sorrow for his offense because of its inherent evil accompanied by the determination to reform himself - became the moment of redemption for Burke. In two instances during this agonizing visit, his daughter Lisa had expressed completely unqualified love for him. More importantly, the timing of these professions came after Burke had shown her a glimpse into those corners of his soul that were vile and repulsive. He tacitly admitted to Lisa (by facial expression and guilty silence) full responsibility for taking an innocent life, but she was still able to tell him, 'I don't want you to die.' He directed his explosive and unreasonable rage at her when she was emotionally fragile to the point of breaking, but she could still tell him, 'I love you.' Gently insistent, the child would not let him avoid seeing that she loved him unconditionally, that she valued and saw worth in him regardless of the heinous blotches on his soul.
Lisa's love is what finally shattered the walls of bitterness, hatred and rage that Burke had erected. Those barriers of resentment had cut him off from his own spirit, allowed him to disconnect from any humane or gentle feelings and prevented him from expressing his grief over the wounds he endured as a child. Those closed-off, covered-over wounds, kept hidden even from himself in a dark, shrouded space in his psyche, had festered, become putrid and poisoned his soul. In the face of his depravity, Lisa's willingness to bestow on him the absolute love and acceptance he had desired so intensely but had never received exposed his crippling wounds to the light. Often it is only when one receives what has been so painfully lacking and so desperately needed that the ache of deprivation comes sharply to the surface. The racking sorrow that his daughter's profession of love wrested from Burke laid bare those lacerations on his soul, debrided the wounds and began the process of healing.]
The focus returns to Lisa. Tears stream from her eyes and nose. For a moment the sight of her father who stands before her weeping inconsolably, silences the sound of her crying. Stunned, she looks at him with wide-eyed, open-mouthed dismay. Then with a small gasp, she takes an apprehensive step back from the screen. As she tilts her head to the side, a look of compassion for her father overcomes her and she cries heartbrokenly for what she must accept is their last encounter. The camera focuses on Burke from behind Lisa and the opposite side of the partition. He stands with head bowed, shoulders raised and hunched forward, cuffed hands pressed into the counter in front of him. Breathing heavily, he is lost in an outpouring of anguish, unable to control the surge of pent-up tears. The camera pans laterally as Lisa takes a few steps away from the screen and then stops to look up at her shattered father. She reaches the door that leads to the guards' area outside the visitation room and turns back to Burke once more. But when there is no response from him, she bites her bottom lip as the forsaken tears contort her features, lowers her head dejectedly and walks through the door that the guard holds open.
The focus returns to a close-up of Burke, still immersed in his private suffering. His deeply bowed head nods brokenly on his neck. He inhales a long abrasive breath that seems more like a spasm of despair, then breathes out heavily. But hearing the door to the visitor's area close with appalling finality on his daughter, he raises his head sharply and turns it toward the sound as his eyes grow wide with panic. Lifting and wrenching his brows together anxiously, he moves his head toward the door and his daughter's retreating back. Agonized longing replaces the panic in his eyes. His partially opened mouth pulls back in a wordless shout of protest. With a fluid movement, he turns his head farther toward the door, his shoulders crouched and inclined forward, already propelling him toward his daughter. A look of pure determination closes and firms his mouth, while his eyes narrow slightly with resolve and train single-mindedly on Lisa as if to urge the rest of him toward her. The focus returns to Lisa, as she advances several slow steps further into the guards' area and moves closer to the outer door.
The camera shifts quickly back to Burke. He moves with forced and awkward speed toward the far end of his side of the visitor's room where a wire enclosure adjoins the guards' area and allows him one last connection with Lisa. Brows lowered and frowning, eyes scrunched up with exertion, tongue pressed out between his tensely constricted lips, his contorted facial expressions not only disclose his struggle to run in the restraints but also goad his clumsy body to greater speed. As he watches his daughter move closer to the outer door, his mouth opens in anxious disbelief and a look of desolation overtakes his features. But intensifying his endeavors, he turns his shoulders to squarely face the area where she is walking, lowers his body into a deep crouch and lunges forward. Eyes squeezed into taut, narrow slits, he clenches his jaws together with his furious effort and snatches in labored, agitated breaths through lips that open and pull back from his teeth in a frenzied grimace. Keeping his sight clasped to Lisa's departing figure, he stumbles closer to the far end of the enclosure. Briefly, the muscle tension in his features goes slack to reveal an expression of heartrending distress. Unbearable anxiety bruises his eyes. His mouth sags on a harsh breath that looks like a desolate wail. But as he approaches the wire, his eyes become intent and turn panicky again, silently beckon to her and beseech her to stop, while his mouth opens a little more for a summoning call and another strained breath. Heedless of the barrier, Burke looks as though he intends to break through it to reach his daughter, as though it halts him unaware. He nearly throws himself onto the enclosure and presses his chest, shoulders, face and mouth against the wire. His head and neck bend back at an awkward angle, and his eyes close briefly with the impact. Crushed against the wire cage, he calls out to her but expels only a difficult breath on his first attempt, "Buh " He tries again and brings out the word softly, from deep in his chest like a groan or a cry of the heart, " Baby." The focus returns to Lisa. She glances up at her father hesitantly, her eyes red-rimmed from weeping, her face stretched into a grimace of anguish. Turning to face him, she drops her chin briefly, raises her eyes to him and bravely, resolutely crushes her lips together to hold back her tears.
The camera returns to Burke. Face still flattened against the wire, head and neck bent back uncomfortably, Burke looks down on his daughter and fills his eyes with her image, memorizing the details of her face to recall throughout eternity, but yearning hopelessly for closer communion and still more time with her. Taking short, narrow gasps of air through his slightly parted lips, he drinks in the vision of his child with his breath as well as his sight. As he withdraws only a small space from the screen, he straightens his neck and begins to lower his head but keeps his gaze constantly on the little girl. For a moment, his eyes turn anxious and aching again, mirroring his regret for the years of missed opportunities to say these intended words to his daughter and his grief that he will never be able to say them to her again. But as he lowers his head still more and softly closes his lips, he steadies his gaze on Lisa, looks directly at her with eyes that are gentle, tender and intent all at once and wordlessly communicates to her his deep and enduring love. Moving a little closer to the screen, he swallows lightly to get beyond an almost diffident hesitation and tentatively dips his head to assure Lisa that this deeply felt avowal comes from his heart. As the mist of sorrow in the corners of his eyes catches and refracts the light, he lifts his head slightly and says, "I love you." Higher in pitch, lighter in tone and almost childlike, his voice wavers with insecurity but nonetheless throbs with warmth and love. His inflection rises almost imperceptibly at the end of the phrase and gives his pledge a hesitant, uncertain quality - an indication that this is the first time Burke has ever uttered these words, a disclosure that he is not just unsure how to express them, but even more unsure how his child will accept them. And just as he finishes speaking, a shiver of pain traces over his intensely lowered brows, his parted lips ache with an unattainable yearning to stay with his daughter and his deeply sad eyes reflect an anxious plea for Lisa to receive and remember his love.
The camera goes back to Lisa. Looking at her father for the last time, she holds her lips together resolutely to dam up the tears that pinch and redden her eyes. But as the sadness bursts out and contorts her face, she whimpers softly and turns partially away from him. With a gasping sigh, she reverses direction and faces him again for a last glance, then closes her eyes despondently, turns her back to him and walks through the outer door. The camera returns to Burke. He watches unblinking as his daughter leaves the room, unmistakable love and deep longing, tinged with futility, evident in his eyes. His firmly closed mouth and pliant lips bespeak cruel suffering that he patiently endures. In order to prolong his last glimpse of Lisa, Burke willingly withstands the anguish of seeing her walk away. But once her image has disappeared, he lowers his head and numbing sadness extinguishes the very life from his eyes, leaving them dead, dull and empty. The intense pain of her loss hits him like a physical blow, tilts his torso back, then jolts his head up and snaps it back on his neck and finally staggers his body backward onto his heels. Regaining his balance and lowering his head, he drops his gaze steeply downward. A soundless moan whispers past his slightly eased mouth. Desolation ravages his heavy-lidded eyes that seem to foresee an eternity spent without Lisa. But he brings his lips firmly together again in that shape of submissive endurance, lowers his brows into an agonized frown and closes his eyes in torment. Almost unnoticeably, his top lip curls upward with a suggestion of nausea. He turns his head and shoulders away toward the side, as his head falls backward again and sickening grief turns up the corners of his mouth. Compressing his eyes so tightly that creases score their outer corners and stretching his firmly closed mouth wide, he contracts his facial muscles convulsively, bends sharply forward and heaves up his grief with a totally silent shriek of desperation. As the scene ends, Burke turns his back to the enclosure and bows his head.
With Victim's Parents
The scene begins as the door to the visitor's area of the deathwatch section opens and the guards admit Connie and Jack Murphy. Lisa Burke has just told them that her father wishes to speak to them. Lingering scarcely inside the closed door, the Murphys appear reluctant to either stray too far from their means of exit or get too close to the man who will be executed in a few hours for the murder of their daughter, Jenny. Only a part of Burke's shoulder and upper arm are visible in the scene. He begins to address the Murphys in a very hesitant tone, "I " Running out of breath and courage at the same time, he suddenly breaks off speaking and pauses uncertainly as if to reinforce his nerve and select his words with care. The camera switches to Burke, standing at the end of the screened enclosure that is closest to the outer door. He half-leans against one of the steel braces and angles his body so that he turns partially away from the couple. His face looks uneasy and worried, his eyes urgent, almost fearful. He avoids eye contact with the Murphys and stares with bowed head and lowered eyes at the emptiness beneath him. Visibly restless, Burke turns his head toward the steel support of the enclosure and glances quickly off to the side, then lets his eyes slip back to their lowered outlook. Transferring his weight with a nervous lurch from one foot to the other, he momentarily straightens his body slightly and lifts his eyes a little higher, then jerkily shifts himself back again to settle in his original position and drops his head and eyes once more. As Burke executes this series of agitated movements, he continues haltingly, "I wanted to, uh " He stops abruptly and pauses in uncomfortable silence. Anxiously, he lifts his eyes and looks into the distance, then shifts his gaze first to the side opposite the Murphys, then back toward the couple again and finally aims his sight very low. Closing his mouth firmly, he swallows his apprehension with audible and forced difficulty, inhales a strained, unsettled breath, and at length concludes, " thank you for bringing Lisa." As Burke says 'thank you', his eyes barely, briefly elevate toward the Murphys before they instantly slide away and lower again without ever actually reaching the couple. But at the mention of his daughter's name, Burke's expression turns plaintive, sorrow haunts his eyes and his mouth is marred by pain. Both the vibrating intensity of his voice and his flustered, fretful movements indicate the depth of his gratitude to the Murphys and the profound emotions that still disturb him after that final meeting with his child. But Burke is also plainly disconcerted and uneasy. Stripped of his familiar, protective hostility, he doesn't know what to say or how to approach these people, yet he clumsily tries to acknowledge their kindness. The focus returns to the Murphys who watch Burke steadily and with some sympathy. Burke's faltering but genuine expression of gratitude appears to affect and bewilder Jack Murphy, and so it is Connie who responds. "You're welcome," she says, quietly but sincerely. At a loss for any further words, she lowers first her eyes, then her head and discontinues her scrutiny of Burke.
The camera proceeds to Burke who still leans against the metal framing, partly averted from the Murphys. A slight troubled frown nags at his brow. His steeply lowered eyes look stark and anxious as they remain fixed on vacant space. His partially opened mouth still bears the imprint of anguish and hurt. Burke quickly lifts his head and for the first time in this meeting, looks fully at the couple for just a moment before his eyes again slide away to the side. As he takes in a sharp preliminary breath, his face shows open, honest concern and his lips part to form what promises to be candid communication with the Murphys. But, visibly thwarting that candor with pretense, he hastily moistens his lips with the tip of his tongue, turns his head nearly over his front shoulder and replaces that concern with his habitual guise of indifference. With no pause, he turns his head back toward the couple, drops his eyes abruptly and grabs a quick uneasy breath before he asks, "My mother gonna live?" Burke tosses the question out as if he is discarding it. His flat, perfunctory inflection invests the query with very little significance, suggesting that he doesn't care one way or the other what the reply might be. Yet almost before the sound of the last word fully escapes his lips, Burke clamps his mouth tightly closed as if he were trying to impede the possibility of his mother dying from reaching his full consciousness. His saddened, anxious eyes widen with a touch of fear for his mother and stare unseeing toward the floor.
The focus returns to the Murphys. Connie turns to look doubtfully at her husband, then drops her head and finally raises just her eyes to Burke. Jack Murphy begins to respond, then glances at his wife and likewise drops his gaze. Obviously distressed over how to answer Burke's question, Murphy shakes his head in denial, walks a few steps closer to the enclosure and says, "They don't think so." The camera goes back to Burke. His face looks stricken and stunned. A bruised, injured look shapes his partially open mouth, giving him the appearance of a man who has just sustained a physical blow. His hollow, somber eyes search Murphy's face for merely an instant, seeking to comprehend the meaning of the man's words - a meaning that Burke cannot quite grasp. But at once, the awareness that his mother's death is probably very close hits Burke like another jolt and his eyes shutter closed with the impact. Burke's capacity to finally feel this sorrow for his dying mother is a measure of the healing that has begun to take place in his soul. Had it not been for the violence that was committed against both of them, this mother and son might have been able to truly connect with one another and establish a close relationship. But now, Burke can only mourn the absence of that intimate maternal bond as he contemplates his mother's impending death.
