Circle of Iron (1978) Script

[birds chirping]

[gentle flute music]

[crowd shouting]

(crowd) Morthond! Morthond! Morthond!

Morthond! Morthond! Morthond!

Morthond wins.

[gong crashes]




[crowd cheering]

(man) Pelele!


Pelele wins. [applause]

(man) Agnim! Cord!

Cord wins!

Morthond! Pelele!



[crowd shouting]

Morthond wins!

Cord! Morthond!

Gentlemen, this is the final contest.



(crowd) Morthond! Morthond! Morthond!

Morthond! Morthond! Morthond!



Morthond is the winner.

[crowd cheering]

[cheering stops]


You've, uh, made a mistake.

You gave the medallion to the wrong man.

Is this your color?


There was no error.

You hit him after he was down.

There are rules, and you have broken them.

You have chosen to break almost every rule of the contest.

You wear no fighting clothes, you belong to no group.

I am my own man.


Then why have you come here if you need no one but yourself?

I've come a long way to compete for the right to find Zetan and defeat him

and to see what is in a book he guards.

What do you know of Zetan and his Book of Enlightenment?

Only that it's a book.

That it contains all the wisdom of the world.

Cord, he who is chosen to find and defeat Zetan must have the ability to bind an elephant with the web of a spider.

Not stun him with a kick.

[laughter] Morthond has been chosen!


Morthond is a dancer!

I'm a fighter!

Morthond has controlled himself.

You are not yet the tempered weapon that we need.



One question first.

Why have all the others you've sent never returned?

The trials along the way are severe.

Zetan has proved himself so far to be invincible.

It is because you have never sent the right man!

But I can defeat him!


You will not go.

(Cord) I will defeat this invincible Zetan!

And I will see what is in the book!

[all murmuring]

[gentle flute music]



[bell jingling]



[seagulls squawking]

One year ago, I took a vow of silence.

When did you break it?

Now! Why are you following me?

You're angry because I defeated you.

You didn't defeat me!

You broke the rules!

Fight me again!

It serves no purpose.

You were born without a brain! Fight me!

But I want to help you, not kill you.

It's Zetan I'm after.

[gentle music]

[bell jingling]

[bell jingling]

[distant shouting]

[men chattering in foreign language]

[foreign language]



[flute whooshing]

[flute whooshing]






[body thuds]

[gentle flute music]

The important thing is eating the fruit, not how you get to it.

Eat then.

My name is Cord.

I'm looking for a great martial artist called Zetan.

[buzzing] There's a bee near your nose.


Who are you?

Last night, I saw you perform miracles.

If Zetan's skills are even greater than yours, I-

I'm not ready for him.

With all my training and both my eyes, I couldn't survive one second against you.

My skills are not there to impress you.

I've got it!

Now I know!

You're Zetan. I'm the one who's blind!

Are you Zetan?

Whatever you think I am, or want me to be, lam.

[bell jingles] Be my teacher.

Explain what you do. I want to practice.

Tie two birds together, and though they have four wings- [chuckles] they cannot fly.

(Cord) Well, I'll just follow you and watch.

And I won't annoy you by talking.

I can be silent, believe me.

They say Zetan's the guardian of a book.

He's had it for many years.

Do you know anything about this book? Know what it is?

Do you, uh, think it could be important?

If a man guards a book year after year, which is more important?

The man or the book?

[monkey chattering]


Is that the secret?

The monkey tried to circle you- and you wouldn't let him- you kept turning.

The way of the monkey is to play the fool.

While you laugh at his antics, he bites you from behind.

Unmask his ego, and you expose a coward disguised as a monkey.

I'll study them.

I'll watch them very carefully.

You already imitate their chattering perfectly.


I don't have any reason to fight monkeys.

This lesson has no value.

One is taught in accordance to one's fitness to learn.

I'll tear my tongue out and put it-


Morthond! Wait! It's Cord!

I have brought disgrace on my brotherhood.

Zetan did this?

Morthond, answer me! How did this happen?

The first trial.

What was it?

Morthond, what was the first trial? Where?


Cord. The medallion.

Take it

How can I help you, Morthond?

Help me die with honor.

[rising crescendo of music]

[echoing voices]

[echoing voices]


(blind man) The way of the monkey is to play the fool.

Unmask his ego, and you expose a coward disguised as a monkey.

[loud chattering]

[chattering quiets]

Who are you?

My name is Cord.

Where is your begging bowl?

I'm not here to beg.

You're not here to beg?

I'm here to face the first trial.


Then you will beg.

What school do you come from?

Hmm? No school.

[grunts] No school!

I come from myself.

Ah! He comes from himself! [laughs]

A man with no mother!

[screeching, chattering]

What are you looking for, man with no mother?


