Journey to Nowhere - Synopsis
A children's story - for adults too. Reminiscent of Hector Mallot's "Sans Famille" and Paul Gallico's "Love of the Seven Dolls".
An Amsterdam journalist in mid-life crisis hopes to escape the tedium of his job by writing that best-seller, but fails to find a publisher. From the newsroom window he looks down on the famous square, Leidseplein, and envies the street artistes their freedom. Down there, jugglers, unicyclists, musicians, clowns etcetera are doing their own thing, to the delight of the summer crowds.
Emerging from an asylum after a mental breakdown, he meets Yatri, a beautiful palmist from Heidelberg doing readings on Leidseplein. She opens up a world to him that he has only dreamed of till then: unstructured and free. Noticing that he has simian hands (a sign of being either retarded or gifted) she helps him uncover a talent for woodcarving. Before long the first puppet emerges, his alter ego King Sigurd, and so begins a career as street artiste. (King Sigurd is modelled on the compassionate, courageous and much loved King Sigurd who ruled his people in Lapland around the year 500 A.D., as recounted in the Icelandic Eddas. Better known is the Niebelungenlied, the equivalent in German mythology, in which the hero is named Ziegfried. It is this legend that Wagner immortalised in his Ring Cycle operas. In our story King Sigurd has incarnated as a marionette whose mission is to help people discover their inner kings and queens, with the aid of his Magic Mirror.)
The Woodcarver's first efforts on Leidseplein are a disaster, and he scuttles off to small Dutch towns to learn the craft of marionette player. As his skills - and earnings - improve, he buys a vehicle and travels to the beauty spots of Europe. While playing the smaller towns, he encounters few problems, but as soon as he feels confident enough to tackle the cities, his troubles start.
In Amsterdam to fit out an old van as a camper, he is attacked by a drunk tourist because only poofters play with dolls. To blow off steam, and to reassert his manhood, he goes skydiving - an old love of his.
Back on the road, he and his ever-growing family of puppets are repeatedly harassed by the secret police in large cities - men in mufti whose only job is to kick artistes off the streets. They battle on bravely, the woodcarver drawing strength from his alter ego. In fact, throughout the story, there runs the contrapuntal theme of inner-voice dialogue: the various puppets are facets of the woodcarver. Away from the public, they carry on conversations with one another.
While in Heidelberg the woodcarver calls at Yatris address and hears from her husband - in name only - that she is in crisis herself, a dispute with her publisher over her manuscript on the paranormal, and is now wandering the shores of the Bodensee. After a long search, all the time playing the towns, the woodcarver finds Yatri and, in the foothills of the Alps, it is he who heals her.
To evade the secret police, the woodcarver heads for Gibraltar - where the worst of fates awaits: all 15 puppets are confiscated by the Spanish customs, purportedly because papers are not in order, but really they are caught in the crossfire of the row between Spain and Britain over The Rock.
A smuggler who ferries contraband cigarettes from Gibraltar to Spain with a powerful radio-controlled model helicopter, is enlisted in the woodcarvers daring rescue plan. He paraglides from the top of The Rock at night, lands in the customs compound, bundles the puppets into a net, and hooks it up to a cable dangling from the model helicopter. This has all been timed so that the noise of the helicopter is drowned out by the arrival of a charter jet on Gibraltars runway.
Reunited, the woodcarver and his family of puppets return to Amsterdam. Their reappearance on Leidseplein is a resounding success - watched with envy from the newsroom window. And of course, there is Yatri, now a successful author....