However, Burke cannot reflect about his mother for very long because concern for Lisa and awareness of her immediate need for a guardian quickly take precedence in his thoughts. His eyes go distant for a second, and his lips pull back in a very slight, hesitant twitch. Preparing himself to do what must be done for his daughter, he inhales a shallow breath that rasps in his throat, blinks deliberately once and raises his eyes to look straightforwardly at Murphy. At the same time, he pushes his body away from the metal frame and begins to turn toward the man, while his head and shoulders lag slightly behind his movements and incline backwards, betraying Burke's reluctance to confront this crucial moment. Nonetheless, holding the man's gaze steadily, Burke brings his body around to fully face Murphy for the first time, shifts his weight from one side to the other and plants his feet firmly in a solid resolute stance. His mouth already open in anticipation of his first word, Burke waits for a brief interval, then says, "I don't want " He falters apprehensively and breaks off his statement to take a tense, superficial breath. With that breath, his eyes grow earnest and urgent, widen with his intense effort to secure Murphy's cooperation. But as Burke considers the completion of his splintered statement and the terrible event it calls to mind, a glint of fear reflects deep in his eyes and a horrified contour turns down the corners of his parted lips. Finally, as his voice gradually falls in a deep, quiet decrescendo, his intonation growing more fatalistic and spiritless with each word as if his life-energy were already fading, Burke concludes, " Lisa there at the end." With a completely open and unguarded expression on his face and direct, honest entreaty in his eyes, Burke observes Murphy steadily and puts himself and his daughter at the other man's mercy.
The focus returns to the Murphys. Jack Murphy continues to watch Burke with reluctant compassion. But at this reference to Burke's imminent execution, Connie first declines her head, then lifts only her eyes to Burke as he continues to speak. The metallic clank of his manacles rattles against the wire barrier, then Burke's voice which sounds anxiously higher in pitch, winded and unsupported by his constricted, agitated breath says, "I was " The camera centers on a close-up of Burke, still staring intently at Jack Murphy, both of his cuffed hands raised to the wire barrier. Nervously dampening his dry lips with his tongue, he thrusts the fingers of one hand through the holes of the screen like a gesture of supplication, entwines them around the wires and grips them tightly. Burke suspends eye contact with Murphy for an instant with an earnest, troubled blink, then grabs another taut breath from the back of his throat and shifts his weight to move even closer to the screen, seeking more immediate contact, more explicit communication with the man. As he attempts to go on, Burke's lips round to fashion the initial '0' of his next word but extend slightly away from that shape for another quick, nervous breath, hesitant to articulate the concept of 'hope' that will continue his broken phrase. His eyes burn into Murphy's, become large, bright, compelling and intense with fervent but fearful anticipation, and at last he continues, " hopin' that you would talk " Delaying briefly to gather momentum, Burke's mouth remains open on the continuation of his sentence, a small worried frown on his brow. His impassioned, insistent eyes implore Murphy for help but also dilate with apprehension that the man will refuse. The fingers of one hand fall away from the wire barrier and fold over to rest on the back of the hand that still curls around the screen as Burke persists, " to her, you - you could " Anxiety and doubt once again halt his speech, and his mouth lingers open uncertainly. Dismay and horror surge to a crest in his eyes, as he suffers within himself the trauma his child will undergo because of his execution and encounters his own terror of the ultimate unknown experience of dying.
Burke momentarily drops the lids over his eyes to clear away the dread, then sucks in a forced, hurried breath through his open mouth and proceeds, " s " That is all he manages before his resolve and his confidence fail him. All of Burke's hopes and aspirations for his daughter depend on Murphy's reply, a reply that Burke knows will be irrevocable because time has run out on any further opportunities for Burke to persuade the man. Conditioned by his life circumstances to expect only refusal and rejection when he openly discloses his needs, Burke is extremely hesitant to put this decisive request into words and almost afraid to hear Murphy's answer. But for Lisa's sake, Burke perseveres. He clasps his mouth shut and slightly dips his chin in order to choke down the lump of apprehension in his dry throat. Some of the alarm recedes from his eyes, but they remain direct, earnest and intense, urging - almost commanding - Murphy to understand that his consent to Burke's request is essential. Finally, he stammers his conclusion, " s - stay with her." Burke's voice gentles so appreciably as he refers to his daughter that the word 'her' sounds more like an endearment. Eyes wide, urgent and pleading again, a breath suspended on his parted lips, Burke's face reflects equal parts uncertainty, hope and fear as he awaits the response to this question that is more important to him than his own life. For, Burke is actually asking Murphy whether he and his wife will agree to take Lisa not only into their home but into their affections and (Burke profoundly hopes) grow to cherish her. The camera goes back to the Murphys. As Connie Murphy braids her hands together uncomfortably, she turns her eyes aside to glance at her husband, then lowers them toward the floor. For a long moment, Jack Murphy remains frozen in place and stares at Burke with obvious empathy. He appears bewildered and slightly dazed by Burke's apprehensive but compelling entreaty and mesmerized by the intensity of Burke's eyes. Softly, without much conviction, Murphy replies, "Okay."
The focus quickly returns to Burke. He stands exactly as before, watching Murphy expectantly, one hand gripping the wire screen. His face too remains unchanged, his lips still parted in suspense, his expression still intent and candid. His eyes, however, are subtly different. Warmed by genuine, unstinting, full-hearted gratitude, they communicate deep appreciation to Murphy as explicitly as a spoken acknowledgment. Then almost immediately, Burke's previous uncertainty disappears. Like a firm handshake of agreement, he snaps his head up and down in two vigorous, precise nods of assent, at the same time solidifying his jaw, securing his lips and abbreviating the width of his mouth into a staunch, stalwart countenance. Burke's frank, assured eyes kindle with intensity that is almost fierce and capture Murphy's gaze with a bracing look that is meant to encourage and strengthen the other man's decision. Burke's whole manner graphically urges Murphy to become protector and provider for Lisa, visually tells him, 'Be strong for my daughter. Let her lean on you. Help her find her own strength.' And a subtle light of kinship appears in Burke's eyes as he almost visibly transfers the care and keeping of his child, the title of 'Lisa's father' and the privilege of that unique and extraordinary attachment that exists between father and daughter to Murphy. At last, Burke stretches and elongates the corners of his mouth and presses his lips resolutely inward, forming an almost-smile, another gesture to fortify Murphy's determination. But a little of the force and energy goes out of Burke's intense stare, and his eyes become blunted now by sorrow and loss. The camera returns to the Murphys. Unsure of whether or not the interview is over, Jack Murphy turns indecisively toward his wife. They glance at each other for a brief, uncomfortable moment before Jack turns his head to look quickly back at Burke once more. Then they both begin to walk toward the outer door to summon the guards.
Only Burke's shoulder is visible in the scene. He quietly calls out to the woman in a tone that is noticeably mild, courteous and almost respectful, "Mrs. Murphy." Both Connie and Jack halt in mid-stride and turn back to look at Burke questioningly. The camera switches to Burke, standing in the same position, one hand still intertwined around the wire screen to maintain figurative contact with the woman. As Burke looks at Connie, total candor blended with nervous insecurity give his features a younger, more naοve appearance. An expression of worried expectancy softly parts his lips that poise on the edge of his interrupted breath. Gentle but unwavering, regretful but determined and slightly distended by a hint of alarm, his eyes fix solely on Connie in wordless, intent communication. As he firmly presses his lips together, his shoulders barely rise, then fall with an exhaled breath - a rueful, silent hum to relieve the tightness in his gut. He loosens the tension of his grip and uncurls his fingers from the wires as angry red imprints appear low on the undersides of his knuckles, then leans back from the screen and lets his hand drop away. At the same time, the muscles of his face fall and go slack with repugnance and resignation, and an inescapable dread that he badly wants to evade but must reluctantly confront. His steady gaze falls from her face, his pupils first dropping slightly, then lowering again as the lids shutter briefly over them. Burdened by guilt and remorse, his eyes turn flat, blank and dead. Taking a step back from the barrier, he releases the tension around his mouth. His closed lips slacken into a mournful shape, then separate on a fortifying breath that looks like a groan of anguish. Fleetingly, a distant, tortured expression troubles his eyes as he prepares to fulfill the most excruciatingly difficult obligation of his life: the attempt to make some reparation to Connie, wholly inadequate though it may be, in the only way left to him. Burke cannot give the woman's child back to her, but he can help her reach some sort of closure by describing the last minutes of her daughter's life and the murder he committed to end it. At length, Burke raises his gaze to Connie with naked honesty and an air of heavyhearted surrender in his completely unguarded face. Self-reproach and suffering bruise his mouth which opens to speak words that ultimately refuse to resound. Still, his deeply pained, slightly fearful eyes bear the implication of an anxious request, a mute beckoning for Connie to follow him as he steps to the side and begins to turn toward the visitor's bench. The focus goes back to the Murphys. They both look at Burke with uncertainty and start to follow him further into the visitor's room. Connie Murphy turns to her husband, nods her head reassuringly and says, "It's okay." Murphy looks at his wife for a moment, then also gives one brief nod of agreement. Clearly perplexed, he half-heartedly raises his arm in her direction as if to call her back, but signals an okay with his head and turns away. The scene ends as Connie moves out of the shot, following Burke to the row of visitors' cubicles, while her husband walks to the outer door, taps on the glass and searches for a guard to let him out.
With Victim's Mother II/Murder
This scene proceeds directly from the previous section and opens on Burke seated behind the glass partition at one of the visitor's cubicles. The camera focuses on an austere profile of his upper body. Burke's humble, dejected posture vividly betrays his frame of mind as he waits for Connie to follow him to the visitor's bench. Eyes closed in anguish, head dropped low over his chest, body hunched forward, forearms resting on his lap, cuffed hands suspended loosely between his thighs, he appears crushed under the weight of his own guilt and overwhelmed by the oppressive task that lies before him. With a smooth, fluid motion, he slowly and incrementally elevates his head and aligns it above his spine, his movements describing the despair and dread that oppress his spirit as he reluctantly forces himself to face this ordeal. The instant he sees Connie approach the counter, Burke pulls up in mild dismay as if the woman had unexpectedly caught him in an unprotected position. His chin raises a bit, his head lurches slightly backward and his spine straightens a little more. Thereafter, as he watches her walk toward him, his stare turns vigilant and his face becomes alert and wary.
The camera shifts to the opposite side of the partition and focuses on the window beside it. Connie Murphy walks slowly into the scene and moves closer to the dividing glass, as we hear Burke tell her, "I know why you came here today." His voice bears no hint of the doubt, supplication or fervor that characterized his tone during the preceding dialogue with the Murphys, but sounds blunt and flat, sternly held in check and completely disconnected from any emotion. His shrewd, penetrating tone leaves no doubt that Burke intends to control this interchange. His inflection drops off steeply at the end, causing the declaration to hang like a portent that Burke knows something hidden and significant about Connie and dangle like a promise that he will tell her what he perceives. Heeding the warning in his tone, Connie stands motionless before Burke, inhales deeply and steels herself for what she now also knows will be an ordeal. The camera switches to the prisoners' side of the glass screen and a closer view of Burke in strict profile. His watchful, unwavering eye focuses intently on Connie and pledges a grim, wordless vow of unconditional honesty. Distaste for the endeavor ahead of him turns down the corner of his mouth, while a trace of enmity curls his upper lip as if he were facing an adversary instead of a duty. Nonetheless, his resolute chin and firm mouth exhibit a lack of tension, revealing instead an uncompromising determination to endure. His expression discloses no emotion, no pretense, no shield, but rather radiates self-contained fortitude, utter stillness, almost peacefulness, now that this moment of truth is upon him. All in one piece, his head and neck move just barely backward like a signal for her to bring on her worst, and he asks, "What do you wanna know?" The curt, clipped, belligerent tone of his voice is Burke's only concession to the abhorrence he feels at confessing the details of her daughter's murder to Connie. From behind Burke's back, the camera focuses on Connie standing at the screen and facing him squarely. She drops her head and ponders for a long moment, her mouth working soundlessly as she strengthens her determination before she quietly asks, "Did you talk to her?"
The focus proceeds to a flash back of a younger Burke seated in a parked convertible, his head turned in the direction of his right shoulder, his eyes shifted far over toward the sidewalk parallel to the passenger side of the car. As he stares at the girl who approaches off camera, his wide and dilated eyes swell with exhilarated, feverish arousal. The merest suggestion of a nasty, calculating leer warps his barely parted lips. Describing a semicircle with his body, he leans diagonally forward, then presses back into the seat behind him and sharply lifts himself up straighter. At the same time, he raises his chin a little while his eyes expand still more with a dangerous, predatory glint that registers his heightened interest and identifies a potential victim. He delays for only a fraction of a second before he allows that menacing light to fade from his stare and effects a genial, disarmingly crooked smile. Calculating his casual, jaunty tone to contain just the right amount of friendly reassurance and just the right amount of playful flirtation, he calls out, "Hey! Ya' need a lift?" As he makes his invitation, Burke leans on the steering wheel with one arm and lightly sways in a narrow diagonal arc forward toward the girl, then back toward the interior of the car as if he were urging her to come inside. He accompanies his last word with a slow, deliberate blink that is intended to conceal, but that doesn't quite extinguish any trace of dangerous intensity in his eyes. Finally, he composes his face into an ingenuous, affable, nonchalant mask, his mouth lingering slightly open, like a congenial, easygoing query that coaxes the girl to accept. The camera centers on the pretty teenager walking down the sidewalk. She takes a few steps closer to Burke's car, but stops and looks doubtfully over her shoulder, back toward the route she has just walked. Making up her mind, she nods her head and says, "Yeah," then reaches for the car door with a hesitant smile.