I want to find Zetan. [shouts]

And you think that to find him you must fight me, huh?

Yes, what acknowledged style of fighting do you use?

MY Style.

[derisive laughter]

[screeching, chattering]

Listen to me, man who creates himself.

Go back... the way you came, in peace.

I don't want to go back.

And I don't want to fight you unless I have to to find Zetan.

Zetan is far away on the other side of me.

To reach him, you must first pass through... me!

What if I just walk around you?

That is not in the order of things!

Yes, if I am your trial then I am your trial.

You cannot walk around me.

Then I'll have to fight you.



[screeching, chattering]

Now tell me the way to Zetan.

Embrace the west wind until you come to a wilderness.

Look for a rose there.

Look for a rose?

Is that the second trial?

You asked the way to Zetan.

Are there others ahead of me?

You are the first to pass me.

But other seekers have other trials.

Am I a beggar with a begging bowl now?

I put you in my bowl!


[gentle flute music]

Can I help you?

To do what?

To get out of this- Why?

Who's torturing you this way?

No one.

Isn't that barrel filled with oil?

Of course. I filled it myself.

You? I filled it myself, and I got in it myself.

I've been in here ten years.

But Why?

To rid myself of the bottom half of me.

There's very little left of it now.

Your legs look like seaweed.

I hope so That thing- that terrible thing between my legs- it's almost gone now, isn't it?

A mere pimple. Good.

It'll go altogether soon, I hope.

Ten years!

How do you live without eating?

My family. They bring me a little rice, a little water.

Your family?

They know you're dissolving yourself in oil?

They weren't too happy about it at first.

Especially my wife.

Now she understands.

But why would you want to-


You could have taken a vow of chastity, like I have.

I took a vow of chastity. I took ten vows- a hundred.

How can a man be a holy man when that terrible thing attaches him to the earth?

I got rid of my money, I shed my clothes, I ate a spoonful of rice each day, and my mind began to soar.

I felt the universe.

I was the universe.

And then, that terrible thing summoned me.

“Hello!” it cried.

“Think of the pleasure!” Several times, I grabbed a knife.

I intended to rid myself of it once and for all.

But I- I was a coward.

Then... I found a way!

I would dissolve it away and the legs that carried it along.

Oh, you are obviously mentally disturbed.

Mm-hmm. You should have seen a doctor:

I am a doctor.

You took a vow of chastity.


You won't keep it.

Come in here with me.

There's plenty of room. We'll keep each other company.

I'm sorry, but I must go. I'm looking for someone.

Who? Zetan.

Again Zetan!

They all come around asking about Zetan!

There is no answer in Zetan. [laughing]

The answer is in here with me.

[gentle flute music] lf you won't melt it off, cut it off!

Do it now! For whatever your dreams are, it will ruin them!

It's like a sword, that terrible thing!

It will- it will cut you to pieces!

[gentle flute music]


[native folk music]

[fireworks popping]

[fireworks popping]

[fireworks continue]

Have you eaten?

Where's your drink? Your hand is empty.


Don't wish it on me!

The whole world is in commotion, and you wish me peace!

I don't know what peace is. I don't want it.

Don't you listen to the desert?

Even when there's no wind, the sand sings.

My name is Cord.

Hah! You see? Cord!


Play a chord! Strike a chord!

Even your name is a noise!

What do you want, Cord?

You want us to play on you?

My wives can make your skin sing.

Who are you?


It is my wish to provide everything that is needed.

Tell me what you need, Cord, that I may find happiness in providing it for you.

I seek a rose... in the wilderness.

Her name is Tara.

My ninth wife.

You may have her.

But I've taken a vow of chastity Hah, hah! Well, taking her will be a twin sacrifice.

Her of her vows to me, and you of your vows to yourself.

(Cord) My second trial. Is it with you?


Who knows?

Do you know?

Huh 7

[fireworks continue]

[crowd chattering]

Is it still your need, my friend, to test yourself against me?

It is my need.

Then put out your hand, my black brother, for what you feel will satisfy you.


You came to me to test yourself, and in losing, you have gained your victory For now, you are on the threshold of truth.

That knowledge- that gift, which is what you really want from me-

you have it now.

When do we fight?

After we sleep, my boy.

[soft banjo music]

It pleases you?

Where is your- No harm will come to you.

My husband sent me to you.

Is he Zetan?

He is Changsha.

Not the keeper of the book?

What book?

Why did he send you?

This will not violate your vow.

The desired fruit may be enjoyed without consuming it.

I've been traveling for a long time.


I've been taking a journey that was indicated in the palm of my hand.

You're my trial, aren't you?

Let me walk the line in your palm with you for a moment.


Let me show you.

(Cord) You asked to walk the line of my palm with me.

(Tara) You refused me!

Do you invite me now?