The camera reverts to Connie at the prison. Struggling with her words and her emotions, she continues her interrogation of Burke, "Did you plan on killing her?" The focus returns to the flash back of Connie's daughter. The young girl once again glances back over her shoulder, then lifts her eyes briefly and uncertainly toward Burke. As she opens the car door, Burke's very deep, subdued, sepulchral voice, arising from the darkest recesses of his shame, declares in answer to Connie's question, "I didn't have anything planned." The girl begins to move into the car while the camera resolves on a close, unrelieved profile of Burke. Now that the girl is actually responding to his overture, he diligently avoids looking at her and stares straight ahead of him in the direction of the front windshield, incredulous that she bends so easily to his will. Making no movement that might startle her or cause her to change her mind, he sits absolutely motionless, forcefully containing his intolerably anxious anticipation and nearly suspending his breath as he waits for her to get in the car. His undeviating, sightless eye centers solely within himself, watching intently, heeding visions and voices only he can perceive with an absorption that appears hypnotized, obsessed and quite insane. The depraved impulse to brutalize her takes on its own persona, whispers unspeakable things to him that cause his slack, torpid mouth to open slightly in shock. The part of him that wants to satisfy those overpowering urges wills her to proceed into the car; the part of him that abhors and shrinks from those appetites hopes she will turn and run. He waits paralyzed as if the decision to harm or not to harm her will be made for him by what the girl does next. When the blurry image of the girl's coat appears in the scene, nothing but Burke's eye moves, slipping surreptitiously down and toward her as she steps into the car. As she settles into the seat beside him, Burke's head bounces backward a little, recoiling along with the seat from her added weight. In a voiceover, Connie asks Burke, "When did you decide," and the car door slams. The camera pans to a close profile of the girl. She waits for just an instant, then turns her head toward Burke whose image is hazy and out of focus. With an angled, sidelong look, Burke slowly turns and stares at the girl possessively. As his head wavers gently up and down with the thrum of the car's motor, he raises his chin and draws himself straighter, his eyes growing large, wild and bright with wicked elation, his ego becoming intoxicated by the power and control he holds over her. A phantom smile, at once smug, voracious and menacing, haunts his mouth. He drops his chin and tilts his head to search out her eyes, claiming his conquest, inspecting his trophy, seeking to feed on her helplessness and blossoming fear. Meanwhile, Burke's quiet, dismal, very low-pitched voice answers Connie's question, "There was no decision." Burke stares at the girl with that proprietary, suggestive look for so long that she becomes apprehensive and turns away. The camera travels to the hood of the car as it speeds into the night.
The focus returns to Connie at the visitor's screen. She takes a long, troubled breath, struggling with her own incomprehension, with her need to get conclusive answers from Burke, and begins, "D - " She interrupts her inquiry with a frustrated exhalation. Dropping her eyes, then raising them to Burke's face, she steps close to the glass and continues, " - did she do anything to " The camera reverts to the flashback scene and a close-up of Burke driving the car. Glittering like pieces of obsidian, his cold, hard, merciless eyes stare absently at the road, but look preoccupied, obsessed and fixated on the internal monologue that impels him to use the girl as a receptacle for his rage. The grim, implacably cruel face and narrow, adamant, angry mouth disclose beyond any doubt that Burke is irretrievably lost within his own hatred. The camera pans to the girl. Terror and panic rising with every turn of her eyes, she looks through the front windshield at the landscape passing by the car first on Burke's side, then on her own side and finally turns her head to glance out over the passenger door. At the same time, Connie's voice rises in a dismayed plea and finishes her question to Burke, " to provoke you?"
The camera goes back to Burke in prison. His face has undergone a marked transformation from the disciplined, determined appearance he adopted when he began describing the murder to Connie. Consumed by the details he relates to the woman, haunted by the memory of that night, he stares straight ahead of him with a vacant, abstracted, trance-like gaze. His slack, pliant lips separate distractedly in an unconscious manifestation of remorse and incomprehension. His brow contracts into a perplexed frown over eyes that appear heavy and weighed down with bewildered guilt. In a deep, hushed, hollow voice, talking more to himself than to the woman - trying to explain his unfathomable brutality to himself instead of to Connie - Burke answers, "She wanted to get out." As he begins to speak, his frown deepens and his eyes dull with pain. But when he says the word 'out', he lifts one eyebrow and widens his eyes as if he were surprised and confused over why the girl should have wanted to behave this way. At the same time, he lifts the inflection of his voice, giving the word an empty, puzzled tone. Gripped by the visions his narration evokes, he stares with a possessed, vacuous gaze at the madness that drove him that night. But gradually, his eyes cloud over with anxious, tormented sorrow that intensifies with each passing moment, until those eyes well with shimmering wetness that threatens to over-spill the corners and rims. In a voice-over, the young girl cries out, "What are you doing?"
The camera returns to the flashback. Burke continues to drive down the road, absolutely focused on achieving his perverse goal, oblivious to the girl's cries or her mounting panic. The girl points out toward the passenger side window and cries louder, "This is my street!" Burke's scowling brows, fierce, determined eyes, stubbornly set jaw and obstinate, hostile mouth give mute testimony to his overpowering compulsion to feed the demands of his dark appetite. The girl turns around toward the rear of the car and climbs up to kneel backwards on the seat. Again she screams, "That's my street!" Burke gives no sign that he sees or hears her but continues to drive, his hands ordered precisely on the steering wheel at ten and four o'clock. The girl turns toward Burke and grabs the sleeve of his jacket, tugging on it several times and pleading, "Please stop! Please just stop!" Her frenzied contact provokes not the slightest response from Burke. The girl turns again toward the back of the car and screams hysterically, "Somebody help me! Somebody help me!" Finally, Burke reaches around her body and grabs the material on the shoulder of her coat, pulling her toward him and back down into the seat. He does not even spare her a glance, barely focuses any attention on her other than that necessary to brush aside an irritating nuisance. His movements have a mechanical, detached, unemotional quality, for he does not think of the girl as a real person. She is simply an object that he can use to satisfy his lust for power and control.
The focus returns to Connie seated before the visitor's screen in the prison. As she struggles to speak past the grief and shock that are still fresh six years after Jenny's death, she quietly asks, "Why did you kill her?" Searching Burke's face for answers, she hesitates, then tilts her head and whispers with anguished disbelief, "Why?" The camera proceeds to Burke on the other side of the screen. He stares straight ahead of him, not at Connie but into the distance, his eyes tortured and acutely sad, his sight fixed and absorbed in internal scrutiny. A solemn, puzzled frown drags his brows low and together as he strains to find an answer to her question. His gently closed mouth bears the imprint of agonized regret. One sparkling drop of moisture balances precariously just below the pupil of his eye. After the briefest delay, he presses his lips lightly together and stretches them very slightly, sketching a silent, rueful sigh of futility and self-disgust. He pauses for only a moment and allows his mouth to relax into a more natural form, then softly inverts his lower lip and contracts his chin as a foreword to his penitent answer. At the same time, he deepens his frown and intensifies his stare to restrain the useless tears that blur his eyes, for he has no right to shed them in front of this woman whose enormous loss he has caused. The pitch of his low, grave voice drops despondently and almost disappears at the end of the phrase as he says, "She was there." On that last word, he shakes his head with the slightest of motions like a discouraged protest of disbelief and gently, regretfully brings his lips together to cut off his dejected response, while his pensive, faraway eyes fill with soul-sick sorrow. Burke's fatalistic answer resonates with undistorted self-perception and scrupulous honesty. He knows that his all-consuming, indiscriminate hatred struck out randomly and with impersonal destruction at the closest available victim. Burke's reply frankly confesses to Connie that her poor daughter drew his violent rage like a tree draws the summer lightning, simply because she was in his path and with no more intimate connection or purpose. And at last, his tone expresses profound regret that this innocent young girl was 'there', much too close to the devastating flash of his cold fury.
The camera quickly reverts to Connie. She searches his face for something more conclusive, some rational explanation for her daughter Jenny's death, but finds nothing. Surprisingly, her face reflects what looks like pity for the torment that Burke's truthful introspection has cost him. But she quickly drops her head as the complete irrationality of Burke's act of murder and the senselessness of Jenny's death crushes her. Closing her eyes tightly and pressing her lips together, Connie weeps silently. After a long pause, Burke continues. His voice sounds very deep and soft, his tone moderate and reasonable, but his words are thoroughly dissociated and deviant. "Sometimes, the only thing you can do is kill someone, " he says. Burke's inflection undulates as he utters this insane disclosure, rising to an apex in the middle, then falling lower again at the end and making the conclusion of his deranged logic sound as flawless and rational as a commonly accepted principle. Connie presses both hands over her eyes and scours away her tears with her fingers, trying to blot from her mind the nauseating image that his monstrous confession evokes.
The camera returns to Burke. His gaze no longer distant and preoccupied, he watches Connie intently. Her suffering reflects on his distressed face and in the full, troubled curve of his divided lips. A heavy frown still carves ridges in his brow, but beneath it his eyes witness her quiet mourning with gentleness and compassion. He continues to observe her closely as the moment stretches out. Then, in a heavier, darker, awe-filled tone, his voice disappearing to a whisper of finality on his last word, Burke continues, " watch 'em die." After the appalling words leave his mouth, his lips hesitate, separated and vulnerable, the top lip arched very slightly in an expression of disgust and dread. His eyes become remote and haunted once more and intensify with both horror and agony as they fix on the memory of the killing - a memory so terrible that it is beyond his comprehension. The image in his mind seizes him for a time, and his riveted eyes brim with tears and glisten with remorse. At length, he closes his lips softly but resolutely as if he were securing a door on the memory, yet assuming the blame for the offense and accepting the damage to his soul. Almost imperceptibly, his attention returns to Connie. Genuine sympathy fills his countenance, and he looks at her with eyes that are perceptive, compassionate and sad. In a hushed voice that is almost a murmur and with deep empathy, Burke says, "You know that feeling, don't you Mrs. Murphy?"
The camera quickly switches to Connie. She raises first her eyes, red-rimmed from crying but now flashing with indignant fire, and then her head to look at Burke. Righteous anger glares from her face; her mouth opens to shoot back an angry retort. But as she looks into the mild commiseration in Burke's eyes, she halts abruptly and her own eyes open wider in shocked comprehension. Burke has spoken the truth. Her indomitable, avenging anger has demanded that she watch Burke die in retribution for the unprovoked murder of her only child. The fierce words she threw into Burke's face at their first meeting echo in her mind, 'I made a promise to myself that I was gonna live to see - you - dead.' Gripped by Burke's knowing eyes and deterred by her own integrity, she can make him no reply. After another lull, the focus returns to Burke. No trace of smugness or victory resides on his face, only sympathetic awareness and sincere sorrow. His intent eyes hold Connie's gaze steadily and look deeply into her, almost through her, mirroring her conflicted emotions and moved to exquisitely gentle pity by her turmoil. With an almost indiscernible movement, he sways very slightly toward her and intimates, rather than executes a nod of empathy and encouragement, affirming her sudden insight, reassuring her that he intimately understands her compulsion to secure his death. Although his frown draws down heavily over the attentive concern in his eyes, his anguished, unclasped mouth lightens meagerly into what might be the essence of a perceptive, saddened smile. The focus returns to Connie. She stares at Burke with unfaltering eyes that once again blaze with anger. Exhaling deeply and pinching her lips together with hostility and aversion, she steadies herself for a moment, then asks, "How long did she know she was going to die?"
[Burke intimately understands the vengeful rage that results from unexplainable victimization and irrational abuse. He has lived with this legacy since childhood. But under the influence of his newly discovered and unclouded wisdom, Burke must acknowledge that he has actually taken on his father's role as the perpetrator of violence upon Connie's daughter, Jenny and thus upon Connie. With that act of murder, Burke moved from victim to victimizer. And it is this surprising admission that now allows him to empathize so closely with Connie and to offer her comfort.]
The camera proceeds to the flashback scene. Accompanied by the sound of tires crunching on unpaved ground and squealing brakes, Burke rapidly pulls the car into a leaf-strewn clearing in a wooded area. He hauls on the steering wheel and slams the gearshift into park with violent force, punishing them with the power of his anger. In counterpoint, Burke's voice answers Connie's question. "I don't know," he says in a quietly deep, mournful tone, the reply sounding deadened and defeated. The girl jumps out of the car a second before Burke does and runs frantically away toward the trees. Uncoiling like a spring, Burke gets out of the car, places his hand on the outside of the latch for leverage and begins to step around the door. As his head and torso lean toward the hand on the door, the corners of his mouth turn down viciously and his chin contracts in a provoked grimace. Burke's face looks grim and ruthless, but his still-lowered eyes look distant and driven, almost trance-like, and for an instant flicker with a trace of alarm at the frenzy that possesses him. But as he moves around to the outside of the door and turns to look in the direction the girl is running, his eyes finally glare with threatening anger and overt menace. Bending low to increase his momentum, he pushes off simultaneously from the car door and from his back leg and sprints after her.
The focus changes to a long shot of Burke chasing the girl through the clearing. Despite her head start, his long, fluid strides eat up the ground and relentlessly close the distance between them. From that long angle, the camera follows the chase through the field, moving past a stand of bare trees and brush, then into more open space and finally advances to a closer shot as the girl passes another small growth of trees. The perspective changes so that the girl is running toward the camera. She sobs and cries, "No," while Burke gains on her rapidly from only a few steps behind her. He races to within arms reach of the girl, slaps the flat of his hand onto her shoulder and without so much as breaking stride pushes her to the ground. Burke slows his speed and continues past her prone figure for several more steps. Then, moving his body all in one piece, he makes a sweeping, unhurried turn back toward her as his slack arms swirl out from his sides, unchecked. The camera returns to a long view of the field as the girl gets onto her knees and whimpers, "Please don't hurt me " Burke begins to walk quickly around her in continuous, tight circles. The camera switches to a closer shot of the girl and the lower portion of Burke's body. His legs barely clear her form as he paces around her and struggles to expend the wild, destructive energy inside of him. Kneeling and sitting on her heels, her back and head bowed submissively, the girl cries brokenly and begs him again, " Please!" The camera pulls back to a slightly longer view of the two. Moving with a disjointed, manic gait, Burke continues his agitated circuit around her. He looks burdened, wearied and compelled. His posture is slouched; one shoulder drops alternately with every step. His arms swing loose and uncontrolled with the momentum of his body. Burke works his mouth distractedly as if he were talking to himself, grappling with the demonic rage that drives him. As he makes another turn around the girl's kneeling form, he pulls up indecisively and stops a few feet from her, facing the opposite direction. She swivels around on her knees to look up toward his back and reaches out a tentative hand to plead with him, but quickly returns it to the ground as she cries hysterically, "Please don't hurt me!" Burke hesitates for a moment, letting his arms hang carelessly at his sides and listening as though he could hear another voice cry out those same words. He rocks his weight ambivalently toward one foot, then steps onto the other and pivots around to face the girl. Weary of the struggle to oppose it, reluctantly succumbing to the darkness, he leans his whole body into the turn as if some force stronger than his power to resist were forcibly pulling him around. As the girl screams, "No! Noooo," Burke abruptly lifts his jacket and reaches behind him into the waistband of his jeans. He tugs several times on the handgrip, then finally draws the gun clear of his clothes. Towering over her as she cringes in the dirt, no longer trying to repel the violent, murderous compulsion within him, but now embracing it perversely, he aims the weapon directly at the girl's head. She covers her eyes with her hands and calls out, "Mommy!" Burke fires and the girl crumples to the ground.
[Burke's assertion to Connie that he 'didn't have anything planned' when he picked up her daughter on the night of the murder was genuine. I don't believe he had the intention of killing Jenny when he invited her into his car. But he certainly had some hidden agenda. We are not given any information about Burke's state of mind that night or what may have happened previously to tip the precarious balance between rationality and psychotic depravity. But obviously his long-festering rage and his compulsion for control became so overpowering that he craved some form of domination to assuage them. Whether he admitted it to himself or not, Burke more than likely lured Jenny into his car with the aim of committing some type of violence against her - possibly rape. Jenny's active and vocal resistance as they drove in the car, her crying, 'Somebody help me!' and her attempt to thwart him by running away galvanized Burke's explosive fury.
Even so Burke initially resisted his overwhelming impulse to attack Jenny. After he chased her down in the woods, he battled against that internal pressure to harm her. But her crying out, 'Please don't hurt me!' seems to have been the decisive catalyst that snapped his tenuous hold on self-control. It may be that he had screamed those words himself as a child, either aloud or in his terrified mind. Those words and Jenny's terror threatened to recall the dreadful feelings of the victim who was his childhood self - to restore in him the state of abject fear and powerlessness that he had come to despise and aggressively reject. That threat Burke could not allow to exist. When he shot Jenny, he was attempting not only to effectively eliminate the risk of enduring those emotions again, but also to symbolically obliterate the abused child that had been himself. For, Burke had come to despise that brutalized child perhaps more than he did the father who battered him. He sought to establish himself in the position of power by becoming attacker instead of victim, seizing the ultimate control - authority over life and death.
Studies exist showing that men like Burke who have been subjected to severe childhood abuse, who are emotionally blocked and who conform to rigid gender models, who deny and suppress their own vulnerable emotions and convert them to anger or aggression can be extremely threatened by the display of distress in another person. Distress expressed by someone else has the power to evoke similar intense emotions in men like Burke that are much too close to their experiences of the abuse situation. They may then attempt to cancel that risk to their emotional well being by attacking the person whom they perceive as the source of their own intolerable discomfort. (Lisak, D., Hopper, J., Song, P. Factors In The Cycle of Violence)
No part of the above is meant to either excuse Burke or blame anyone else for the murder. And certainly it would never be possible to resolve in a few short paragraphs such complicated issues as the ones portrayed in this film. These thoughts merely suggest some possible explanations for a brutal act and reaffirm the concept that abuse is such a self-generating cycle.]
From behind Burke's back, the camera focuses on Connie sitting in front of the visitor's screen. As Burke's narration and the cruel details of Jenny's killing devastate her, she presses the fingertips of both hands to her steeply bowed forehead, covers her face with her palms and weeps quietly. Seeing her heartsick grief, Burke leans his forearms on the ledge and with a side-to-side shifting movement inclines his head and torso closer to the partition as though he wanted to offer her comfort or come to her aid. The camera centers on a close-up of Burke. With intent, probing eyes and a deep frown of concerned concentration, he studies the woman carefully. Seeking to fathom the enormity of her suffering, he tilts his head a little and leans a bit closer to the glass. Burke presses his lips together and stretches his mouth into a thin seam of regret, then lifts his eyes higher to take in her bowed and disconsolate posture. Completely immersed in their contemplation of the woman, his eyes soften, grow pained and contrite. As the full force of her sorrow impacts him with a shock, he straightens his head and closes his eyes briefly. The muscles of his face collapse, duplicating her despair. His shoulders sink a little like a small, disheartened sigh, while his jaw falls slightly in a silent exclamation of dismay at her torment. His eyes intensify with anxiety and sympathy for Connie and with remorse for the grievous harm he has caused her. As he tips his head to the other side, the contours of his open mouth arch with worried compassion. Burke's solicitous frown slips lower over eyes that express unmistakable tenderness and such profound empathy that the woman's anguish registers as his own. Finally, as if he were unwilling to intrude too closely on her grief, he subtly moves only his head back from the glass and waits for her to recover.
The focus returns to Connie. Weeping into her hands and lost in mourning, she has seen none of Burke's vivid, wordless expressions of understanding, nor noted the striking contrast between his current reaction to her immense sadness and the impassive suspicion with which he viewed her distress at their first encounter. Connie presses the fingers of both hands to her eyes and wipes her tears away toward the sides of her face. Continuing the movement, she smoothes her hair behind her ears and then down the back of her neck. The camera goes back to Burke. For a moment he watches Connie with the same anxious concern and genuine sympathy that, until now, he has been able to show only to his daughter Lisa. But as he stares at the woman, his eyes gradually grow more determined and direct, his face more resolute. At length he says, "I need you to be there at the end." Burke's tone rises slightly on the last word, turning his disclosure into a request and unwittingly revealing his anxiety that Connie will not agree. As he says the word 'need', he inclines his head significantly towards Connie, lowers his brows and fastens his eyes onto hers with solemn, persuasive, hypnotic forcefulness that illustrates how necessary he considers her presence when his life is terminated. His voice lays meaningful stress on that word, but nonetheless emits a faint, nervous waver that eloquently discloses the urgency of his need. As he waits for her reply, his unclosed mouth hesitates, apprehensive and defenseless on a delayed breath, and a flicker of painful doubt accents the earnest plea in his eyes. The camera returns to Connie. She slowly turns her head to look straight at Burke, her eyes large with astonishment. Retracting her head further back on her shoulders in an attitude of resistance, she holds his gaze for an extended pause. Her eyes harden noticeably and she seems to reach a decision as she says, "No." Shaking her head briefly in denial, she adds, "No more."
The camera centers on a close-up of Burke. Although he continues to stare intently at Connie, a downcast, dispirited shadow alters his face. Disappointment dims the intensity of his imploring eyes, and discouragement swells and arches the shape of his mouth. But as Burke scarcely tilts his head down toward Connie and looks at her from the shadows of his lowered, frowning brows, his eyes regain their commanding energy. He swings his head to one side in a single, sustained, explicit shake of negation and warning, at the same time admonishing her, "It's not through until we do this together." Once again, he leans his head very slightly toward her as he says 'together', underscoring the word, indicating the importance of her consent and urging her cooperation. His deep, quiet tone exhorts her to recognize the truth of his statement and reverberates with absolute certainty. The power in Burke's irresistibly convincing eyes grows and takes possession of Connie's awareness. His stare searches out her soul as it reveals his own, wills her to participate with him in this inescapable final drama - and appeals for her help. The focus returns to Connie. Although she appears drained and weary, she makes no attempt to hide her exhaustion from Burke and steadfastly returns his gaze. Speaking in a low whisper and giving a tiny shake of her head, she refuses him again, "I can't."
The camera goes back to Burke. He still inclines his head forward toward Connie, but now also cants it to one side in a posture of entreaty. From beneath heavily troubled brows, his penetrating eyes still study her closely, yet become considerably milder and cloud with pensive sadness. A mere lightening at the corners of his mouth suggests the notion of a wise, wounded smile. Burke closes his eyes briefly before he asks, "For your daughter? " On that last significant word, his eyes open and widen conspicuously and he raises both his brows and his inflection into a query. His expression cajoles rather than entreats Connie, tempts her with the one incentive he knows she is powerless to refuse. As his searching gaze remains fastened on the woman, his brows sink and drag together, then lift at the inside corners into an anguished, questioning plea. Tormented sorrow cramps the generous dimensions of his mouth, raises and distends his upper lip. His eyes fill with his personal grief and a sincere, soulful petition, then mist with tenderness and brilliant tears. As a crystalline light of inexpressible sadness reflects in his eyes, he continues, " Mine? " Again his quiet, low voice lifts the single word into a request. The camera reverts quickly to Connie. Her eyes remain entrapped by Burke's stare but no longer look reluctant. She breathes a deep sigh of forbearance and purses her lips in resignation, but does not look away. The focus returns to Burke. He remains in the same position as before, leaning toward Connie and tilting his head to the side. From the shadow of an earnest frown that creases and depresses his brow, his eyes look into the width and breadth of Connie's heart with compassion and profound concern along with gentle, complete understanding for her distress. His full lips close lightly but more purposely and bear the scars of both regret for her suffering and anguish at being responsible for it. Prefacing his words with a thoughtful blink, he briefly, perceptively nods his head twice in her direction to encourage and convince her and persists, " For you " The tone of his soft, deep voice does not rise into a question now, but sounds steady, valid and sure. But then, his lips close uncertainly to shape the consonant sound of his next word and hesitate there, faltering and silent, for a moment. At last, in a still more quiet tone, throwing the word away like an afterthought, letting it hang diffidently, he concludes, " me." Stilled by misgiving and dread, his mouth remains slightly open as the word escapes it. He pauses and for an extended time just looks steeply up at Connie from beneath the ridges of his brow. His candid, plaintive, poignant eyes unmask the recesses of his heart-spirit to Connie and implore her for assistance in confronting his death, then almost imperceptibly widen with apprehension and a touch of chilling fear. Finally, he breathes a sigh of futility or perhaps a mute prayer for endurance. At the same time, he allows his shoulders to drop and his head to sink slightly, gesturing the completion of his efforts to make the only reparations possible for the consequences of his crime - designating a conclusion to the final endeavor of his life. And so the scene ends.
[When Burke initiated this last conversation with Connie, he believed that the dialogue was firmly under his control. Perhaps he had decided to offer Connie this closure in return for her consent to raise Lisa or because he knew Connie would be better disposed toward his daughter if he could mitigate her hatred of him. But somewhere in this process as he divulged the details of the murder to Connie, he looked scrupulously and without self-deception at his own emotional state on that night and actually experienced the horror and vileness of his act of murder. Beyond that, he allowed his spirit to sorrow and grieve not only for having committed the act, but also for the innocent girl who was his victim. With the wisdom gained from that catharsis and insight, he was able, finally, to feel and to express genuine empathy for Connie, to facilitate the process of her healing - and of his own.