[gentle music]

(Cord) Walk with me, but not for just a moment.


[gentle music]


I'll go with you, but first we must rest.

What lies ahead of us will not be easy.

[wind gusting]


Tara! [echoes]

Tara! [echoes]




Changsha! [echoing]

[soft flute music]

[animals squawking, chirping]

[wings fluttering]

(male voice) Cord! I am here.

[frogs croaking]


(male voice) Cord! I am here.




Stronger than Zetan.

(Cord) Death. I know you. [snarling]

Why are you so ugly?

Or do you have a different face for every man?


Shall I go to my knees?


Are you waiting for fear to freeze my heart before you carve it out?

Soon, Cord! Soon! [chuckles]

Come anytime, welcome guest.

[howling dog]

[frogs croaking]

[animal squawking]

[gushing water]

(blind man) It can't be done.

You can't do it.

Can't do what?

You can't step twice on the same piece of water.

[bell jingling]

A fish saved my life once.

How? I ate him.

(Cord) How long have you been blind?

(blind man) How long have you been blind?

(Cord) I'm not blind. (blind man chuckles) Am I?

(Cord) Do you answer every question with a question?

Do you question every answer?

Talking to you is like talking to a wall.

(blind man) Buddha once sat before a wall, and when he arose, he was enlightened.

Do you compare yourself with Buddha?

Hah, hah, no; only to the wall.

[seagulls squawking]

You have not told me of your second trial.

It wasn't a trial.

It was a lesson.

Teach it to me.

Ah, you know it.

You seem to know everything.

Each morning when I awake, like a scholar at his first class, I prepare a blank mind for the day to write upon.

A year ago I took a vow of chastity.

A day ago I broke it.

Gladly, because I realized we are born to love.

But what I did then was worse than taking any foolish vow.

I tried to possess what I loved.

I didn't know then that the embrace of love held too tightly

can destroy the one you love.


Each moment that passes changes you.

You do not- cannot possess even yourself.

How can you hope to possess anyone or anything else?

[seagulls squawking]

I realize now you are my hidden teacher. [chuckles]

And if I am to survive the next trial, I must be allowed to follow you and to learn.

You will never endure it. I will.

Will I?

Hah, hah, tell me why I won't be able to endure it.

You will never have the patience You will see things and judge them before you know what they mean. What things?

You see? You ask what things even before the things have happened.

Your impatience is beyond me.

I'll be patient. I'll be an empty vessel!

One condition.


You must ask nothing about any event until such time as I myself give you an answer.


(blind man) We wish to cross your river.

What is the fare for the two of us?

You don't look as if you have money.

Ah! Ah! Will this be payment enough?


Yes, yes, this will do.

Wait, you old fool! Let me see.

It's worthless. lf you want to cross the river, swim.

Stop that! This is an honest man.

Like you are a good man in bed, you silly stick!

No money no transportation.

It is my boat! I will decide.

Your boat? Your poor son's and mine.

Since when is it yours?

Since I married you, you ignoramus!

Didn't I pay for it with the gift of my body... and the blessing of a boy child?

Hah! The gift you gave me once twenty years ago!

(ferryman's wife) How do you expect to get the boat back, you idiot? You never think of nothing.

That poor man.

He's happy- Happy?

There's misery in every bone in his body.

Is not a happy man one who does not fear death?

Not only does he not fear it, his days are filled with joy looking forward to it.

Why'd you do that?

[bell jingles]

(Cord) He wanted to help us. Is that how you repay him?

You've destroyed his livelihood.

He'll be defenseless against her now.

I told you you would jump to conclusions.

What are you doing? Hiding.

There's nothing here to hide from.

Not yet.

[all shouting]

Ah! They've seen you.


(Cord) I never thought you'd run from a fight.

(blind man) it's hard to kill a horse with a flute.

[all shouting]

[shouts] [horse whinnies]

[foreign language]


[foreign language]



[foreign language]

[men shouting in foreign language]

[horses trotting] [foreign language]

[men shouting]

[dramatic music]

[men chattering in foreign language]

Why do you have to pick now to do good deeds?

You're feeling guilty because you kicked in the ferryman's boat, so you're committing suicide.

You're not only a fool, you can't keep a promise.

What promise? You said you would tear out your tongue-

[man shouting] [clattering of hooves]

[foreign language]

[horse whinnies]

[groans] [men shouting]

The chimney's broken too. We could fix that.

And the roof needs mending.

[men shouting in foreign language]

[foreign language]

I'm thinking of saying good-bye.


I was crazy to believe you were my teacher.

Learn to listen to that which is not spoken.

I'm tired of your riddles.

There was no lesson in what just happened.

All I saw was a fool inviting his assassins to kill him.

The fool is the twin of the wise.

(Cord) Ah.