For, Burke stated truly that all four of the people he mentioned needed healing from the effects of that brutal murder. Jenny Murphy's spirit needed release and peace - to be liberated from that violent, senseless crime to which Burke's act of unrepentant violence and her mother's intransigent hatred had bound it. Lisa Burke needed to be loved and nurtured by her guardians and to be disassociated from the guilt and shame of her father's offense. Lisa could never hope to obtain either of these essentials unless Connie, the woman who was to raise her, could perceive some worth, some shred of humanity in Lisa's father and accept his contrition and reparation for the murder. Because malice consumes the one who clings to it, Connie needed to be released from her hatred and her desire for revenge. Only after this release could she fully grieve her daughter's loss and reconnect Jenny's memory to a beautiful young life and not an ugly death. And Burke needed, desperately needed the chance to atone for his crime and the hope of redemption - to meet his death and enter the next life with one (perhaps only one in his entire existence) unselfish, ethical, humane act to his credit. Burke knew that all of this healing could only be accomplished through forgiveness and in addition that this forgiveness could only have significance if it were a deathbed exchange. And so he implored Connie to be present at the execution.]
Preparations For The Execution
The execution by lethal injection of John Burke will be carried out within the hour. Both the protestors outside the prison and the guards inside the prison are keeping the deathwatch. The scene opens on a close-up of Burke sitting on his bunk in his cell, leaning back against the severe gray wall. He bears little resemblance to the hardened, hostile murderer who angrily confronted his attorney with his dominating, sullen presence only six days ago. Burke looks younger now, ingenuous and defenseless, his spirit distinctly illuminated in his countenance and filled with a kind of grace. An attitude of utter stillness surrounds him. His deeply lowered eyes stare unblinking into emptiness, but he turns his sight wholly inward. Peering over the precipice of his own existence, he tries to pierce the impenetrable veil between his life and whatever might lie beyond it. A trace of alarm flares like a pinpoint of intensity in the depths of his contemplative, saddened eyes. Something that frightens and torments him captures his gaze but Burke persistently refuses to look away. He secures his jaw resolutely and contracts his chin with disciplined determination. Notches of tension appear around the corners of his firmly closed mouth as he wills himself to endure the daunting inner scrutiny that absorbs his vision. Burke looks with undistorted honesty at the grievous transgressions, the ugly lesions on his soul that he must carry with him to his death. He wonders if relinquishing his life is enough to atone for his crimes or if some eternal force will condemn him to an existence filled with even more tribulations than the one he has already endured.
Presently, the faint, hollow clatter of a distant door being opened intrudes on Burke's introspection. He slowly raises his eyes. For an instant the sharp point of alarm in his pupils heightens, then quickly fades as he looks straight ahead of him with steady resolve. His chin draws in more determinedly, causing his top lip to narrow and his bottom lip to protrude with perseverance. Hesitating only a moment, Burke consciously changes the direction of his thoughts. He sweeps the lids over his eyes with deliberate emphasis and turns his head slightly aside, then simultaneously raises his chin, tilts his head back to rest against the wall and lifts his gaze up toward the ceiling. His eyes roam the space above his head, searching for - something. Help? Strength? A revelation from that Higher Power whose existence he has not considered for many years? There is nothing of pleading or entreaty in Burke's expression, only patient inquiry and watchful waiting. Like a remorseful speculation or perhaps a fleeting, gestured prayer, he faintly flexes the small muscles around his clasped mouth as he twice pulls up and slightly protrudes his bottom lip. Suddenly, a loud and ominous, metallic rattle shatters the stillness, and the outer door to the deathwatch section slides open. His head still tilted back against the wall, his chin still aimed at whatever entity might exist beyond the ceiling, Burke slowly, wearily, despairingly closes his eyes. His eyelids drift down languidly like a heavy sigh of both unwilling resignation and abhorrent dread. Perhaps by shutting his eyes, he can also shut out the menacing sound of that door and deny the reality that his executioners are coming for him. But surprisingly, despite the sinking nausea in the pit of his stomach, his mouth and chin remain firmly persistent and the tension that had cramped his lips eases somewhat. An exhausted calm flows over his features as if he were granting himself a brief but thorough rest before facing the ultimate trial ahead of him.
The camera travels to the warden walking through the section door. He turns to check with the guard at the desk outside Burke's cell, while the chaplain follows him into the section. Bible in hand, the clergyman stands beside the barred doorway to the cell and looks down at Burke with experienced compassion. Two more guards enter directly behind the chaplain and one of them proceeds to unlock the door to Burke's cell. As the cell door opens, the camera focuses on Burke through the sliding bars. He no longer tilts his head upward, but turns it nearly over his shoulder and reclines weakly against the wall, seeking the comfort and transitory protection of that solid, gray support behind him. He averts his open but sharply lowered eyes and stares sightless at the near distance. His consciously neutral mouth retains no tension, but closes softly with an air of fatalistic submission. Detached and motionless, he tries to mentally remove himself from the activity going on around him. Still, Burke looks ashen, worn out and almost ill with dread. The fearsome consequence that has stalked him for six years has finally come to claim him, and there is no way Burke can keep it at bay. The cell door rattles open, then clangs irrevocably as it bounces against the metal jamb. At the sound of that thud, Burke calls himself back from whatever subjective refuge he has taken. Blinking unhurriedly, Burke shifts nothing but his nearly closed eyes toward the open doorway and gives a tacit signal of assent like a nod of agreement to that consequence. His only option now is resignation - to accept the fate that advances on him and encounter death with as much courage and dignity as he can marshal. As one of the guards enters the cell, his blue shirt completely obscures Burke's figure.
The camera switches to a shot of Burke's bare, slippered feet. One at a time, he swings them off the bunk and places them on the tiled floor, then tentatively taps one foot a couple of times as if to anchor it more firmly to the ground. The camera now centers on Burke's profile from the interior of his cell. He sits on his bunk with his back straight and unyielding, his head militantly erect. He has banished the debilitating fear from his face and replaced it with a purposely stoic and remote, disciplined and uncompromising expression. Avoiding eye contact with any of the men assembled about his cell, Burke stares determinedly at the opposite wall. As before, the chaplain stands beside the cell door. One guard bends down just out of camera range and affixes the chains to Burke's ankles. Another guard waits at the end of the bunk and holds the leather restraint and handcuffs in readiness. Withdrawing from the guard's desk opposite Burke's cell, the warden strides past the chaplain, stops at the open cell entrance and looks down at Burke with an almost ceremonial stiffness. Immediately, Burke drops his chin and shifts his eyes in the direction of the door, then turns his head away from the camera and stares directly at the warden. Deliberately confronting the man with that cool, impassive demeanor, Burke puts the warden on notice that the state's most extreme punishment does not have the power to break Burke's spirit. In his shadowed eye and on his down-turned mouth, a momentary flash of Burke's habitual defiance surfaces. Despite the dramatic changes brought about by Burke's spiritual awakening, his antagonism toward the warden has not disappeared.
(recited quietly by the chaplain during this part of the scene)
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore
The camera focuses again on Burke's feet and lower legs. While the guard secures the chains around Burke's ankles, the chaplain begins to read from the Book of Psalms. Burke's feet slide back toward the bunk. His lower legs bend forward at an acute angle, then bear down to support his weight as he starts to rise. The camera proceeds to a close profile of Burke. Inclining his upper body forward, he hunches and tightens his shoulders and pushes himself off the bunk. The initial view of Burke's face reveals a man who is keeping his emotions under rigid control. He stares straight ahead of him with eyes that are intense and purposeful. His taut, grim mouth and inflexibly set chin indicate the degree of discipline he exerts to remain outwardly detached. But as he leans farther forward and abandons the meager security of the wall and the bunk, his eyes become incrementally more desolate and alarmed. Abhorrence and dread abrade his mouth, swell and arch the outline of his upper lip. His pupils dilate slightly and darken with fear that he is barely able to contain. Burke gets to his feet and slowly begins to straighten. But the power of that instant of fear weakens him and forces his head to fall back on his neck. He closes his eyes briefly while anguish and exhaustion sap the vital spirit from his face. Releasing the tension in his jaw, he opens his mouth for a short, alleviating breath and consciously wills the terror to subside. Burke stands a little straighter but keeps his head slanted backward and constricts his mouth into a narrow, down-turned gash of aversion. His eyes open so slightly that they create shadowed, narrow crevices in his face. He avoids any visual contact and aims his gaze downward and to one side, but at the same time sharpens his glance with hostility. Then, holding his head at that acute backward angle, Burke rises to his full height and composes his features into a blank, remote, unassailable mask. Although he maintains the thin, severe quality of his mouth, he distinctly slackens the muscle tension around his upper lip, then raises his eyes with conscious intent and shifts them pointedly toward the door and the warden. Studied indifference, augmented by a brief flash of victory and resistance, now replaces the fear that has subsided from Burke's shadowed eyes. By mastering the alarm that gripped him and showing no outward signs of panic, by presenting an indifferent front to his jailers, Burke has achieved his small success over them and claims his advantage with a defiant look.
The camera switches to a close-up of Burke's midsection. One guard lifts Burke's arm away from his side, while the other stretches out the leather restraint in front of Burke. Holding the attached handcuffs suspended in his hand, the guard places the belt around Burke's slim waist and passes the end to his partner who has positioned himself behind the prisoner. While the guards secure the restraint, Burke moves his body obediently from one side to the other to accommodate their actions in this familiar ritual of captivity. The camera returns to a close-up of Burke's face. His expression remains coolly dispassionate, his mouth uncompromising and firm. But he looks toward the doorway and the sound of the chaplain's voice and, for a moment, Burke's eyes turn watchful and observant. He seems to be listening attentively to the ancient song of praise the clergyman is reading. But as Burke shifts his weight to the right and leans slightly in that direction, his expression becomes guarded and skeptical, his eyes slightly antagonistic and his mouth more fixed and forbidding. He subtly turns his head in the same direction his body moves as though he were reflecting briefly on the scriptural words. Then, transferring his weight back to the other side and squaring his shoulders, he deliberately lifts his chin and casts a penetrating, sidelong look of disdain toward the doorway and the warden and chaplain who stand there. The suspicion of a knowing, cynical smile does not quite lift the corners of Burke's mouth, but pierces the vast gulf between the hymn of succor the cleric is reading to him and the act of immutable, ultimate punishment the state is going to carry out against him.
The camera focuses on the area adjoining Burke's cell from behind the surrounding metal screening. The guard who has been keeping deathwatch over Burke waits beside the open section door, while the prisoner and his small phalanx of escorts begin to file past him on their measured march to the execution room. The warden leads the cortege and immediately precedes Burke. Solemnly intoning his psalm, the chaplain follows closely behind Burke and is followed in turn by the two guards who locked Burke into his shackles. As Burke moves forward and arrives alongside him, the waiting guard falls into step beside the prisoner and the group proceeds into the corridor. Attached to the leather restraint, Burke's cuffed hands fall loose and relaxed in front of him. The handcuffs deprive Burke of his counterbalancing arm swing so his gait has a distinctive, side-to-side, rolling motion. His bearing indicates humility and surrender: the shoulders rounded and sloped forward, the upper back bowed out, the chest slightly collapsed and sunken into the belly. Yet, his head remains erect, his face expressionless and uncowed, his eyes lowered but steady and remote, his mouth sternly persevering. The camera follows the procession as it advances past several solid framing posts and continues along the length of the metal screen. Finally, Burke passes in front of the camera and is visible only from behind as he advances slowly down the passageway that leads to the execution room.
The focus changes to a close-up of the warden leading the small company to its apparent destination. Burke's grim, somber profile comes into view behind the warden's right shoulder; one of the guards appears on the warden's left. From the corner of his eye, Burke has already caught sight of something that seizes and sharpens his unwilling stare, something that appalls and shocks him. The warden steps to one side as Burke proceeds forward several more steps. But then, Burke's forward momentum suddenly deserts him. He stops completely like a windup toy with a fully uncoiled spring. His eyes lift and fix immovably on something ahead of him. He glares at the object with both abhorrence and fear, as if it were a living enemy whom he knows he must combat but also knows he can never defeat. The corners of his mouth turn dramatically downward, forming an inverted crescent of repugnance. He flares his nostrils with disgust, as though he were shrinking from the smell of something putrid. One guard continues past Burke around a corner while another comes up behind him. Still, Burke stares motionless at the thing in front of him. But his perseverance wavers and the severity blanches from his face. His eyes, now frightened, sorrowful and thoroughly stunned by the object, shift in two stages down its length. Gauging his foe, Burke takes in the thing's entirety and compares the actual device to the figure that has haunted his mind since he first glimpsed it five days ago. The camera advances to a long view of the execution table, the source of Burke's torment. The shiny black vinyl and gleaming stainless steel, the head rest separated by thin slats from the long body, the arm rests poking out at 450 angles, all give the stretcher the appearance of some fearsome, robotic creature intent on malevolence. The camera switches to the inside of the execution room and the warden waiting at one side of the entrance. As Burke stands immobile in the doorway, his profile can be seen through the glass window cut into the top of the door. One guard and the attending physician whose task is to verify the occurrence of death occupy positions in front of the far wall. Burke remains frozen in place for a moment, completely transfixed by the sight of that table. He turns his head absently toward the two guards behind him, responding with a start as they prod him ahead by voice or by touch. Lurching forward, Burke stumbles slightly over his first step into the room, the shakiness in his legs almost betraying the unassailable stoicism he tries to adopt for his jailers.
(read softly by the chaplain during this section of the scene)
Lord, how are they increased that trouble me! many are they that rise against me. Many one there be that say of my soul, There is no help for him in his God. But thou, O Lord art my defender; thou art my worship, and the lifter up of my head. I did call upon the Lord with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. I laid me down and slept, and rose up again; for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid for ten thousands of the people, that have set themselves against me round about. Up, Lord and help me, O my God, for thou smitest all mine enemies upon the cheek-bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly. Salvation belongeth unto the Lord; and thy blessing is upon thy people.
Steadying himself quickly, Burke, followed by the two guards, walks into the room and comes to a halt beside the execution table. He has recovered a little from the shock of seeing the mechanism of his death and has fixed the emotionless, resolute guise back in place over his face. His lowered eyes stare into a vacuum, avoiding contact with anyone around him, but especially shunning the black gurney in front of him. As the chaplain begins to read another psalm, one of the guards crosses in front of Burke, then bends to remove the chains from his ankles. The other guard stays behind Burke and starts to unfasten the leather restraint at his waist. From his position beside the door and to the right of the threesome, the warden formally supervises the proceedings. While the prison officers perform their duties, Burke gives no sign of resistance. And yet the faintest aura of pain disturbs his brow. His manacled hands clench into loose, opposing fists in front of him and knock gently together when the guard tugs on the leather belt. Aloof and passive, Burke sways lightly from one side to the other, yielding to the pressure the jailers apply to his body as they remove the restraints.
Over the guard's shoulder, the camera centers on a close-up of Burke. The other guard stands behind him. The chaplain is visible in the background. Steadfastly maintaining his lowered, distant gaze, Burke holds his head emphatically erect and lifts his chin adamantly. A stalwart, almost militant firmness of purpose anchors his mouth and his lower lip juts out with persistence. Shifting his weight to the right, Burke drops his chin, then turns his head partially over his right shoulder toward the warden. He keeps his eyes lowered and pauses for a moment, withholding his glance from any direct connection but alertly heeding something, as though he could once more feel the man watching him. With slow deliberation, Burke raises his eyes, then extends them even farther to the right and flashes a fleeting look of defiant, nearly arrogant enmity at the warden, his lips arching and swelling slightly into a near-sneer of rebellion. But the instant his eyes reach their zenith and make stinging contact with the warden, Burke abruptly drops the lids over them, leans very slightly away toward the left and once more covers his features with an impassive, neutral appearance. With minimal movements, he turns his head toward the front and tilts it slightly to one side. His steeply lowered eyes raise only a fraction, then drop immediately, recoiling from the sight of the awful table in front of him.
[When Burke conquers a moment of debilitating terror, he experiences a sense of victory and takes pains to display his hard won fortitude to the warden. Like a replay of the psychodrama of his childhood, Burke finds himself in circumstances that make him the target of severe punishment and cause him to fear for his life. And like Burke's father in those childhood instances of abuse, the warden wields enormous power, in fact acts with the institutional power of the state behind him. But Burke believes that by completely suppressing any show of weakness or fear - something that he was incapable of doing as a young child - by enduring this punishment with imperturbable strength, he can retain some control, reclaim some power and restore his self-respect.]
The camera travels to a close-up of the headrest and shoulder straps of the execution table. The edge of Burke's upper back appears in the scene as he is directed onto the black pallet. A guard presses back on Burke's shoulder, then puts a hand on each of his arms and leads Burke down toward the surface. Pulling his chin in towards his chest and tensing his neck muscles, Burke tries to keep his head upright while he is pushed backward. But when his back comes into contact with the table, his unfocused eyes widen faintly with genuine terror and his lips separate in a soundless cry of frightened refusal. Forced to tolerate the guard's hands on his person and coerced backward into a recumbent position, Burke recognizes with a shock the genuine powerlessness of his situation. That awareness almost plunges him back into the utterly defenseless and vulnerable condition he experienced as a result of his father's abuse. His panic results as much from his abhorrence of returning to that state as from the actual circumstances he endures now. But the look of horror recedes somewhat from Burke's eyes as the guard guides him back further and centers his body on the table. Burke releases some of the tension from his neck and lets his head decline further toward the padding. Calling himself back from that mirage of his childhood and returning to the present, Burke refocuses his sight on the guards that hover about him like crows encircling carrion. The camera pulls back to a longer view of Burke. One guard passes a black binding between Burke's legs and up the centerline of his body, cinching the strap with intimate tension over perineum, genitals and abdomen - the fundamental three energy centers of the body. Burke straddles the restraint, stretches his arms out onto the angled armrests and finally allows his head to fall back onto the surface of the table. The warden has taken up his official position beside Burke's left shoulder. Another guard prepares the restraints at his left arm, while a third attends to the straps at his feet.
The camera centers on a long view of the room from behind the headrest of the execution table. Viewed from this perspective, Burke's position - body stretched out on the table, feet bound closely together, arms extended out to the sides - evokes the image of a crucifixion, that ancient method of putting criminals to death. Three different guards secure the bindings at both of Burke's wrists and at his feet. The chaplain stands at the foot of the table reciting the psalm. The guard in the center of the group brings another restraint up from the side of the table, adjusts it over Burke's waist and locks it into the clasp at his midsection. Arms and shoulders held fast to the table by the prison staff, Burke bends his neck at nearly a right angle and lifts only his head to watch the man's actions. Burke starts to lay his head back down, but before it touches the table, turns it quickly to the right and watches the guard on that side fasten a strap over his wrist. Burke's harshly subdued agitation and anxiety grow a little with each new activity the guards undertake and each restraint they snap into place. The camera returns to a close-up of Burke. His eyes glaring hostility, his mouth firm but full with resentment, he turns a cutting, sidelong glance of resistance on the guard who tightens a black binding over Burke's left shoulder and locks it into place. Burke immediately rotates his head over to the left to avoid the heavy clip that passes by his right cheek, then closes his eyes and winces in annoyance when the guard on the other side slaps the restraint over Burke's right shoulder. Quickly restoring the detachment to his expression but still clenching his mouth tightly in protest, Burke rolls his head back toward the center and rests it down on the table. He stares determinedly up at the ceiling and tries to remove himself still further from what is happening to him. Yet, his face recoils in another small cringe of discomfort when the guard pulls the other shoulder strap tight and feeds it into the center clasp below Burke's chest. The camera moves to a closer view of the guard's hands locking down the shoulder restraints, while another guard brings the last belt across the other side of Burke's waist toward the large central catch.
The camera travels upward and focuses on the warden who looks down at Burke for a moment with impartial sympathy. The man lifts his chin in a gesture of finality as the last restraint is locked into place, then turns his head to the left and shifts his attention to some movement in that direction. The camera returns to Burke. He lies motionless on the table with his head turned over to the left and his eyes closed. The tight harness carves deep hollows into the musculature of his powerful shoulders. A frown of distress lowers and crumples his brow. He pulls his chin in and back toward his neck in an attitude of unwillingness and repugnance, trying to retreat from the guards' unwelcome ministrations. A stab of anxious endurance tightens the muscles in his jaw and around his clenched mouth, cramps and turns down the edges of his lips. Burke opens his eyes slightly but keeps them lowered almost vertically in an effort to look down at his left arm and the activity that is taking place there. The camera pans downward where a latex-gloved technician is inserting a needle into a vein on the inner surface of Burke's arm at the bend of his elbow. A muscle on the underside of his upper arm twitches slightly as the sharp point punctures the blood vessel and the internal pressure of his vascular system draws the needle into the vein.
The camera goes to a close-up of Burke. His eyes still aimed very low, he watches the technician carry out the procedure on his arm with an unchanged, frowning look of reluctant endurance. Then something startles him and he breaks off his observation abruptly. Widening his eyes, he suddenly straightens his head and pauses for just an instant, staring alertly at the ceiling, trying to make out the source of his alarm. He rapidly lifts his chin and turns his head far over to the opposite side, then raises his eyebrows and opens his eyes even wider. Lengthening his neck and projecting his eyes as far upward as they will extend, he searches behind him for the cause of his disturbance. His face wears an expression of puzzled wariness, but his mouth remains taut and tenacious. Then, his head, eyes and eyebrows drop quickly and precipitously as he stares down with an apprehensive frown at the needle in his right arm. This second needle startles Burke, rattles the self-restraint he struggles so hard to maintain and alarms him even more than the first. He fears that this second conduit for the poison somehow presents an exponentially magnified danger to his life, regardless of the fact that the first is more than enough to kill him. The camera centers on a close-up of another pair of gloved hands establishing the second intravenous line on the inner surface of Burke's right arm. The technician inserts and tightens the adapter end of the infusion set into the hub of a butterfly needle that has been threaded into Burke's vein, then presses on the tape that holds the tubing and the winged ends of the needle in place.
The camera focuses down on Burke from the top edge of the execution table. His head is still rotated over to the side, as he raises it from the padded surface and looks at the tubing that feeds into his outstretched right arm. Keeping his head angled upward on his neck, Burke turns it back toward the center with a little jerk and watches the technician who set up the IV line in that arm walk away toward the foot of the table. The camera pans across Burke's body to focus on the warden and female technician standing on the opposite side. The woman glances up from positioning the intravenous line in Burke's left arm, then looks at the warden beside her. She nods in response to the quiet order from her superior and follows the other guards out of the room.
The chaplain finishes reading the psalm and closes his Bible. After looking down at Burke briefly, the warden walks to the foot of the execution table and begins to move around to the other side. The focus returns to Burke. Dropping his eyes to their lowest point, he peers down the length of his body and follows the warden's movements. A light frown pulls in his brows, and a perplexed, suspicious expression slightly unsettles his face. Burke turns his head a little to the right to keep the warden in sight. With a small wrench of exertion, he lifts his head from the table and aims his gaze farther to the side as the warden continues in that direction. Burkes' eyes widen slightly with anxiety. His face registers confusion over the purpose of the warden's actions and apprehension over what the man will do next. Continuing to follow the warden, Burke turns his head as far to the right as the table will allow, then lifts his chin, reaches up with his eyes and looks behind him at the man with poignant and vulnerable uncertainty. Even now, Burke tries to reject his total powerlessness. He watches every move the warden and guards make and fights to hang on to some semblance of control. The camera pans to the warden who comes to a halt when he reaches the bank of three telephones at the far end of the room. He turns back toward Burke and looks down at him with reserved but sincere concern. The camera travels to the twin windows of the small chamber that adjoins the execution room directly behind Burke. In each window hangs an IV infusion set that is inserted into a bag of normal saline and attached to the needles in Burke's arms. A technician appears behind each window and opens the infusion rate control wheels on each set of tubing so that saline begins to run rapidly into Burke's veins
The camera reverts to the warden standing in front of a curtained observation window, looking steadily down at Burke. He lifts his chin and purses his lips, then lets his shoulders fall with a regretful but decisive breath. The camera displays an image of Burke's body reflected in the glass of the window. The curtains slide open and reveal the group of spectators seated in the observation room. Burke's lawyer and the District Attorney occupy seats on opposite sides of an aisle. Connie Murphy stands between them farther back against the wall of the room. Her hands folded together in front of her and her head bowed, Connie purposely avoids looking at Burke or the scene in the execution room. Visible in the reflecting surface of the glass, Burke blinks and adjusts his eyes when the curtains open and he first sees the audience on the other side of the window. The abdomen of the reflection lifts as Burke inhales narrowly, then falls more deeply as he expels his apprehensive breath.
The camera switches to an expanded view of the execution room from behind the observation window. The length of Burke's body stretches out on the table. His head turns toward the window and the spectators. The warden stands at a little distance from the table by Burke's head. The chaplain stays closer to Burke at the foot of the stretcher. Burke moves not at all, in fact remains so still that his breath is barely detectable. Bound to the cold, sterile table, spanned and quartered by the heavy restraints, Burke's body resembles a trussed and dressed carcass on a steel slab - already lifeless and cold. The camera centers on a close-up of Connie. She stands against the wall of the observation room partially turned away from the glass, her head bowed and her eyes lowered. Gathering her courage, she slowly lifts her head and forces herself to look through the window at Burke's figure. As she takes in his dire circumstances, her face softens with unexpected but unmistakable pity. The camera returns to the long view of the execution room through the observation window. Burke's body seems very far away from the glass, dwarfed by the distance, debilitated by the cruel mechanized stretcher, diminished by the efficiency of the execution process. As before, he lays absolutely motionless, his face turned continually toward the window.
The focus now changes to a close-up of Burke. Shadows from the table beneath his head emboss one half of his face and throw the other half into lucent, vivid relief. No longer detached or removed, Burke directs all of his life energy into the desperate intensity of his eyes and fastens them solely on Connie. His unguarded, urgent, imploring expression reveals the essential core of himself to her without hesitation or shame. For the first time since the guards removed him from his cell and delivered him to this fatal ceremony, the rigidity and constriction disappear from Burke's mouth. His full, arched, supple, lips remain earnestly parted with an aching desire to communicate with her. A deep frown of concentrated effort carves twin ridges in his brow, as he strains to bridge the distance that separates him from Connie and establish contact with her. In spite of the expanse that divides them, the connection that ultimately arises between Burke and Connie is so immediate, so intimate that it seems to occur on a telepathic level. He opens his lips a little more, then joins them together softly and rhythmically as if he were trying to speak to her but lacked either the courage or the stamina to form the words. His lips go still and curve again with gentle yearning, while the anxious entreaty deepens in his eyes.