And you can't step on the same piece of water twice, and two birds tied together have four wings but cannot fly, and- and- and the tadpole loses its strength, and the sword can't cut itself.

(blind man) The path and the gateway have no use or meaning once the objective is in sight.

(Cord) And a horse has no udders, and a cow can't whinny, and up is down, and sideways is straight ahead.

[seagulls squawking]


(boy) Oh, look. Look.

(boy) Who are they? Ow!

[bell jingling]


Mister, please. Do you have a coin?

(children) Coin! Coin! Please.

[foreign language]

[snaps fingers]



[crowd murmuring]

[seagulls squawking]

[bell jingling]


This time I'm leaving.

You must stop making promises.

This is more than a promise.

Now that I'm free of you, I'm free to ask questions.

Explain yourself.

What did you mean by kicking in the ferryboat?

Of the two of us, you are the one who is blind.

Blinded by what you see.

I want an answer, not all this philosophy.

I damaged the boat because if I hadn't, the soldiers would have used it to cross the river, and the old man and all his family would have been killed.

Achieving his happiness, perhaps.

But how did you know the soldiers were coming?

- Did you hear them? No.

The stone wall. Why did you stop to repair it?

There was a bag of coins partly exposed in the stones.

I repaired the wall so the soldiers wouldn't find it and steal it, leaving the widow and her children without means.

You couldn't see the bag. Did you smell it?

[chuckles] No.

The boy. Explain the boy.

The boy.

You mutilated the boy. You broke his nose, a beautiful boy.

Too beautiful.

He was a tyrant. He would have grown up to be worse.

I freed his parents from their bondage to his beauty.

Hah! You didn't even touch his face.

How'd you know what he looked like? Did you sense it?

No. But I freed his parents and the boy too, and now, I free you of me.

Well, I haven't finished yet.

You didn't hear the soldiers, and you didn't smell the bag, and you didn't sense the boy.

I want an explanation.

I knew.


[gentle flute music]

You were through here before!

How many times?

[flute music continues]


What is this?


Hah, hah, yes, Cord!

The man I entertained in the wilderness.

The very same Cord, yes.

No, not the same.

Not quite.

But you're still looking for the same-


Hah! Yes.


He's very near.

Oh. Very, very near.

All you have to do is pass by me.

I have no quarrel with you.

No quarrel?

Hah, hah, but what of your love, Tara?

Did I not crucify Tara?


But I myself, with these two hands-

No, I myself, with these two hands.

Not the same Cord.

So, you do not confront me with hate.


Then why confront me at all?

Join me.

Take my hand.

Ah, I can show you a world where you will find no night or day.

The sun will never rise or set.

My goal is Zetan.

Ah, yes.

At daybreak then.

Along the beach.



[rhythmic drums]










Not the same Cord.

Your way lies across the water.

You are the chosen.

[dramatic music]

You have sought Zetan.

Zetan is here.

My dear Cord.

I am so pleased to see you.

Extraordinary what the soil here does for the perfume.


(Cord) Who are they?

(Zetan) They are the Near Ones.

They are studying the perfecting of perfection.

(Cord) Are you their teacher?

(Zetan) No, not really.

We have found that the best way is for the teacher, so called, and the student to produce the teaching together.

What do you think?

Yes, it sounds reasonable.

Is something disturbing you, Cord?


You seem somewhat puzzled.

I want to know when we fight.


You and I.

About what?

The book.

The book.

The everlasting book.

Very well.

We will go to the terrace and rehearse you in the ceremony.

What ceremony?

The one that precedes your being made the keeper of the book.

Wait! Wait! I don't understand.

This is the seat of harmony, Cord.

There seems to me to be nothing but harmony on this island.

Yes, it, uh, permeates everything here.

Try the seat, Cord. Go on, try it.

Can you see your future, Cord?

Endless days of peace.

ls there any man who can wish for more?

The book, please.

The book.

You have survived several trials, I am sure.

Very frightening they must have been, but what you are about to see now may be even more alarming.

You can take my place here, Cord, without looking into the book, just as I did many years ago.

I must look first.

The seekers fight their way here, year after year, willing, eager to pay a terrible price to see what is in that book.

And when they fling it open in blazing expectation of finding all the answers to all life's questions, what do they find?


There is no book, Cord.

No enlightenment outside yourself.

There is nothing to take back?


They are here, most of them.

Others have gone back into the world, and in all manner of disguises, they have provided the trials such as you have experienced.

Some become teachers.

And one of them plays a flute that only I can hear!

[laughs] I was your age when I was sent to find the book, and I became the keeper.

Now you, Cord- you can be the keeper.

You will enjoy it- the endless peace and pleasure!

Release me, Cord!

Release me.

[soft flute music]

You've looked at the book, Cord.


And what did you see?