The camera shifts to Burke's lawyer. Keeping faithful vigil with her client, she watches Burke through the observation window with tear misted eyes. A futile sigh of sorrow escapes her, but she lifts her chin determinedly, bracing herself to witness the execution she fought so hard to prevent. The camera moves to the District Attorney. Seated across from Burke's lawyer, the prosecutor views the execution proceedings without apparent emotion. The focus then returns to Connie. Uncomfortable and agitated, she remains standing by the rear wall of the small room. Although she wrings her hands together nervously, she still keeps fixed and steadfast watch over Burke. The camera switches to a less distant view of Burke lying on the execution table. Displayed before spectators like a museum exhibit behind glass, the supremely private act of his dying becomes a public demonstration that will occur on demand. There is something almost obscene about watching Burke await death in this position: the straps binding his wrists and ankles to the harsh, black gurney; the restraints cutting across his chest, embracing his waist, pushing up between his legs and pressing over his abdomen; the intravenous tubing snaking into his arms and penetrating his circulation, rigged to pump poison into his life's blood. And yet, Burke's bare feet look innocent and defenseless against the polished, black and steel background, their appearance somehow incongruous with the lethal equipment and moribund atmosphere in the room. The fingers on his outstretched hand curl up reflexively and curve weakly toward his palm with inert, impotent heaviness. But his eyes turn unceasingly toward Connie. The sight of her face has become his amulet against oblivion, his beacon of refuge from the hazy realm that beckons him. As long as he keeps his eyes locked on her face, he will be safe - he will know that he is still alive.
The scene opens on the large wall clock in the execution room. Its slender third hand ticks off the seconds before nine o'clock, the appointed time for John Burke to be executed. The face of the clock reads 8:59:31. The camera then proceeds to a close-up of the female technician's gloved hands. She adjusts the rate control wheel on the IV infusion set, then moves the tubing aside so that it hangs down freely from the bag of saline. Focusing on the parallel windows of the small room behind the execution table, the camera now shows a technician in each window reach over to the tray that is set up between them and pick up a large syringe and needle. The barrels of both syringes are filled to capacity with lethal doses of the toxic compounds that will end Burke's life. The camera advances to a closer view of the male technician. He holds the large syringe in front of him at a ninety-degree angle, removes the needle guard from the long needle and places it on the tray at his side. The camera focus changes to Connie in the observation room. Adjusting her sight to the angle of Burke's recumbent figure, she tilts her head over to the left and looks closely at his face. Her own expression fills with pity for Burke's grave circumstances, but surprisingly also displays genuine sorrow and unexpected tenderness for the man himself. Overcome by the suffering that afflicts everyone involved in this tragic situation, Connie drops her head, covers her face with her hands and cries silently for her own devastating loss, for her daughter whose life cannot be restored by this execution, and astonishingly for Burke. Quiet and motionless, Connie continues to weep for a long moment before she removes her hands from her face and folds them together in front of her. Then, lifting her head and inhaling a shuddering, mournful breath, she raises her tear stained eyes and fixes them resolutely on Burke, once more.
The focus changes to a close-up of Burke. His head turns over to the right and rests close to his shoulder so that he can keep his eyes fastened on Connie. Deep shadow covers one side of Burke's face. The other side is brightly illuminated and transparently honest, reflecting his thoughts and emotions to Connie without reservation. All trace of Burke's rigid, emotionless mask has disappeared. As he witnesses Connie weep over his imminent death, his eyebrows lift and arch with puzzled surprise and a tentative, unsure, completely incredulous look comes over his face. He directs his gaze very low and far to the side and holds it fast to Connie's face, but his eyes grow wide with disbelief and a naοve, almost childlike wonder. His yielding, receptive mouth sustains no sign of tension or restriction and remains half-open with both astonishment and anxious yearning. No one has ever been moved to such pity for his suffering before. Denied the solace of compassion in his abusive childhood, but desperately in need of comfort at this moment as never before, Burke avidly drinks in the unexpected, unhoped-for, unfamiliar gift of Connie's tears.
[The torment Burke experienced as a child at the hands of his abusive father may have been minimized or entirely ignored by his mother in a convoluted effort to protect the family and placate her alcoholic husband's explosive temper. Her denial of Burke's suffering would have amounted to a contradiction of his very reality and been just as damaging to him as his father's abuse. Connie's sympathy for him now, as he awaits death, provides not only critical relief for his current, terrified isolation but also healing balm for those old childhood wounds.]
A sudden distraction interrupts Burke's astonished observation of Connie's tears. His eyebrows plunge downward and wrench together into an alarmed, bewildered frown that restores the deep ridges to his forehead. Seized by an overpowering premonition of approaching doom, he pulls his eyes from Connie's face, raises them very high and looks back with anxious confusion at the tubing running above and behind his head. A bolt of pure horror widens and inflates his riveted eyes and concentrates the force of his stare. His upper lip raises and distends with agonizing fear, while the corners of his partially open mouth tense and stretch slightly into a tiny flinch of dread. Realizing with merciless clarity the mortal threat the tubing represents, Burke looks at the clear IV line as if he were staring, frozen with fear, into the maw of a vicious beast. Using jerky, agitated movements, he rolls his head a little closer to the table and turns his eyes far to the side, glancing suspiciously at the tubing directly beside him. But with an abrupt, vertical drop, he lowers his gaze again and seeks out Connie's face. His eyes narrow and crinkle very slightly at the corners as an anguished, terrified question pinches his features. Baffled apprehension chisels deep vertical ridges between his eyebrows and cuts a tense lateral crevice at the bridge of his nose. His mouth swells and arches with painful uncertainty, the lips parted with doubt, the corners lifted in a mute appeal for some information to help him brace for the inevitable assault. Burke knows the lethal strike is coming, but has no idea when it will occur. His countenance seems to ask frightened questions of Connie: What are they doing to me? When are they going to inject the chemicals? Is it happening now? Will there be pain? Dropping his chin very slightly, he lowers his eyes but keeps them locked on her face. His lips come together and almost touch, but separate again indecisively, as the tiny, perplexed creases fade from the outer corners of his eyes. His chin lifts in Connie's direction while, at the same time, his mouth rounds and tenses, then ripples outward as if he were trying to give shape to the questions that occur in his mind. But his mute attempt at a query is abruptly thwarted by a fleeting spasm of nearly physical dread - the presentiment of death that he can feel flowing through the IV lines and into his body. A tiny quiver of revulsion passes over his face and briefly restores the bewildered crinkle at the outside corners of his eyes. His brows strain together more tensely, as he moves his head from one side to the other in a tortured gesture of denial - a useless, ineffective refusal to let his body be invaded by the toxins. Trying in vain to detect some evidence of the poison, he shifts his eyes to the side again and briefly looks at the tubing beside his head. Then, as his pupils turn back toward the center and refocus on Connie's face, an intense flash of fear momentarily ignites them and wordlessly, explicitly discloses to her the mortal terror he feels. His agitated, alarmed eyes rise toward the tubing once again and narrow very slightly, but then grow heavy, dull and devoid of energy. His partially open mouth looks assaulted and unconsciously weaker, battered by dread of that furtive contamination that hangs over him. A frown of numbing incomprehension descends over his face, as he tries to probe within himself for any damage that he fears might already be occurring inside his body.
The focus changes to Burke's lawyer. Trying to make eye contact with Burke and comfort him with her support, she turns her head, tilts it a little to one side and fits the position of her eyes to his horizontal form. The transparent fear on Burke's face evokes her heartfelt sympathy for him and brings tears prominently to the rims of her eyes. The camera quickly switches to the District Attorney. He looks away from the scene in the execution room and lifts his eyes to glance up expectantly at the wall on the left side of the room. Returning to the face of the large wall clock in the execution room, the camera shows the time as 8:59:57. The second hand ticks relentlessly toward 9:00 o'clock. The camera now focuses on a long view of the execution room from the observation window. Maintaining his watch beside the execution table, the warden turns briefly away from Burke and looks toward the windows of the antechamber behind Burke's head. With one conspicuous nod of assent, he signals the two technicians standing behind the glass to begin injecting the lethal compounds into the IV lines. As the warden makes his gesture, Burke takes a short, labored, apprehensive breath. His abdomen expands outward, then contracts sharply, moving like a bellows to force precious oxygen into his lungs against the constricting fear in his belly.
The camera centers on the gloved hands of the technician inserting the long needle of the filled syringe into the medicine port of the IV infusion set. The technician pushes until the hub of the needle stops with a sinister click and rests securely against the edge of the port. Then, moving his thumb to the top of the syringe, he begins to depresses the plunger and inject the lethal chemical into the saline stream that flows into Burke's veins. The camera pulls back to display the male technician applying steady pressure to the plunger and emptying the syringe of its fatal dose of poison. Now, the camera advances to a view of the execution room from halfway up the length of the table. The warden stands by the bank of phones and looks down solemnly at Burke. Both technicians in the twin windows behind the table are injecting the toxins into the IV lines. Burke lies with his head turned continuously toward the observation window and Connie's face. The remarkable beauty of Burke's body presents a glaring contrast to the ugliness of the execution setting. His broad, expansive chest and powerful shoulders taper into a graceful V at his narrow waist, but are crisscrossed and harnessed by thick, black straps that connect in a jumbled circle at the bulky clasp below his heart. His strong, sculpted arms and unexpectedly elegant hands are rendered powerless by the cinctures at his wrists. His well-proportioned, muscular thighs splay out on the barren, rigid table and straddle the tight central restraint. The prison-issue pants stretch over his flat belly, hug the lower part of his slim hips, and gather into taut pleats at his groin, but the side pockets gape into long folds and mar the tapered line of his lower torso. Silhouetted by the green fabric of the trousers, his manhood is constricted and crushed beneath the oppressive binding.
The focus changes to a close-up of Burke. His eyes open very wide and reach upward as he looks with palpable fear verging on panic at the tubing running alongside his head. His curved and dilated lips hover barely apart and widen into the faintest expression of painful, frightened confusion. An expression of suspicious dread arrested on his shadowed face, he waits in vigilant suspense to detect some indication that the poison has begun to flow through the IV lines. His startled eyes travel down the length of the tubing in two jarring steps, at each step focusing intently on the fluid that flows through the lines and growing brighter, more penetrating and more vivid with fear. Although Burke can find no evidence of the contamination, he scrutinizes the route the chemicals will travel to invade his bloodstream, then commandeer his own circulation to disseminate the poisons and, finally, kill him from within. As he stares into the colorless tubing, into the face of deadly danger, adrenaline courses through his system and his body responds by preparing him to either fight or flee from the peril. But, Burke can do neither. He is harnessed to the table, rendered captive and helpless by the restraints and by his vow to show no outward sign of terror. And so the surge of adrenal stimulant centers and crests in his eyes. Instinctively trying to shut out the unseen enemy, Burke pulls his head back slightly and shifts away from the IV lines, then draws up his jaw to close his partially open mouth and drags his brows together into deep furrows. His eyes reflect extreme aversion and resistance but do not lose that flicker of vivid fear. He opens his mouth on the brink of an agitated question or a choked-off cry for help, then lifts and curls his upper lip and strains the corners of his mouth upward into a panicky, bewildered wince. A muscle in his cheek also twitches upward and tugs the outer corners of his eyes into creases of tormented uncertainty. The same questions that bedevil his frightened brain mirror on his anguished face. Now what's going on? Are they starting? Will I begin to feel it now? As the deep lines in his brow lower and tighten painfully, he lifts his chin and quickly sweeps his eyes up the length of the narrow tubing, looking back in the direction from which the lethal agents will issue. But immediately, he drops his gaze back down again and rolls his head toward the table, turning closer to the tubing and inspecting the transparent lines for any discernible trace of the toxins. Although Burke can take no action to defend himself against the effects of the poisons, his alert and wary eyes seem like sentinels on guard against the arrival of the deadly chemicals. All of his anxiety, torment, dread and confusion seem to be concentrated in the upper half of his face: the scored furrows between his eyebrows, the horizontal seam at the bridge of his nose, the small, worried folds at the outer corners of his eyes. But surprisingly, the set of his jaw and the curvature of his mouth, remain free of tension, his lips loosened and full, passive and almost placid. Like harbingers of his advancing destiny, shadows from the table encroach more deeply upon him and nearly obscure the lower surface of his face.
The camera travels to one of the windows behind the execution table and focuses on the technician's hands as she injects a second syringe filled with poison into the medicine port of the infusion set. The camera pans down the window to the top of the T-shaped pole that supports the IV tubing and is attached to the head of the execution table. Moving slowly down the pole, the camera finally focuses on a close-up of the top surface of Burke's face. Since his head is turned completely over to the side, the bottom plane of his face is barely visible. His eyes appear steady now and more composed, no longer searching apprehensively over the surface of the tubing, but centered, immovable and beseeching, on what must surely be Connie's face. Paralyzing anxiety stills his restless movements, cramps his features and imprints his face with an air of agonized distress. The camera travels to the small porthole in the wall between the twin windows where the IV tubing passes from the antechamber into the execution room. The salmon colored chemicals chase the saline, flowing in the lines through the porthole and up to the supporting loop at the top of the IV pole, then rapidly down the other side toward the needles inserted into Burke's veins.
The camera centers on Burke who remains in the same position, his head turned almost over his shoulder, one side of his face eclipsed in darkness. He concentrates unwaveringly on Connie, his harbor of safety, his piloting lamp, and holds his eyes fast to her image with frightened, urgent intensity. The lifted, aching arch of his softly closed mouth silently cries out both his nearly uncontainable terror and his desperate need for her assistance. Imploring, vulnerable and completely open, Burke's expression almost begs her to help him withstand this affliction. His consciousness has telescoped down to the tubing that runs beside his head and Connie's face. He has dismissed thoughts of the warden and guards, discarded his injunction to himself to remain impassive - even banished the scars of his father's cruelty. In Burke's mind, Connie and he are the only two people in the room. Only with her can he permit himself to feel weak, frightened and lonely. Only to her can he show his helplessness and fear. Burke knows that Connie is truly a 'good person', as he described her at their first meeting. Now, he wordlessly asks her to draw on her compassion and strength and sustain him through these last, most extreme moments of his life.
The lethal chemicals race along the plastic tubing and slam into Burke's blood stream with the shock of speed as well as toxicity, overpowering his system and provoking a cascade of involuntary physical reactions. Instantly, his chin raises while a faint shudder passes over the muscles of his upper lip and jaw. His eyelids come lightly together over his eyes and another subtle tremor brushes over the surface of his brow. At the same time, his left shoulder jerks back toward the table and wrenches away from the muscles that begin to spasm in his neck. His lower jaw juts out and trembles uncontrollably, as his body begins to go into shock and grows increasingly chilled. But Burke's system tries to resist the initial onslaught of the toxins and fights to regain homeostasis so the shivering quiets. Moving intentionally for the first time since the poisons attacked him, Burke consciously drops his eyelids to their lowest point and closes his eyes firmly, almost commanding himself to recover. As he barely reopens his eyes, he frees the taut, quivering muscles in his jaw with an air of determined but weary endurance. Very slowly, his eyes lift and open narrowly, seeking out Connie's face and fixing on her once more. But the grievous internal wounding has blurred his features, loosened and slackened his mouth, weakened his gaze and dulled the intensity of his eyes. Burke's agitated efforts to determine what is happening to him have disappeared. His alarm and confusion have evaporated. For, he has felt the deathblow unmistakably and knows without doubt that he is dying. The whole of his defiled, weakened being communicates this certainty to Connie. The camera returns to Connie. She holds Burke's gaze with unwavering constancy, lending him the strength for which he has silently implored her. Only Connie's disturbed frown and tear-smudged eyes reveal how difficult it is for her to watch his agony. Her shoulders rise, then fall heavily in a deep, sorrowful sigh, but she remains still and calm. Steadying Burke with her composure, she tries to ease his passing and help him relinquish his life without an exhausting struggle.
The camera goes back to Burke. By sheer force of will, he restores the strength to his gaze and locks it ardently, almost devotedly onto Connie. Alight with an anxious, pressing need to confide in her and sharp with fear of her rejection, his wide, unwavering eyes call her awareness to him, both begging for and demanding her close attention. His deep, taut frown of concentration indicates the amount of effort Burke must expend to stay coherent and make this last attempt to clear his soul of its heavy transgression. He holds his jaw slightly suspended and keeps his full, rounded mouth open, ready to form a sound. Softened and expanded by a deep longing to express himself to her, but bruised by painful insecurity and doubt, his lips hover on the verge of a syllable. A flash of apprehension registers in his eyes as Burke recognizes his sheer presumption in wanting to confess his remorse to Connie. For he is afraid that the enormity of his offense against her denies him the right to even utter the words he wants to say. He moves his jaw slowly downward and opens his mouth wider to speak, then pauses there, unable to continue, frozen in uncertainty and a long history of disappointment. So many years of resentful anger have corroded and blocked his ability to articulate words of apology - even his ability to feel the regret connected with those words - that now he must move a great weight of inertia to give voice to them. But Burke knows that before he dies, he has to acknowledge his remorse for the evil act he committed. He dips his jaw a little lower and makes a false start before he finally begins. Then, exaggerating the movement of his mouth so that Connie can read the words on his lips and plainly understand him, Burke slowly whispers, "I'm sorry." He opens his mouth very wide to form the 'I -', closes his lips and jaw firmly to mold the '- m', magnifies the roundness of his lips for the 's -', drops his jaw again to fashion the '- or -', draws up, then lowers his jaw and extends the corners of his mouth on the '- ry'. Immediately, the brittle spark of apprehension in his eyes ignites, disclosing his awful fear that Connie will reject his contrition at this last moment before the unknown envelops him. The worried frown on his brow lowers and deepens, as his eyes grow wide with desperate anxiety and a fervent plea for her acceptance. Slowly, hesitantly, his mouth moves as if to close but lingers slightly open, the shape tentative and unsure, aching and almost swollen with his urgent need for some sign of her acknowledgement.
The focus returns to Connie. She closes her lips firmly and, for a moment, looks as if she might be hardening her heart, spurning Burke's unexpected expression of sorrow. But she pauses for a long time, breathing gently to calm her troubled, conflicted thoughts, and looks steadily into his eyes. As she reaches the most difficult decision she has ever had to make - and the most merciful - Connie concentrates her gaze more purposely on his face and carefully mouths the words, "I forgive you." She swallows with an effort that illustrates the struggle she waged to become capable of granting him her pardon. Then lowering her head and fastening her eyes emphatically onto his, she impresses her sincere forgiveness into his mind and heart. The moment is so rich with transparent grace that Burke's offer of penitence and Connie's gift of forgiveness constitutes nothing less than a sacrament between them.
The camera returns to Burke. He has not moved or changed position. His brow still contracts and lowers deeply in absorbed concentration. His mouth remains slightly open, the bowed, supple lips still lifted with anguished doubt, but weakened now, slack and torpid. However his eyes have grown startled and stunned and cling to Connie's face with astonished disbelief. Burke had only hoped that Connie would not scorn his genuine contrition for the murder of her daughter. Wholly undeserving of her mercy, he never expected her to forgive him. But, in these last moments before Burke dies, Connie has blessed him with the absolution his spirit so crucially needs. Her forgiveness fills such an immense void in his soul that the relief it engenders gives him excruciating, exquisite pain. Both that release and that agony illuminate Burke's face. Humbled and incredulous at her generosity, he holds on to her image, to the beacon light of her countenance, with all of the strength that persists in his weakened body. Still, he feels himself begin to slip into the dark tunnel, feels his consciousness start to ebb away. For the briefest instant, Burke's eyes widen and flare almost imperceptibly with deliberate and amplified intensity. Resisting the gathering darkness, he fights to keep his sight focused on Connie - to keep himself bathed in the sanctity of her forgiveness. But very slowly, softly, inexorably his eyes begin to close. Even as his eyelids gradually lower, his eyes remain fixed on Connie and only go unfocused when their openings have dwindled to narrow slits. Then, his eyelids drop heavily and the tense muscles of his brow loosen and smooth. As he loses control of his optic muscles, his eyelids lift slightly again and his eyes roll backward into his skull, leaving only the whites of his eyes visible at the rims of the meager openings. The seizure passes, and his pupils fall back into their normal position. But then, his eyelids begin to flutter weakly. His jaw quivers with a vague, fleeting shift to the side, then drops a little lower as the small muscle contraction abates. Finally, his fluttering eyelids go still and his lower lip closes with a gentle, involuntary snap. As his head falls softly over his shoulder and rests on the table, he very faintly exhales his last breath and quietly releases his spirit into the Oneness of the universe.
A profound stillness descends over Burke's countenance. The naturally upturned corners of his wide, generous mouth impart an engaging air of gentleness and calm to his face. His full, lush, gracefully curved lips bear the hint of placid smile. His broad forehead relaxes into untroubled repose, the painfully tight lines of worry fading from its surface. His lightly closed eyes, recessed deeply into the lean, well-defined planes of his high cheekbones, have shed the burden of anguish that tortured them and seem soothed, dormant and peaceful. Freed of cramping tension, the taut contours of his strong nose and square jaw have eased and lightened. The sculpted indentation above his top lip, perfectly aligned with its smaller mirror image beneath his bottom lip and with the cleft in his chin, softens his virile features with an aesthetic, almost childlike purity. The dross of Burke's harsh, violent existence falls away and reveals the innate goodness of the man he might have been had his choices and life circumstances been different, the man he was created to be, indeed the man he was striving to become during the last five days of his life. Liberated and transformed by death, Burke looks serene and tranquil, innocent and quite beautiful.
How was it possible for John Burke, an unrepentant murderer, an angry, isolated, violent man to make the amazing character transformations detailed throughout the course of this film? There is a Zen maxim that says, "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." Burke had several powerful teachers come into his life after he was imprisoned. And after so many years of escalating rage and brutality that culminated in a senseless murder and a sentence of death, Burke was finally ready to learn.
Unquestionably, Burke's process of change and healing began because of his regular interactions over the course of four years with his daughter, Lisa. The child had lost her mother and therefore greatly needed Burke's protection and care. Burke responded to his daughter's distress by not just accepting, but actually embracing the role of parent to Lisa, by trying as best he could, given the circumstances of his imprisonment, to become a loving father to her. The act of caring for another living being can of itself be a transformational experience. But there was another, more critical dimension to the relationship between Burke and his daughter. Despite the brutal murder Burke had committed, Lisa loved him unconditionally, the way only a child is capable of loving. The devotion that a six or seven year old little girl gives to her father has the ability to ennoble any man. Experiencing, perhaps for the first time in his life, this unqualified, trusting love and his daughter's genuine esteem, Burke began to live up to Lisa's unwavering belief in him. The Prison Smart Foundation, an organization that strives to reconnect maximum-security prisoners with the humane, benevolent aspects of their personality by teaching them relaxation and meditation techniques, along with creative writing has a motto that states, "Violence Ends Where Love Begins." The mutual love that blossomed between Burke and his daughter began to break the chain of violence that had imprisoned Burke throughout his life.
The Murphys also contributed to Burke's amazing enlightenment. As Burke put aside his rage, resentment and self-interest to ensure that his daughter had a home and guardians after his death, he had to break out of his recalcitrant isolation and begin to interact with the Murphys. Initially, Burke associated with Jack and Connie only for the purpose of persuading them to take care of Lisa. But, in order to surmount their hatred of him and obtain their vital consent to bring up his daughter after he died, Burke was forced to develop and start to use his nearly non-existent social skills. As a result, he learned, almost in spite of himself, to look at situations through the Murphys' perspective, to consider their interests, to understand their feelings and most importantly to learn from them. Jack Murphy provided Burke with an example of a man who was able to express grief, to unashamedly shed tears for his murdered daughter and yet to still feel compassion for the family of the man who killed her. Even when Murphy lost his temper and unleashed his own rage at Burke, his anger was immediately softened and his sympathy aroused when Burke affirmed Lisa's innocence and vulnerability. Murphy represented a vastly different standard of masculine character from any other man in Burke's experience. Burke began to recognize that Jack Murphy's strength lay in his kindness and compassion.
Connie Murphy, on the other hand, afforded Burke the opportunity to see how a strong woman will confront an abusive bully (Burke himself in this case) and refuse to be intimidated by him in order to defend her child. He had seen Connie fight unceasingly to avenge her murdered daughter over the course of the last six years and had recognized her deep love for and loyalty to her child. He also realized with deep gratitude her extraordinary kindness and compassion in agreeing to raise his own daughter. Contrasted with the immobilized helplessness that characterized the response of Burke's mother to his brutal father, Connie too served as a unique archetype of womanhood. Burke knew immediately that Connie was a good mother and a valiant woman - the kind of parent and model he wanted for Lisa. But more importantly, because Burke witnessed Connie's expression of fury, grief and despair over her daughter's death, he was forced to acknowledge his responsibility for the woman's suffering and finally made to feel abhorrence for murdering her daughter, Jenny.
Burke had something to learn from his own mother, as well. Because his mother was taking care of Lisa, Burke had to put aside his disillusionment and bitterness toward her and begin to relate to her with less hostility and with more cooperation. Liberated from the menacing, disruptive intimidation of her alcoholic husband, Lynette was able to love her granddaughter devotedly and to give her good, nurturing care. Despite a severe physical impairment, she had the courage both to raise Lisa and to fight to save her son from execution. Burke could not help but look at his mother with new eyes, see both courage and strength in her and grudgingly admit that she was not as contemptible as he had come to believe. Hesitantly, he even began to let himself experience her love for him.
Nevertheless, Burke had to be open to learn the lessons that his teachers were showing him. What happened during the last six days of his life that unlocked Burke's understanding and facilitated his startling growth? The process of consciously moving closer to death can effect tremendous changes in the dying person's character. Sometimes, when a person knows that they are going to die and knows that death is drawing near, the blockages and encumbrances, the scars and defenses that have built up over a lifetime drop away. The person's spirit becomes more and more free of the shackles of hurtful and disillusioning life experiences. Their unfettered spirit can then begin to express itself as absolute benevolence toward others, unadulterated by the impediment of selfishness. The dying person opens his heart and responds toward those around him with the pure loving kindness that is the principle goal of all faiths. That expression of pure love represents both the original state of the soul in its inseparable union with the Creative Power of the universe and the soul's longing to return to that state. This, I believe, was the definitive spark that precipitated John Burke's miraculous reawakening and led to the redemption of his spirit.